Monday, March 31, 2014

Favorites from around the web...

1. This is a beautiful space. I have loft envy.

2. Interesting article about how ideology can conflict with humor.

3. I am getting so excited!!

4. Gorgeous dessert idea. Would love this for a birthday or engagement party.

5. Gotta love bears.

6. I so would love the Pepper to have one of these near by.

7. Fascinating. Those chickens knwo how to work it.

8. I hope this is real.

9. Love these portraits of the first man to reach the North Pole. They show what an intense and determined man he must have been.

10. After being in a friends wedding last weekend I realize I need to practice being photogenic. Thanks Emily for the tips!

Image via.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Engagement Rings: I'm with Johnny Depp

So Johnny Deep is engaged and his "man-gagement" ring is getting a lot of press. I think it's interesting that people are so fascinated by this twist on the tradition. One of the things I love most about weddings and the events that go along with them is that people feel free to adjust traditions to create really personal experiences. And besides, my husband wore an engagement maybe I'm biased.

First off, I'm all for people following traditions if that is what they want and enjoy. But personally, I am not comfortable with the "typical" engagement traditions. I have trouble with the idea of the man being expected to be the one to propose. It creates a picture of a woman waiting around for the man to dictate the relationship. I think it is becoming more and more common for woman to propose, and I like that trend. D and I talked about getting married before we got engaged, and it was something we decided together. Since a marriage is supposed to be a partnership, I felt that was a good way to start out.

I also told D I did not want an engagement ring. I don't wear much jewelry, and the jewelry I do wear is small and subtle so the idea of a special fancy ring just didn't feel natural to me. Additionally, since D and I would soon be sharing finances it felt fiscally irresponsible to spend money on something I wouldn't really appreciate. Then the question of a modest ring came up, and I decided that also didn't feel natural. Much like the concept of the traditional proposal, I didn't like that just a woman is supposed to wear an engagement ring. Why did I need to advertize that I was "taken" but my future-husband didn't? It felt too lopsided. But we did want to acknowledge our engage somehow, so we decided to both get simple engagement bands.

If other people out there did something different let me know! It would nice to know that I'm not the only one resisting the traditional :)

Image via.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

To heel or not to heel?

This history the of the high heel is fascinating! First off, high heels were originally worn by Western culture by men as a way to look more masculine(!!), something they got from the Persian army. The heels allowed the Persian cavalry to be more secure when they stood up while riding, not unlike the purpose of the heel on cowboy boots. So, to look like warriors men in Europe wore heels.

Women started following the trend so for awhile, both sexes were sporting fabulous (and impractical) footwear. I say impractical because of course this fashion trend was limited to the privileged who didn't have to do manual labor. But, as usual, trends changed and men stopped wearing heels during the Enlightenment when society started embracing education and rationality over opulence. I imagine women continued wearing heels because they do enhance what is generally associated with the feminine and beautiful. They lengthen legs, they accentuate the leg muscles, they push out the butt and the chest, and straighten posture. They may be impractical, but they do have an effect.

I have a mixed relationship to high heels. Like most women I love them because they make me feel sexy. But, I also don't have much reason to wear them. I work at home so I don't need to dress-up to go into an office. And maybe it's just LA (or my LA), but not a lot of people I know really even wear heels to social events. So, outside of special occasions I don't really wear them. I have what I consider a great collection of shoes, that sit idle.

And speaking of men in heels, have you seen the work of choreographer Yanis Marshall? I would love to be able to move like that in 6-inch heels.

Top image via. Bottom image via.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The beauty of Islamic patterns

Have you seen these pictures of the beautiful details and stunning light effects of the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque in Iran? What an amazing space, and the ambiance seems wonderful for celebrating one's faith, or just taking some time to be introspective. It reminded me of a mosque I visited over a decade ago now while on a cruise. We were lucky enough to have a stop in Casablanca where I got to visit the Hassan II Mosque, the largest mosque in the country! The top picture was taken of me in the courtyard. The scale was very impressive, as you can see from this picture:
What is harder to see in this picture is the beautiful and intricate designs found all over this building, both inside and out. You can see some of the tile work better here (that was a group of school boys we found taking a break on their way to school in the morning).
Typically, Islamic art focuses on the depiction of patterns and Arabic calligraphy, rather than on depictions of people. Apparently many Muslims feel that depictions of humans is a form of idolatry and therefore forbidden by God. I actually studied Medieval Art in college so I love my strange, flat, stylized depictions of people in religious art from that period. But in Casablanca I fell in love with both the simplicity and the complexity of Islamic religious art and it's lack of people. The patterns are mesmerizing on their own but when you put them together in a room the beauty is exponential. There is something about the effect that does allow you to become absorbed, like it creates a different world to inhabit. In this way the designs are well-suited to a religious space where I assume people want to take time to reflect and look inward.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

All the parenting studies are not helping

I recently saw this and so appreciated it! There are so many studies out there and with this modern age of access to everything we get constant headlines with new information about how we might be failing as parents. And you just can't keep up. One study says kids who breastfeed are smarter, then another one comes out that says there is no difference, and then another one comes out that discredits the second study, and so on and so forth. D's mom recently visited and we were talking about the differences in parenting now vs parenting 40 years ago. In my mother-in-laws words: "We just didn't know as much back then". But she wasn't saying it's all good. It's good, for example, that we know now how helpful seat belts are. But sometimes having information isn't so helpful. Sometimes it's just a lot of noise to sift through and to try to figure out.

We all can't be experts on everything. We all can't go to medical school and become pediatricians, and child psychologists, and education specialists. But we all have access to these studies and information, but without the education to know if we really have all the info. Nobody has time to know everything! Yet we try to make sense of it all and the challenge is not to trust a headline as a truth.

I've chosen to trust my pediatrician about what's best for my daughter, but of course I also have to trust my instincts. I'm also always working to tune out all the noise so that I can trust. I didn't breastfeed as long as I would have liked, but I have to turn off the part of me that thinks about that study I read that the longer you breastfeed the smarter your baby. If I look at the Pepper, I think she's amazing and plenty smart (already running circles around me)! And playing the "what-if" game on if she would be an IQ point or 2 smarter if I had different priories is futile. Or the new study that kids of stay-at-home moms are healthier. There is no reason for me to worry that my completely healthy daughter (who has not yet even had a fever) isn't as healthy as maybe she would be if I didn't work. But it still takes effort to not worry. Its the nature of modern parenting.

Let's all try to tune out the noise and trust our chosen circle of support, and ourselves!

Image via.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Favorites from around the web...

1. Loved these but didn't understand as many as I had hoped.

2. This was interesting. It always helps to have some world perspective.

3. Now I understand why my brother hated working in retail.

4. Great insight into the fashion world and the changing trends.

5. I would almost plan a whole trip around visiting this.

6. Love this idea for bringing things at home up a notch.

7. As loft dwellers I always appreciate good design that helps save space.

8. Hysterical, and seems accurate.

9. Wow. Nature continues to impress.

10. Hm, this debunked something I've always believed. Though it's a good reminder that things are often not as straightforward as we think.

Image via.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Christopher Walken Dancing!

I love Christopher Walken. He's strange and scary and funny and mysterious and endearing and I just love watching him in films. But one of the things I love about him is that he's a dancer! He studied dance before becoming an actor and even though I don't think "graceful dancer" when I think of Christopher Walken, the above video showcases the many times his dancing skills have been slipped into his films. Other fun Christopher Walken facts: his real name is Ronald, and as a teenager he worked as a lion tamer in a circus.

And of course, Walken's dance skills have never been better showcased than in the Weapon of Choice music video seen below. This is one of my all-time favorite music videos. Plus it looks like he's having so much fun!

Another of my favorite sneaky dancers is Dule Hill, and if you watch Psych you can see it pop into the story every so often. Do you have any favorite actors who have other "hidden" skills?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

That's our courtyard!

One of the fun things about living in downtown LA is that our neighborhood is used for movies all the time. D and I will be watching a tv show and we'll see one of our local streets being used to substitute New York City, or really any urban area. We used to live across from the Farmers and Merchant Bank and that was used in films all the time, and even our building would show up often.

Almost 2 years ago we moved a few blocks away and we don't see film crews around nearly as much, so I was really excited to see our courtyard show up in one of the internet videos currently making the rounds! The lovely damsel in distress is rescued and brought literally to our doorstep :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What's the future of opera?

While I am not a "music person", being married to a composer means I know a lot of people who are passionate about music and involved in it professionally. This last weekend I found myself at a dinner party hosted by a librettist and an photographic artist, and attended by two composers, a retired opera director, and an architectural writer (I was the only one there not in "the arts"). It was a great evening and there was lots of wonderful discussion around art and the nature of being an artist (my favorite quote of the evening: "It's an art trench not a war trench"). But the conversation naturally made it's way to opera and the future of this particular art form. 

Do you enjoy opera? Have you ever seen one? We were lucky enough to have a connection at the LA Opera and through them we were able to score some tickets to two wonderful operas. I loved them but understand why they aren't everyone's thing. For me, the music was beautiful, the costumes and set design stunning, and the skill of the performers mesmerizing. But they do tend to be long, and the stories aren't very modern, and tickets tend to be very expensive. The cost is one of the big problems in opera at the moment. It costs a lot to put on an opera so the tickets to see an opera are expensive. But, this restricts the viewership and makes opera something only for the elite. In this way opera's business model is not sustainable and therefore opera is in a crisis.

But there is hope. The Metropolitan Opera has tried to make their performances more accessible by doing HD broadcasts into movie theaters. And D and I went to the incredible "Invisible Cities" performance here in LA. It was amazing. It was an opera, but performed at our train station while it was open and in use. And the whole performance was mobile: the singers were placed throughout the station, often in modern garb so they blended in until they started performing, and viewers wore headsets that allowed them to walk through the station and come upon various scenes being played out. It was self directed and it that way was very immersive. And juxtaposing the music against the happenings of a major train station at 8pm on a Friday night was unique. It has forever changed the way I look at Union Station.

Invisible Cities was a new and modern take on opera. The cost to put on the performance was less than if they had done it in the opera house, the ticket cost was affordable, and it was interesting to all sorts of people (those new to opera and hard-core opera fans). If opera can continue to move in this direction I think it will have a chance.

Image of Invisible Cities performance via.

Monday, March 17, 2014

How do you celebrate birthdays?

So today is my birthday. I'm a St Paddy's day baby which means everyone celebrates this day. Maybe that's one reason I'm not more into celebrating birthdays. Especially my birthday. Which is funny since my mom is huge into birthdays. She insists on celebrating both hers and everyone else's. She'll bring cake and balloons to my work, she'll offer to host a party, she will do anything to acknowledge the big day.

But for me, the ideal is to have a quite night at home with my family, maybe with a nice bottle of wine and some Indian food that has been delivered. I don't get a lot of time to relax so that tends to be what I want to do when given the option. But I feel bad as my selected way to celebrate I sort of impose on D. I always ask him what he wants to do for his birthday but never proactively look to plan anything big. I think I may be unfairly assuming he'd like what I like. But it's also hard because I don't really know what he'd really enjoy as an alternative. He always plays it cool but maybe he secretly wants a big party?

It was also recently the Pepper's birthday. We decided to throw her a big party at the park on Saturday and it was a huge success. It was also a lot of work but she loved it, we got to see a lot of our friends, and everyone had a great time. It's not hard for me to imagine celebrating the Pepper because I know she'll enjoy it. I know what she likes; I know what she'll have fun with. And while it's work it's straight forward. So that also makes all the hard work rewarding.

How do you celebrate birthdays? Any special family traditions?

Image via.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Favorites from around the web...

1) I hink a lot of new parents feel this way, but it was brave of him to say it.

2) This captures exactly how I feel about one of our, in my option, more interesting pop celebrities.

3) This makes me want to write more letters.

4) If you ever wanted to feel small in this universe check this out.

5) Thank you math.

6) This is interesting but hasn't helped me figure out my complicated relationship with caffeine.

7) Well done Norway, that was beautifully executed.

8) The Oscars as told from the other side. And now I really want to be Jennifer Lawrence's best friend.

9) Wow. Not only does this explain something to me that was a bit unclear before, it makes me realize how tragic it was.

10) I'm impressed that this happened. It's very modern of our government.

Image via.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What a difference a year makes

This time last year I was in labor getting ready to welcome our little girl into the world. The big question was if she was going to come on March 12th or March 13th (she came at about 2am on the 13th). It wasn't a fun or easy labor, but the pay-off was worth it :)

Coming up on the Pepper's first birthday I'm reflecting a lot on the unbelievable changes she's gone through over this first year. I spend time with other babies just a few months younger than her, and they seem so different. It's amazing that just a year ago she was this little mush-ball functioning on a handful of instincts (suck, grab, sleep). Now she can walk, and understand language, and have opinions, and communicate her needs, and feed herself. She even has a sense of humor developing! I don't know yet how the next year will feel but I think part of the reason they say it goes by so fast is how quickly they grow!

D and I watched this program a few months back and it was great to have some understanding of the science behind the changes babies go through during that first year. As humans, we're born earlier than other mammals which means other mammal babies can do more just out-of-the-womb (like walk). The reason they believe we're born sooner is our head-size relative to our bodies. We need those big heads to accommodate those brains of ours. But it means we're born really helpless, which makes that transformation to a little person that much more poignant.

I have had so much fun being the Pepper's mom this first year. There were hard days, and of course hard nights. I'm fatigued all the time now from not sleeping enough. I don't have as much time for myself, my friends, or my marriage. And financially we're not saving as much as we were before we had to buy things like diapers on a regular basis. But it's been really, really fun. Pepper, you're a delightful sweet little person and I just love you to bits!! Happy birthday little girl!


Top image from yesterday. Bottom image from the day after she was born. What a difference a year makes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Recipes: current favorites

While I was pregnant D and I knew we'd soon be eating more meals at home. In preparation we decided to create a family recipe collection. My first thought was to buy a cute little recipe box with pretty index cards, but D wisely convinced me to use Evernote and it's working out great. We have a "Family Recipes" notebook that we share and we can access the recipes on any of our devices (laptop, iPad, phone). Plus we can search for recipes based on keywords and use tags (like "Breakfast" or "Vegan"). At this moment we have 409 recipes, yikes! But it's good as we do try have variety in our food. We haven't tried them all yet though but as we go through them some we keep and some we delete. Here are my current (and newly discovered) favorites:

Kale and Walnut Pesto: Delicious, healthy, and easy to make. I like to have it around because i can toss it with some pasta for dinner or use it to make a sandwich for a quick lunch.

Lentil and Coconut Soup: This is great take on a lentil soup as the coconut really adds a wonderful taste. Another healthy one that stores well so I can have it aorund to use for lunch or dinner. And it's actually both a vegan and gluten-free recipe.

Cauliflower "Couscous": I tried this just the other night because we received some Romanesco cauliflower in our weekly CSA and it was so yummy, though next time I'll use slightly smaller quantities of the spices. It was great to have an alternative to the usual white rice or pasta.

Whole Chicken in a Crock Pot: I've recently been discovering the beauty of the crock pot. This one was so easy, and came out so very tasty. And the broth we made from the bones was wonderful.

Any new favorite recipes you can recommend?

Image of the Kale and Walnut Pesto

Monday, March 10, 2014

Anxiety!!! Ahhhh!!

I recently read this post by Bri and it reminded me that almost everyone I know deals with some level of anxiety. Anxiety is pervasive! Maybe it's always been this way, maybe it's a symptom of modern times. But I feel like we all, especially the women I know, are always trying to find ways to manage anxiety.

Like Bri, I can find myself getting into these anxiety vortexes. Something will trigger it (something someone says, or a random thought will come to mind) and suddenly I can't stop getting obsessively worried about something. Maybe it's being able to leave the house early enough to get someplace, or how I'm worried about something I said to someone. Whatever my mind latches onto I can spin on it for longer than is constructive. But it's hard to stop, because logic kind of goes out the window. I start feeling like it's important for me to be worried about this thing; that if I'm worried it means I'm paying attention and I'm aware and I need to do something! In these moments I work hard to try to remember the reality of the situation. I try to bring in perspective (so what if we're late? what are the odds that such and such would happen?) And sometimes I can talk myself down. Other times it just needs to run it's course.

One problem is that anxiety is addictive. I think it's a control issue. If you're anxious about something I find it's usually because you want control of it. And getting anxious and communicating that can be a way to make things the way you want them. And that level of control can feel good! One thing I've had accept as I've worked to have less anxiety is my lack of control. Scary, but an important thing to realize and find peace with.

Joanna has a good suggestion for how she manages her anxiety. I haven't tried it yet but I probably should. Anyone else have any ways of coping?

Image via.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Parenting: Trying to find the balance

I find that one of the things I have to think about all the time when parenting is being balanced.  I feel I'm always seeing stories like this and relating because even in our short time as parents we are having to always make decisions, and it's hard to know when to say yes and when to say no. I'll be honest: I don't always feel like I ended up making the right one in the end.

When the Pepper was about 5 months old I went to a friend's BBQ and there were two pregnant ladies there, one who would be a first-time mom, one with 2 toddlers at home. The first-time mom was asking for advice from me and the veteran. I was trying to reassure her by saying that you won't always know what to do but it's ok. I gave the example of when it was the middle of the night and the baby was crying in her crib and my husband and I were in bed talking about picking her up or letting her try to self-soothe. The veteran mom quickly chimed in saying "you always pick them up!" I don't know, maybe I'm over-complicating things but I just don't think it's that simple; I don't think it's about doing what feels easiest in the moment but about what will be best in the long run. The challenge there is that you are speculating and sometimes guessing on what you think will have the best long term effects.

My latest struggles are around the Pepper's "neediness". She's definitely going through a mommy phase, which has been nice as we have been having a lot of fun together and many sweet cuddly moments. But then I need to leave and she gets upset. I want to be there for her, I want to respond to her needs, I want her to feel loved, I want her to feel secure. But I also want her to know that even if mommy has to leave I'll be back, I want her to know it's ok for me to be gone, I want her to learn to feel secure without me there, and of course I want her to learn to be ok with not getting everything she wants. And sometimes I also just really need to go to work, or use the bathroom, etc. So in the moments when I'm getting up and she's starting to cry it's hard to make the decision to leave or to sit back down for a little longer. And of course, as a working mom there is that guilt that makes me want to be there for her whenever she wants me to be! So that definitely clouds my judgement a bit. I feel I mostly do a good job finding the balance, and I think D is really good at it. But it's so hard to know...

Pic from the Pepper's first merry-go-round.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Looking for make-up tips: bronzer

Growing up I never got into makeup. My mom never really wore it so I never had any interest. Outside of prom or some event when my friends would do my makeup I never wore it. Even throughout college it just wasn't something I ever thought about.

But then I entered the adult world and suddenly it seemed like something I should know a little about. My dear friend showed me the basics and I think I do ok. But even after all these years it's just not something I'm comfortable doing. I always feel like somehow I'm applying my make-up it wrong.

My big question right now is, what's the best way to use bronzer? Is it for contouring where you do the "3" on the side of your head and accentuate your cheek bones? Or do you put it on top of your cheeks and the bridge of your nose to look more tan and sun-kissed? I'm confused. Any guidance would be appreciated.

Image via

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Favorites from around the web...

1. This is great advice for entrepreneurs, and a good way to think about your business ideas.

2. Interesting findings on a happy vs meaningful life. The last sentence is particularity interesting.

3. I adore Brian Williams, so of course I love this. Hilarious.

4. Loving simplicity these days, so this looks very appealing.

5. Truth is stranger than fiction.

6. Not a huge Justin Timberlake fan, but I thought this was pretty great.

7. Love this wallpaper.

8. These beautifully capture what feels like a different world.

9. Even though I'm not there yet, this makes me look forward to the future.

10. Love this party theme, for a child or an adult!

Image via.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Oscars 2014

Did you watch the Oscars last night? I have always loved the Oscars. Probably because I love movies, and probably because I grew up in Los Angeles where it's true that most people are in "the industry" and therefore I feel connected to the show somehow. A lot of people in my life feel invested this way because they are actors or writers or such. So we all gather around and get excited and fill out our ballots and have lots of opinions. We get very quite during the show (because you can't miss anything!) and then all chime in during the commercials. Well, that's how it's been most years. This year, with our little one at not yet a year old, I changed up my Oscar party plans.

Instead of the usual party at someone's fabulous Hollywood home, we had a little family party at our modest loft. Just the three of us having a special evening of watching tv and eating in front of the screen. I didn't get to see everything because the Pepper of course wanted to play and do other things. But I got to pay attention to the things I wanted to and didn't feel the loss of the other. Luckily there are still plenty of ways to get my Oscar fix today with all the post-show coverage. And though watching the Oscars with a baby of course isn't an ideal viewing experience, there were some wonderful moments that involved the Pepper. She was riveted by Pink's performance and at one point even started singing along! It was so sweet.

I think the reason I love the Oscars is that it's a celebration of accessible entertainment: movies! You get introduced to things you maybe didn't know about (I feel I need to see Nebraska now) and get to revel in things you loved (yeah Cate!). But you also get the acknowledge and think about the other people involved. I loved the speech by the writers of Let It Go. And of course there is the sort of combinations that could only happy at the Oscars. I mean, where else will you have Meryl Streep shimming along with Pharrell! A fun night. Though I have to say I wasn't a huge fan of Ellen as host. Her casual charm just didn't seem to translate well. And while the pizza bit has funny it also seemed to last a long time. I feel they haven't' really been able to figure out the hosting thing. Nobody has been right for awhile. We'll see what they come up with next year.

Image via Ellen's twitter account. It goes to show that celebrities are truly genetically gifted as they all look amazing there.