Friday, March 23, 2012

The Cherry Blossoms

The Cherry Blossoms are in full bloom! I went to the Tidal Basin for lunch every day this week. The soft pink petals fluttered through the air and littered the ground. It looked like pink snow. There were swarms of people from seemingly every corner of the globe relaxing underneath the pillowy blooms.

I took these photos with my instant fujifilm camera. I was dissapointed at first at how washed out they were, but as I look at them, they grow on me. The color has the soft feeling of the flower petals.

Last year I wrote about a previous visit to see the blossoms, check it out if you'd like. And here's what I suggested to wear, although this year it's certainly warm enough to wear a sundress...

And here's a link to all the going's on for the Centennial Festival. Wow, 100 years of these beautiful trees!

Shoe Love: In the Streets

I saw these beauts on a lovely young lady who was checking out the Cherry Blossoms last weekend with her girlfriend. I love the gold and black combo, of course, but are those cork platform bottoms?! Awesome.

I'm en route to Denver, CO today for a bit of last minute skiing, but I've lined up a little treat for you so check back later! Happy Weekend!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Exploring Wine: Grüner Veltliner, Kamptal, Austria

Loimer, Grüner Veltliner, 2009, $20.99
My rating for this bottle? I would drink the whole thing

I've had this brand once before for Thanksgiving in 2010 and the Riesling was so delicious and memorable that I never forgot the taste nor the label. However, it was a Riesling with an orange label and our wine store did not have Loimer with an orange label. I grabbed the green one but it wasn't until I got home to open it up that I realized it wasn't a Riesling. I had no idea what a Grüner Veltliner was...

Grüner Veltliner is a white-wine grape varietal mainly grown in the Kamptal region of Austria. Kamptal isn't a city but one of the newly formed appelation (system of classification) regions in Austria (formally called Districtus Austria Controllatus or DAC). It has a characteristically pale color with a crispy, slightly spicy, medium-bodied taste. Loimer's website was fantastically helpful in my tasting experience. Check out this fact sheet for the vintage. I liked this one a lot more than any other white I've had. Ever.

This varietal was light in color, smell, and medium in taste but it was by no means un-interesting. It was dry, slightly minerally with touches of faint pear and pineapple. There was a slightly alcoholic, medium finish, meaning my tongue would tingle a bit and the lingering flavors lasted more than a few seconds. Besides the slight alcoholic notes, it was otherwise nicely balanced. It was delicate but had enough structure to stand up to our spicy pork and rice dinner with ease. I didn't taste any spicy notes in the wine, like the fact sheet said, but I will buy some more bottles to look into it further...

It was totally worth spending a little bit over budget for this one (if you recall, the budget is $20 a bottle from the store). If you have red wine lover friends coming over, they might enjoy trying this Grüner for a change of pace. It was not at all sweet. Perhaps it would be perfect with some light cheeses and cured meats in the garden underneath the Cherry Blossoms? Yes, yes it would.

If you are in the mood for something a little different - check out the rest of the wine series here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tips to Travel By: My Favorite Weekend Bags

I'm traveling again this weekend! This time to Denver, CO for some last chance skiing. Just like most of you, I have a very limited number of vacation days with my job. That's why I try to squeeze in a lot of my get-a-ways on the weekend. Many times my only impression of a destination has to come together in just 36 hours. So I am constantly on the hunt for a fabulous weekend bag that I can easily tote along. I love the size of weekenders too because it's easy to bring as a single carry-on or throw the backseat of the car.

These are the weekenders I'm currently lusting over. I've been wanting that Longchamp Veau Foulonne Suitcase for about five years!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Discovering Art and Art History: Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali was arguably one of the most significant and influential artists of the 20th century. You might recognize his name, his famous mustache, and many of his works in association with the Surrealist art movement. In the most general sense, Surrealism explores the subconscious and dream world of the human mind. Its members sought to produce works of literature and art that were created from stream of consciousness, unobstructed by reason, social morale, or restraint. It first developed in the 1920s as a political, social, and psychological movement spearheaded by writer and poet Andre Breton and included poets, writers, and artists like Guillaume Apollinaire, Rene Margaritte, Man Ray, Joan Miro, and Giorgio de Chirico. It was influenced by the psychological theories of Sigmund Freud. I would also argue that the artists’ experiences in WWI and later WWII as well as the fascist movement in the 1930s were also highly influential, at least in the subject matter.

Dali’s ability to capture the human condition in his work is uncanny, sometimes humorous, and a lot of the time just plain gruesome. When you look at one of his paintings you first notice the strange, layered compositions. The best example of this is GalaContemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portraitof Abraham Lincoln -- Homage to Rothko (Second Version) (1976), which up close depicts a female nude (his wife) overlooking the sea. From far away, the painting is a pixelated image of Abraham Lincoln’s head.

In other works, bodies and objects are distorted, almost unrecognizable, as if they were cut up, melted, and stitched together. It can be difficult to look at. For example, you might be intrigued by a shapely woman, but then notice she's missing limbs or being devoured by ants. Perhaps you see a tasty bowl of fruit, but as you stare, gnarly body parts are mixed in with juicy watermelon slices. The imagery in his artwork is as symbolic as it is layered. He uses themes of ants, crutches, clocks, vast empty landscapes, includes classical art work like the Venus de Milo, and refers to historical figures like Jesus Christ or Voltaire, throughout his body of work.

I often have a hard time relating to these paintings. While I appreciate them for their technical skill and innovation, I am usually attracted to pretty things and Dali is decidedly not concerned with pleasing aesthetics but rather rooting out the images of his dreams. Also, I do not have a nagging paranoia, nor do I practice any recreational drug use.

However, when I recently saw a particular painting at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, I started to see what Mr. Dali was getting at. (Unfortunately, I was completely absorbed in the moment and forgot to write down the title! It looked similar Girl with Curls, 1926.) In the foreground of the painting, a woman sits on the ledge of a cliff or mountain. Her back is to the viewer as she looks out over the vista but instead of sweeping mountain views or river valleys of quiet towns and rushing streams, a vast emptiness that fades into what looks like a landscape in the far distance at the top of the canvas. Positioned almost in the center of the picture is a tiny shanty house with a few figures.

It's as if we, the viewers, are looking out over the vista through this woman's mind's eye. We are the woman having an out of body experience, watching ourselves in the moment. While we are staring into the vast landscape, thoughts of past experiences come to mind. Emotions of loneliness, sadness, and abandonment are evoked as we look at the woman’s body language and view in front of her. Is she making peace with her past grief? Is she looking at her childhood home? Is she desperate to return to another place and time? Our thoughts (the house and figures) overlap with reality (the landscape scene) and in a moment we are trapped between them, visualizing it all together in our mind.

It made me think about Dali’s other works. Perhaps portraying physical distortions is the only way to reflect the inner turmoil, grief, and despair that many people are constantly experiencing. Maybe the visual games of double imagery and symbolism imitate the real life layered meaning in our words, gestures, and experiences with others and ourselves. I like that art is not just pretty pictures but that it can encourage the artist and the viewer to let go of their subconscious anxieties and sometimes that isn’t easy to look at.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Weekend Recap: Green beer and cherry blossoms

After a busy Saturday morning of running errands, Gman and I decided to blow off our plans for the afternoon. Instead we celebrated St. Patrick's Day and the arrival of spring with a mini picnic under the Cherry Blossom trees.It was hot, but breezy, and the soft, constant chatter of other picnickers was so peaceful that Gman dozed off. I was tempted to do the same.

On our way home we decided to pop into a bar that was serving green beer. Let's just say the celebration train had left the station. We were a little late to the party, but it was fun having a beer none-the-less.

I haven't published any What I Wore posts in a while, so here's what I wore for a day of relaxing celebration. I'm wearing a go-to button up blouse and that fab Clare Vivier handbag goes with me everywhere. My legs made their first appearance this season! It was liberating not to wear tights.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Shoe Love: Brian Atwood

Brian Atwood pumps via Net-a-porter

Today's shoe love is pretty self explanatory. I need these. And I want to wear them with a soft and silky drop waist v-neck shift dress. Like now.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wardrobe: Clearwater Beach, FL

Boyfriend shirt, jean shorts, panama hat, earrings, tote, bikini (bottom, top), flip flops, ring

These days, most people I know do not have the luxury of living in a community with a pool, let alone near the beach. The beach is a special place many of us go to vacation. Instead of buying specific bathing suit cover ups for your next beach get-a-way, bring versatile pieces, like a cotton button up and tote bag, that you can wear on other days of your trip too. I love wearing a button up to the beach (it feels cozier than a t-shirt) and I like to wear it open to show off my fab swimsuit beneath!

For Clearwater Beach, keep the jewelry simple with colorful stud earrings and a tiny ring. And because its a casual, slightly tacky environment, don't leave home without your jean shorts and flip flops. That was pretty much my wardrobe growing up (except I wore Birkenstocks everyday!)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Destination: Clearwater Beach, Florida

In DC people always ask, “where are you from?” and I say, “I moved here from New York City.” To which they insist, “No, where are you from originally?” It’s very important for people here to know your residential history. Perhaps it’s a way they try to find common ground or maybe they are suspicious of non-locals. Either way, I’m originally from Palm Harbor, Florida. Most people don’t know where that is, so I usually name one of the closest bigger cities, Clearwater (and if they are still looking at me like a deer in headlights, I follow up with Tampa.)

Clearwater is best known for two things: the take over of Scientology and it's pristine white beaches and crystal clear blue water. Clearwater Beach was the first beach I ever set foot on. When I was a tiny baby, I did not appreciate the beautiful, white, powdery sand. If the sand touched me, I would sit there with my fingers and toes spread as far as they could with that “this is yucky” look on my face.

When I was a little girl, our family would take a trip every summer to the beach, even though we only lived 25 minutes away. We would go with our grandparents, aunt, cousin, my parents, and sister, and stay at what is now the Marriot on Sand Key. As a child, the attraction here was not the beach but the huge pool and freedom to explore it. My sister and I took our Barbies along so they could explore too. There was also a parrot in the lobby.

This beach is the place I keep coming back to, the beach environment - the tacky culture, casual attitude, and open air dining - are like home to me. This is the place of my childhood and of my adolescence. I’ve been here countless times and have memorized the way the waves lap the concrete poles beneath Pier 60. I know that families and tourists hang on towards the north and teenagers layout in groups on the south side of the pier. Old leathery beach bums bask in teeny tiny string bikinis and toddlers shrill with excitement each time the water touches their toes. While amateur skim boarders try their best to look professional.

I have a spot where I go to sit. It’s at the far north side of the beach, where only locals go. In high school I would go there with my girlfriends we’d listen to loud music on a boom-box, read Cosmo and Glamour, and catch up on gossip. I didn’t notice then that the water changed colors as the sun and clouds moved across the sky. I didn’t notice that tiny crabs snuck out at low tide, I was too busy checking my tan lines. I kept a towel, bikini, sunscreen, and flip flops in the trunk of my Hyundai Sante Fe, just in case we wanted to cruise over after school.

I recommend Sand Key as a more secluded, romantic spot or if you have young children and are worried about a crowded beach. There is also a famously delicious Cuban restaurant on Sand Key called Columbia Restaurant. It would make for a great date night spot; just remember to wear real shoes and clothes, not your flip-flops and cover-up. Reservations recommended.

This one time, the day after my wedding, two of my bridesmaids and some of our guests headed over to the beach to get some R&R before jumping on the plane. They stopped at Publix to get subs (remember how delicious I told you these were?) and intended to picnic at the beach while trying to absorb a little vitamin D. One of them was not a native Floridian and made the mistake of not guarding her sandwich with her life. The seagulls sensed her vulnerability and started circling. They took turns diving at her to try to nab a bite or steal the whole sandwich. Terrified, she threw the sandwich into the air and took off running and screaming. Everyone else laughed so hard they couldn’t breathe.

This brings me to one of the most important bits of advice I can give: when at the beach never EVER feed the seagulls. They are aggressive terrors who get bolder by the tourist. They will snatch your food, and anything that looks like food. If you bring food to the beach, be sure to throw everything away properly on your way out. In case of emergency, if the birds are swarming, hide your food with your body or under a bag/towel, etc. If they are still bothering you, do not give in and throw scraps. Try to ride it out, as they will eventually leave you for an easier target. Avoiding these creatures will make your visit much more enjoyable.

Some of my favorite spots for shopping and dining include... my favorite place to buy a bikini is the Mandalay Surf Company. Best places to grab a grouper sandwich or burger include any of the Frenchy's locations (Salt Water Cafe being the best) or Palm Pavilion (go here for live music and sunset views). For a fancy dinner Bob Heilman's Beachcomber is a must and if you're in the market for a place that serves everything try Clearsky Beachside Cafe. Its also where many of the colorful locals hangout.

And some things tourists do that locals don't (but are worth doing once): Captain Memo's pirate ship tour, dolphin watching tour, and Clearwater Marine Aquarium which is home to Winter, the dolphin with the prosthetic tail made famous by the movie A Dolphin's Tale (I laugh inside every time I read this, sort of mean, "punny" title...).

If you have any boating experience, or can afford to charter a small boat, I recommend skipping all of the above and cruising around the inter-coastal waterway on your own. Not only will you see dolphins and other wildlife, but you will get to check out all of the fabulous homes over-looking the water. I just love peeking into the windows!

The best place to stay is the Sand Pearl - I'll give you a full review of it on Thursday!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Yep, spring's here.

I'm so glad it's finally spring. I love watching the flowers bloom and the city come alive with restaurants opening their windows and picnics in the park. But I'm not sure which is worse - allergies or allergy medication. It is seriously hard to get out of bed when I feel fatigued as soon as I wake up. Not to mention the itchy eyes, throat, and skin. Do you suffer from allergies? Any coping mechanisms?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Weekend Recap: My best friend's wedding

This weekend I was in Sarasota, Florida for one of my best friend's weddings. She and I were friends in high school and roommates in college. It was a honor to to stand by her side while she married her love. We danced the night away to our favorite songs, ate some delish cake, and reminisced about the good ol' days.

Saturday, Gman and I headed up to St Petersburg to check out the new Dali Museum and spend time with my family.

It was a wonderful weekend and I'm still totally exhausted! Not ready for Monday!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Exploring Wine: Malbec

Reunion, Malbec, 2010, Mendoza, Argentina (ironically, a hostess gift to me!, approx value $15)
My rating for this bottle? I would drink several glasses
This Malbec was the lightest I have ever tried. The bouquet was characteristic of the varietal, juicy blackberries, currants, and cherries. The cherries were the most pronounced and also dominated the flavor. I experienced little tannin and found it to have a balanced acidity, meaning it didn't taste too alcohol-y or flat. The acid gives the wine life and effects all components of the flavor but it doesn't have a taste itself (that I've found).

Sometimes Malbecs make my cheeks flushed as well. This one did not. We paired it with homemade pulled pork sandwiches. yum!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tips to Travel By: Gifts for the Hostess

Monogrammed Mug; Fresh Soap; Dean & Deluca Extra Virgin Olive Oil; Cheesemonger Kitchen; Hammered Bowl; Kate Spade Monogrammed Stationary; Illustrated Guide to Cocktails; Bodum Chambord French Press Coffee Maker

A few years ago my mom and I went to the Nancy region of France to visit some friends (after our trip to Nice and Cote d'Azur). They kindly invited us to stay in their home for an extended weekend and we wanted to bring a hostess gift to the mother of the family. We fully intended to bring a bottle of wine and a bouquet of flowers, a typical hostess gift. But while we were out shopping and chatting with a number of French people, they warned us against our gift choices. They said that you must be very careful as an American offering a French family wine, as they are very particular about what they like. In addition, just choosing fresh seasonal flowers is nice, but flowers have specific traditional meanings and they were concerned that we would give them funeral flowers by mistake.

My mom and I settled on a special bottle of olive oil and it was a raving success with our friends. They even insisted we open it the very evening of our arrival, in order to enjoy it with bread and dinner. We were relieved that we didn't commit a cultural faux pas and so happy that our friends could see how much we appreciated their invitation.

So I got to thinking about other gifts that might be thoughtful alternatives to the usual bottle of wine and flowers. All items above cost about the same or less as a bottle of wine.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Discovering Art and Art History: Lulie Wallace

Lulie Wallace, Flowers For Amandah, 18 x 18 inches, acrylic on wood
Lulie Wallace, Flowers For Anna Gray, 16 x 20 inches, acrylic on wood
Lulie Wallace, Flowers For Bailey, 24 x 24 inches, acrylic on wood

I first saw Lulie Wallace's work through my frequent trolling over on Pinterest. Then it caught my eye again on over Oh Joy! here. I am drawn in by the colors and I love the graphic, flattened shapes of the still lifes. At first you don't realize what you are looking at, it seems abstract, only shapes on a canvas. Then you see the outlines of each shape, snaking around the picture. The objects are deconstructed to their basic forms, then loosely stitched back together. Wallace takes something familiar, makes it foreign, then makes it familiar again.

It reminds me of when I go somewhere new and I don't know my way around. There are familiar things like grocery stores, restaurants, cars, buildings, people, but I don't know the cadence of the streets or the strategy for talking to the butcher or the shop keeper. But as I spend time in that place, as I walk down the same paths, I learn the lingo, I remember the habits of the locals. I start to notice how the neighbor's cat sits on the window sill every morning and the mailman comes at 12:35pm. I know how to ask for coffee at the cafe or buy shoes at the store. As I learn my way around each curve of the street my steps are familiar and fresh at the same time.

Besides my clear obsession with her aesthetic, Wallace's work is also appealing to this young collector - a lot of her pieces are currently priced below $500! I better scoop one up before you do...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Weekend Recap: Spring is that you?

The flowers in the garden started blooming this weekend! I was happy to see such pretty pink blooms on the tree. Many of the plants and flowers didn't make it through the winter, so there will be lots of digging in a few weeks to make things presentable. But for now, I love looking out the window to see spots of hope.

I had a busy weekend, definitely not ready for Monday (CUSP party Friday night, dance party Saturday night!). Gman and I took a long walk on Saturday. It really is one of my favorite things to do with him! I love the exercise and it's nice to get outside and spend time together. I like that we can just walk along and enjoy our surroundings or chat if we'd like. We always end up having the most enlightening conversations while arm in arm like we did when we first met.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Washingtonian

Here's a quick little post for you to enjoy this weekend! As you may know, I was featured this week in The Washingtonian's What I Wear to Work series which showcases DC's stylish work force in their Shop Around blog. It was my first time actually taking pictures of what I've loved to do on a daily basis since I was a child - play dress up. It was fun to memorialize some of my favorite looks. I couldn't have done it without the encouragement of my family, friends, and co-workers!

I wasn't sure what to expect from it and I'm really happy with the results. I hope I get to do this more often! Here are a few of the funny things that came in the feedback:

My dad posted one of our inside jokes in the comments - I was so touched and it made me laugh!

Someone said I was the "sexiest woman in DC" - going to keep that in mind on those PMS days when I feel like total crap.

Museum friends all the way in Milwaukee said the article was making the rounds in their office and  they were wearing their "research pants" that day too! Gotta love the museum community (and perhaps coining a phrase?).

 Head over to the Washingtonian to check it out.

Shoe Love: Snake Skin and Louboutin

Christian Louboutin via Net-a-porter

I'm completely fascinated by the pixelated color cleverly painted onto the snake skin of these Louboutin pumps. I love that they remain neutral despite the tiny pops of color. The heels are high enough to be sexy but low enough to be worn for hours.

Happy Friday dear readers! 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review: Baguette Box; Seattle WA

I went to Baguette Box last fall during my trip to Seattle with Gman. It's a fun little place with a doggie themed interior and casual furnishings. Located in the hip Capitol Hill neighborhood, it's near great vintage and home furnishing shops. The menu is simple - just a few sandwiches and light sides. The sandwiches consist of traditional Vietnamese style meats and veggies served on French style baguettes. The bread is perfectly soft on the inside, flaky on the outside. I ordered the pork belly with hoisin sauce and cilantro option and I'm pretty sure I was drooling as I ate it. And am again now as I remember its savory goodness.

They offer delivery, to-go, and dine in so this a great spot for the busy commuter or leisurely tourist. It was one of our favorite meals in Seattle.
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