Friday, August 24, 2012

Shoe Love: In the Streets

Last night had the pleasure of attending Sip & Shop, a wine and fashion event hosted by Early Mountain Vineyards and Urban Chic. I'll chat more about the event next week but I wanted to give you a little teaser with some Shoe Love.

Happy (almost) weekend!

Above, Kristin of Be Loud Be You, me, and her fab friend. Below, Katherine of La Petite Marmoset.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Exploring Wine: Pinot Grigio

Garganega, Pinot Grigio, Italy 2011 $14.00
My rating for this bottle? I would drink a glass.

I enjoyed this bottle with some visitors out in the garden. And by visitors I do mean out of town guests and the rats that seem to stop by when we have company (le sigh, the problem with living in the city I suppose).

Pinot Grigio is one of my summer time white go-tos. It's always fresh, light on color, body, and nose, and will go with pretty much anything we throw on the grill. This varietal, grown in the delle Venezie region of North-Eastern Italy, has a lemon-y apple flavor with notes of a metallic or tin. I enjoyed drinking it and it was a good bottle for the price, but it wasn't mind blowing. I've had better and worse.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Weekend Recap: The Butterfly Garden

Having out of town guests in DC can be exhausting when you run from monument to monument without taking a break. This weekend I discovered the perfect way to take a mid afternoon rest with-in the confines of the National Mall. In between the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden and the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History lies a small butterfly garden. Other tourists briskly walked through it, only considering it a shortcut to their next destination. But as we quietly and slowly strolled through the shaded path, noticed a wonder world of activity and bountiful flora. The bees, butterflies, and moths, were busily searching for and pollinating their favorite flowers. And my cousin, a garden enthusiast, was eagerly pointing out notable species of plants and educating Gman and I on their history and significance.

Although there was chaos all around, it was peaceful in the garden. To finish off our little break, we grabbed ice cream from the street vendor and ate while watching the fountain in the Sculpture Garden.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Shoe Love: Back to Basics

I'm feeling very uninspired by shoes today. I thought I would never say that! Everything seems too over designed or too over done. Perhaps I need to take a time out and go back to classic black pumps.

PS- This is only a portion of my collection of black pumps... I didn't want to overwhelm you ;)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Exploring Wine

Sauvignon blanc grapes on the vine in Napa Valley

Over the past year I've had so much fun learning from and drinking for the Exploring Wine series. It's been a great excuse to teach myself something I've always been curious about and the series has seemed to piqued your interest as well. One reader told me she uses this series to help choose a bottle at the grocery store! I love hearing that.

Throughout the series we've drank reds from around the world - a Bordeaux, MerlotMalbec, and another Malbec, and Malbec from Argentina, Granacha, Sangeovese, Montepulciano D'Abruzzo, and a little boxed wine. For whites we tasted a Bordeaux Blancwhite table wine from Chesapeake Bay, Txakoli, Viognier, Chardonnay, GrĂ¼ner Veltliner, Riesling, Verdejo, and had a good experience with Rose and a bad one. We encountered a bad bottle, compared vintages, and even learned how to travel with wine.

Now, I want to expand the series even further. In addition to the regular reviews, once a month I'll talk about a different wine growing region around the world. So next time we're at a restaurant or browsing a wine shop, we'll feel more comfortable about ordering something we know we'll like. We'll also look at how to taste wine, how to serve it, how to order it, and get some tips from the experts. I hope you're as excited as I am to dive in a little deeper!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tips to Travel By: Flying with your wine

While in Napa Valley, it was difficult not to bring home some of the fabulous wine my girlfriend and I had the pleasure of sampling. We dreamed of a build your own six pack type of thing where we could bring home a bottle from each place we visited. However, it seemed like our options were to buy a case or half case from each winery or bring home a bottle or two in checked luggage. That is until we met our tour guide, Matt (if I recall correctly), at Cakebread Cellars who introduced us to this awesome wine shipper.

It costs about $7 for a six pack (many of the wineries offer them for sale) and you can choose whatever six bottles your heart desires. Then, when you get to the airport check the box as your checked baggage and tape the top flat. The wine will get to your destination safely with you so no need to wait for it to be shipped and the cost is slightly less (or a lot less depending on where you are going and if you have to pay a checked bag fee).

We were hesitant about checking the boxes. Matt reassured us that the owner of their winery does it all the time! Heck, he must know what he's doing, right? Neither of us had any issues checking the boxes and they arrived in tack. Hooray for a bit of travel that's hassle free!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

DA+AH: A Guide to the Durham Art Scene

All photos courtesy of Lindsay Gordon
After such a wonderful reception to the first Art Scene Guide, let's do some more exploring, shall we? This week we will go to Durham, North Carolina with Lindsay Gordon the Artist Services Manager at the Durham Arts Council. I had the pleasure of getting to know Lindsay in our undergraduate art history program. The art world can be a tough place to have a career and Lindsay navigates it with a poised sense of humor and hard work that has and will lead her to much success. To follow her adventures check out her blog, The Dilettantista.

Now more on Durham! Thanks so much, Lindsay!

Jamie Hurst: Tell me about yourself and your role in the art scene of Durham.
Lindsay Gordon: I moved to the Triangle Area of North Carolina (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, which sort of make a triangle on the map and which also encompass a science-tech area called the Research Triangle) in 2007 after graduating from the University of Florida with degrees in Art History and English.  I'd lived in Florida my entire life, so this is the farthest north I've ever gone living-wise.  I came up here for graduate school, and spent two years getting my Master's in Art History at UNC.  I thought I'd get my PhD, but department politics and some soul-searching convinced me to stop after my Master's.  I've had museum internships at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art in Gainesville, Florida, the North Carolina Museum of Art here in Raleigh, and a quick and fun summer at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.  I was lucky enough to get my Master's in 2009, during the peak of the recession, so I spent a little over two-years doing high-end retail and being funemployed and job searching and more-or-less questioning my self-worth and life decisions.  I'd decided to stay in North Carolina for personal reasons (aka I met a boy, and yes we are still together today and live in domestic bliss with our two black cats, so it was a good risk in my opinion), but also because I was witnessing the city of Durham, where my high-end retail job was, commence a period of cultural and downtown growth that is still going strong today.  I wanted to be a part of that, and after quitting my high-end retail job I really focused my job search on Durham as much as I could. 

The summer of 2011 I was doing part time personal assistant work for a fantastic local artist, Beverly McIver, who had just secured New York City gallery representation at Betty Cunningham and who was also anticipating the release of an HBO documentary called Raising Renee, which chronicled her relationship with her older, developmentally disabled sister.  Beverly was a great resource in terms of her openness with her own story, but also because of her connections to the local artistic community.  That summer I'd put in an application to the Durham Arts Council (DAC,, a non-profit arts organization in downtown Durham, and for my work with Beverly I was corresponding with a woman at the DAC who would be doing the hiring for this position.  So basically anytime I e-mailed her for Beverly I'd mention that I was still interested in the DAC job.  I guess my persistence (maybe obnoxiousness?) paid off, because I was called in for an interview and started work at the DAC as their Artist Services Manager this past December. 

My supervisor and I comprise the Department of Art Services, and we provide grants, resources, and programming for the artists (visual and other) of Durham County and the surrounding communities.  We have a number of internal grants that we give to both individual artists and arts organizations.  We produce several arts festivals a year, including a Spring Art Walk and CenterFest, our major outdoor arts fair that will be happening mid-September (  I run the Arts Council's exhibition program, making sure that our three galleries are stocked with rotating array of exhibits.  I also serve as the general artistic liaison to the community, which is great because I'm an extrovert and a talker who loves meeting people.

The Arts Council has been around for 58 years and has been crucial to the revitalization of downtown Durham--which has been getting a lot of notice in periodicals like The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Southern Living.  The DAC moved to downtown Durham before there was really anything there, and slowly businesses such as boutiques and high-end, locally-sourced restaurants followed suit.  Along with providing services to the artistic community, the DAC also has a school and a camp that serve students of all ages, and features classes such as pottery, dance, music lessons, printmaking, and drawing.  We have parents who participated in Arts Council programs as children bringing their own children to camp, so I love that the Arts Council has had such deep and long-lasting impact on the Durham community. 

JH: Describe the art scene of Durham. What is the history? The vibe? Is it known for anything like abstract expressionist or performance art movement, etc? Is it underground or mainstream? Large scale or intimate?
LG: Durham is a town characterized by an entrepreneurial, can-do spirit.  Dozens of refugees from large urban areas like Brooklyn or D.C. come down here to open businesses: home-made peanut butter jarred in someone's house, an ice cream truck with the best ice cream you have ever had, a small storefront selling fantastic meats and cheeses, a mom-and-pop bike store.  We even have coffee sold out of a bike cart.  You name it, it is probably here.  That same whimsical, do-it-yourself spirit infuses our arts scene.  We have a good mix of old-school institutions, such as my organization and academic museums such as Duke University's Nasher Museum (  But we also have a ton of great, scrappy, galleries started by some artists with a dream and a Kickstarter account (Durham loves crowd funding). 

The Carrack ( is a small gallery located upstairs from a bakery (that makes the best peanut butter and chocolate croissants, featuring some of that home-made peanut butter I mentioned above), and it features week-long rotating exhibits by local artists.  Shows include installations, sculpture exhibits, 2-d art exhibits, and even a few performance art pieces.  The Carrack doesn't take commissions from sales and is totally funded by donations from the community.  Mercury Studio is a new venue that has opened around the corner from the Carrack.  Mercury Studio's (  emphasis is co-working, and artists can rent communal studio space.  The Durham Arts Place is a group of studios owned by a local art lawyer, who rents the studios to artists.  The Arts Place also has gallery space, and I'm currently co-curating a show of LGBTQ art work by North Carolina artists that will show in that space during the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and NC Pride (  Golden Belt studios ( is a fantastic venue in an rehabilitated tobacco warehouse (a common theme in Durham's urban renewal).  Golden Belt is a series of artist studios that artists can rent, and the artists in Golden Belt represent a range of Durham styles. 

We're also starting to embrace the pop-up store and gallery movement.  I recently attended an art opening in a newly-renovated studio apartment that was about to go on the market, and one of our local music clubs holds bi-monthly downtown markets where artists and crafters can sell their goods. That same club recently held Durham's first fashion show.   We're a good mix of mainstream (the Nasher, the Arts Council, parts of Golden Belt), and underground/pop-up.  We're also big on collaboration.  The next show I'm opening at the Arts Council features works made by designers to advertise performances organized by The Art of Cool Project (, a group that brings jazz performances to gallery venues in Durham and Raleigh.  The Art of Cool Project is celebrating its one-year anniversary this year, and it represents a fantastic bringing together of performance and visual arts.  Durham isn't a place where people wait for something to happen, we make it happen, and luckily the people who are involved in downtown are incredibly excited about making Durham a culturally relevant and exciting place to be. 

JH: Are there regularly scheduled art shows like, biennials, open air fairs, or First Fridays (something a visitor especially should not miss)?
LG: Third Fridays are our Gallery Nights--when the art venues around town stay open late [read more about Third Fridays on The Dilettantista here, here, here, and here].  I typically start my Third Fridays at the Arts Council (if we have a reception) or somewhere else in central downtown.  During the July Third Friday I attended the soft opening of Durham's new History Hub, organized by the Museum of Durham History (  I then visited a pop-up exhibition held in a renovated studio apartment, featuring drawings by an artist friend of mine who had recently completed a residency in South Africa.  I almost always end up down at Golden Belt and visit with a few artists there--it is fantastic to see what the artists have been working on, and there is usually a new exhibit in Golden Belt's gallery space, Room 100 (  Also on the Golden Belt campus are The Scrap Exchange (, Durham's creative re-use crafting facility, and Liberty Arts (, a metal-working studio.  Scrap and Liberty Arts almost always have fantastic Third Friday events--new exhibits and craft-making at the Scrap, live glass blowing or metal working at Liberty.  Golden Belt is where you will see the largest congregation of people, and there are always a handful of Durham's amazing food trucks on site to keep you fed--I usually grab some food truck food, if I haven't already eaten at one of downtown's great locavore restaurants.  I almost always see a bazillion people I know at Golden Belt. 

I help organize several large events at the Arts Council.  The Durham Art Walk is our spring art fair, and it is a very casual event where artists who are just getting their start can display and sell their works at venues throughout town.  CenterFest is our September festival, and it is Durham's largest outdoor arts festival.  This is a more traditional festival, with 10 x 10 outdoor artist booths, live performances, fair food, and a kid's zone.  This year we're moving CenterFest back into central downtown after an 8 year sojourn in another location.  Durhamites are pretty enthused about this movie, and so far it has been a lot of work, but a lot of fun, figuring out the logistics of moving this festival into central downtown.  CenterFest historically draws 25,000+ people.   

JH: What are the must-see museums, galleries, and hot-spots?
JG: I pretty much hit all of them above: The Durham Arts Council, Golden Belt Studios, The Cordoba Center for the Arts (home of The Scrap Exchange and Liberty Arts), The Carrack, and Mercury Studios.  And, of course, the numerous pop-ups that come and go like tears in rain.  There's probably a new studio or gallery opening next month--that's the way things work here. 

I also want to emphasize that Durham is just one part of the Triangle--there are plenty of great galleries in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and the smaller towns that comprise the Triangle, such as Hillsborough and Pittsboro.  I'm just sticking to Durham for now because Chapel Hill and definitely Raleigh warrant their own entries--Raleigh especially has a booming and unique downtown arts scene, anchored by the West Martin corridor which contains Raleigh's new Contemporary Art Museum (, Flanders Gallery (, and the Visual Art Exchange ( 

JH: Who are the locally celebrated artists, past and present?
LG: Beverly McIver, who I mentioned above, is the big local celebrity.  She does wonderful paintings of herself and her family on big canvases with vivid, bold colors.  I'm also a big fan of the work of Heather Gordon.  She does these wonderful, intellectual, conceptual paintings based on very technical things such as schematics, maps, and origami.  She also does fun things where she converts language or audio sound into binary code, and uses that code to map out an image.  Check out her work here:  I'm also digging the work of Luis Franco, who goes by FRANCO in his artist guise (he also has a day job as a graphic designer at SAS).  His work is very fun and colorful, with some playful twists in the imagery ( 
JH: Is there anyone doing interesting work in the community that should be highlighted? For example, is anyone touching the community through art education or is a curator or gallery owner creating innovative or notable shows?
LG: The Durham Storefront Project (, organized by Jessica Moore, Chris Chinchar, and Reene Cagnina Haynes, brings amazing installation art into empty storefronts in downtown Durham.  Durham still has a lot of underutilized spaces, and until they're developed they are prime real estate for unusual art projects--and luckily the ladies of the Storefront Project realized this.  The Storefront Project has collaborated with numerous artists to make installations involving a city made out of books, a strange, cob-webby fairy room, giant QR codes, and photographs of families who were impacted by North Carolina atrocious Amendment 1.  It is a great project that brings art out of the galleries and onto the streets, and I'm excited to see what they put together in the future. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Shoe Love: Shoes as Art?

Nicholas Kirkwood pumps via Net-a-porter

I'm not one to say that fashion is art and art can be worn. I'm not going to hang a dress on my wall but I appreciate impeccable craftsmanship. However, once in a while the line is blurred (like in the work of artist Nick Cave) and these Nicholas Kirkwood pumps got me thinking... I would definitely HAVE to try them on if I was out shopping. And if I took them home (fantasy land!) I would consider buying a pretty Lucite box to store them in on the fireplace mantle. I'm sure Gman would love that, right?

What do you think, can shoes be art? Would you try these on?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Guest Blogging...

I'm guest blogging over at She Likes Ruffles, He Likes Truffles today! What if you only had one day to see NYC? I tell you what I would do, eat, and wear (including a pair of slippers I'm obsessing over). Read more about NYC right here on High Heeled Traveler too.

Also, in case you missed it, I was featured over on Mimi + Meg for her My DC series. Check it out!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wardrobe: A Day in the Desert

bag, dress, earrings, ring, shoes

You'll want to keep your look breezy and simple for a day out in Sedona, especially if you go in the middle of the summer like we did. Keep in mind everything you wear will get dusty and sweaty. Closed-toe sneakers are a must for any trail blazing and how cool is that crocheted backpack?

Destination: Sedona, AZ

Alyse and I headed out on our Sedona adventure from Scottsdale on an early, already hot, morning in June. My little brain was full of expectations and anticipation. I’d never been to the American West before like this. Sure, I’ve watched a bunch of Spaghetti Westerns and I’ve seen the Grand Canyon (which was incredible) but I haven’t started driving in a direction and gotten lost in a vast open landscape. I wanted to see what the pioneers saw, how the natives lived, and to taste salty freshness a margarita when my body was sweaty, dusty, and sunburned, while I overlooked Thunder Mountain (it’s a real thing Disney fanatics!) and Chimney Rock. I wanted to experience euphoria. I wanted to experience one of these spiritual vortexes I’d been hearing about.

In addition to a Western fantasy, Sedona is a gallery goer's dream. Don’t expect the Chelsea circuit here. It’s a mix of locally crafted goods, anthropological treasures, tacky crap, and some decent fine art (I didn’t get a chance to check it out but have heard Tlaguepaque Arts & Crafts Village is the place to be/buy). I wanted to see it all, but first a side trip to Chapel of the Holy Cross.

What are the chances that the Chapel of the Holy Cross was built right on top of a vortex! Kill two birds? The concrete chapel darts up above the landscape and is renowned for its daring 1950’s design. We were immediately impressed by the picturesque views, architecture of the chapel, and… the volume of tourists. So many people. Everywhere.

Generally speaking, a spiritual vortex is an experience unique to Sedona. People come to be healed by the swirling energies, which are like dirt devils but with spiritual rather than physical energy. Alyse and I each carried some emotional burdens, so we decided to give it a shot. It was hard to find a quiet spot but the information we read on vortexes said that a) they cover a lot of ground, so you could potentially have a moment sitting in your car in the parking lot b) everyone has a different experience, some stronger than others c) vortexes have different energies like masculine, feminine, stimulating, calming, etc. and d) sometimes using an object, like a crystal, can help channel the energy. We sat down in a pew and tried to pray. I didn’t quite get to the zoned out phase of meditation/prayer, but I did throw in a few good words for my family before deciding that this was a bust. Maybe the vortex moved. Can they do that?

Disappointed, we threw down a post-breakfast meal of nachos and Coronas before going out to conquer the art galleries. Then I forgot the map to the galleries in the car so we decided to wander around and just see what struck our fancy. This is when we joyously discovered The Thirsty Cowboy with whom you are already acquainted.

If you are visiting Sedona, the only touristy thing I recommend you make time for is the Pink Jeep Tours. You will curiously see them everywhere as you drive up HWY 179 and 89A. There are many tours to choose from depending on your adventurous spirit. We went with the educational tour of ancient ruins at the Honanki Heritage Site. Seeing as though this was the least exciting trip for families with children (learning!), we had our guide to ourselves. I enjoyed learning about the Sigaguan and their mysteriously industrious ways out here in this now remote location. The highlight was the graffiti, contemporary with the construction of the ruins until now, on the crumbling walls of the cave dwellings. I had some anxiety over a possible rattlesnake encounter but on the way back to town between the wind in my face and the way the light touched the landscape, I relaxed in a moment of happiness.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. My parents went to Sedona in March of 2011. I’m sure they told me they were going, but I didn’t realize they were there until I received a picture text from my Dad of himself standing proudly on Devil’s Bridge. Looking at it was both thrilling and terrifying. I felt like saying, “Wow! Amazing views! Impressive climb! What a tiny land bridge and a huge drop down!” while at the same time saying, “Get down from there! This isn’t funny.” So ever since I saw that picture, I had to go there. I wanted to take a picture like that and send it to him. Then bond over it.

Alyse reluctantly obliged to indulge my fantasy so we headed out for a quick jaunt in the desert before our Pink Jeep Tour. Unfortunately we misjudged just about, well, everything – how long it took to drive out to the trailhead, the blazing heat, the fact that you needed an off-roading vehicle to drive two miles on gravel and soft dirt to get to the real trailhead, how long it took to hike to Devil’s Bridge, and then to get back. We had a grand total of one hour and by the way the hardcore outdoorsy people with all of their gear stared at us in the parking lot, we decided to try something else.

Once on the substitute trail, we spent a grand total of 20 minutes basically running from photo op to photo op. This was for fear of being alone in nature, dying of thirst, being eaten by something, and to see as much as possible in our tiny time allotment. Also, we had no time to look for vortexes.

By the time we sat down for dinner at the Javelina Cantina restaurant, we accomplished a lot and I couldn’t believe our time was already up. Looking at myself in the bathroom mirror, it appeared that I took one too many trips to the tanning bed. But I wasn’t sunburnt - caked on layers of red dust camouflaged my white skin. An attempt was made to discretely return to my normal color with a quick wipe down in the sink before returning to my margarita and companion. The margarita tasted rewarding after a day in the hot sun. I felt like I got a glimpse into someone’s past life, even if it was a bit staged.

As we drove off into the sunset the sky darkened to an inky blue and the huge rock formations began to glow soft orange and pink. They stood proudly and alone out in the middle of the vast landscape. We made our way down the winding road in a peaceful silence as we took in their magnificence. For once I was glad that the speed limit was only 25 miles an hour so such a fleeting image could last a little longer. Was this the vortex experience we were searching for? We can’t be certain but if it wasn’t spiritual bliss then I don’t know what is.
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