Friday, October 26, 2012

Apartment Therapy

Happy Friday, dear readers!

I have something exciting to share with you. My apartment was featured on Apartment Therapy! If you aren't familiar with their site, get acquainted and start pinning because you will find so much home design inspiration that you will have to set aside whatever plans you had this evening to look at everything. Here's the link. Enjoy!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Shoe Love: for the museum

Clockwise from top left: Embellished lace-up flats, suede pumps, leather ballet flats, patent and mesh flats, red pumps,  studded sneakers, polka dot haircalf pumps, gold and patent flats

Being a museum and gallery goer seems like a glamorous lifestyle. However, standing on your feet for hours on end is tiring. When I visit a museum or go to a gallery opening, I try to wear practical shoes - but practical doesn't mean boring. These shoes are practical and comfortable without sacrificing style.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What I Wore: San Francisco, CA

And here's what I wore in San Francisco, casual summer pieces layered with scarfs and playful shoes. I also wore a backpack as a handbag, which I said I would never do. As an aspiring photographer, I wanted a way to carry a few extra lenses while on vacation (a perfect time to practice!) without having to carry a camera bag and a purse. The backpack solution was discrete and comfortable. 

Fellow photographers, what do you do to carry extra gear while on a trip?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Destination: San Francisco, CA

“Let’s think of some funny things that happened while we were in San Francisco.” I said to my best friend Katie as we sat perched on our bar stools in the basement of Goose & Gander, a local craft cocktail joint in Napa Valley. The dark wood paneled interior looked more like a flower shop than a bar. The bartender prided himself on a rather large assortment of homegrown herbs, flowers, and fruits that he used to make his concoctions and displayed them all over the place. We were topping off our first day of wine tasting with a Moscow Mule and had the giggles. She replied to my question with only a slight pause in her laugher, “How about the man that just walked in to the women’s room?” She pointed through me to the group of people behind me. “That just happened,” she’s giggling so hard that her nose is wrinkled, her smile endless, and her body bouncing with each snicker. It’s contagious and I’m laughing too, before I even know what she’s going to say. She can barely finish her sentence, “it’s all I can think about!”

We had been planning our girl’s trip to California, San Francisco and Napa Valley, for months. It was the most organized I’d ever been, planning daily itineraries complete with restaurants, shops, and tourist sights for each day. It left us with very full days, but very little decision making on the trip. Each morning we just got up, looked at what we planned, and headed out for a cup of Blue Bottle coffee.

It was our first time visiting San Francisco and we spent the entire first day seeing the sights. Once we got to our hotel room at the Executive Hotel Vintage Court in the centrally located shopping district of Union Square, we refreshed ourselves, we headed out to ride the cable car to Fisherman’s Warf to try a bowl of clam chowder, a tourist must do. We watched several cable cars full of tourists go past us and finally decided to bag it and walk. We walked down Powell Street past people tending to their daily needs. Buying groceries, walking to run errands, and getting local gossip over a newspaper stand. Laundry hung from clotheslines on balconies and children peeped through open windows. Housecats stoically guarded their domiciles while dog walkers tended to packs of tiny beasts. The streets weren’t terribly busy though, all of this taking place over many, many blocks. We connected with fellow tourists again along The Embarcadero. We spent the rest of the day like this, walking from destination to destination through the everyday lives of San Franciscans - from Fisherman’s Warf through secret gardens to the top of Coit Tower in Telegraph Hill (recommended for the views) and then back to our hotel via Taylor Street and the grand hotels of Nob Hill. Taylor Street being one of the steepest streets I’ve ever walked up/down. We were impressed with the accuracy of parking and dizzying slope changes. It was terrifying to think about having to drive a stick shift car or even wear heels around this city.

The vibe of many San Franciscans is an odd mix of bohemian, liberal idealism, with a strong grounding in finance, fingers in the tech world, and a mission to save the planet. And to say it is a foodie town is an understatement. Each meal was more impressive than the next, favorites being sausage and broccoli rabe pizza, pork belly and squash blossoms pasta paired with delish wine and a homey atmosphere at Flour + Water in the Mission District. And a fresh take on Vietnamese home-cooking slanted door spring rolls, barbecued willis ranch pork spareribs, grass-fed estancia shaking beef and some of the tastiest veggies I’ve ever had at The Slanted Door. The farmer’s market at Embarcadero was also notable and we enjoyed a relaxing Saturday brunch out-of-doors there with some friends who lived in town.

Almost every local I talked to never rode a bike over the Golden Gate Bridge. “It’s a tourist thing,” they would say, with a tone of distaste, every time I asked. “Tourists, ride bikes over the bridge to Sausalito, a touristy town, and then take the ferry back. It goes past Alcatraz so you can get some good pictures. But it’s for tourists.” Needless to say, all of our friends who did it said it was the best bike ride of their life, a once in a lifetime experience. So we had to see for ourselves. Most people rent bikes at the pier but we took a taxi to Sports Basement and rented bikes from an outdoorsy shop in a retrofitted grocery store. The space was so raw that they didn’t even bother to paint over the “dairy” “meats” and “bakery” signs leftover from the building’s previous life. Biking proved to be fun and challenging to us Florida girls trying to navigate the steep inclines. Although the bridge was insanely crowded, the view was picturesque and we were lucky enough to see the fog lift.

Once we got the hang of riding bikes, it was fun to jet down to Sausalito and spend the day tooling around the shops, galleries, and checking out the architecture. We went to a great dive-y Mexican place for lunch, which I highly recommend. It didn’t have views of the bay, but it did have Tecate, tacos, and a casual and festive atmosphere with outdoor seating. The weather was out of this world perfect – in the 70s with a slight breeze and lots of sunshine. The only stressful part of our day was getting on the ferry to go back to San Francisco. I recommend getting a token (there’s a stand in the bike parking area, you can’t miss it) as soon as you arrive in Sausalito as it will reserve a spot for you and your bike on the ferry at a specific time. If you do not have this token, you could be left for hours waiting for the next availability. Once back in San Fran, we rode our bikes through the city and along the beaches back to the shop. It wasn’t until then that we realized taxis don’t normally go out there, so we ended up walking back to a busier part of town. We definitely earned all of our calories that day!


Another “must see” on the list of tourist destinations was Haight Street. As we got out of the cab on the corner of Haight and Ashbury, we immediately regretted our decision. It wasn’t a quaint tree-lined street of vintage shops and nostalgic bohemia, it was a filthy street consumed by drug paraphernalia shops, tattoo parlors, dirty diners, and the wafting scent of stale marijuana. We committed to walking it and ended in Golden Gate Park. Again this is apparently a great place to stop, but we found it full of homeless hippies literally marching to the beat of their own drum. I’ve never felt so East Coast prep in my life. We couldn’t get out fast enough, jumping on the bus back towards the Market Street. Google Maps told us that not far away in a park on the corner of Hayes St and Octavia St, there was an ice cream shop and beer garden side by side. We locked glances with a stare of affirmation and relief then signaled the bus to stop. Hayes St turned out to be our favorite spot in San Francisco. We found our tree-lined street with ice cream, beer, and great shopping. We spent the afternoon here before squeezing in a visit to the SFMOMA to see the highly anticipated Cindy Sherman exhibition.


Our highly planned trip wasn’t without a dull moment. But because we didn’t have to sit around saying, “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” we were able to truly sit back and enjoy each moment. We laughed without the need for an actual joke, drank and ate the best San Francisco had to offer, and roamed the streets without a care in the world, making for a truly relaxing city get-a-way.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

DC Wine Week

Hello dear readers! I've been a busy High Heeled Traveler, yet again. Besides recently jetting off to Buenos Aires and Las Vegas, I guest posted over on DC Wine Week's blog. I created my first ever video(!) about how to open, pour, and serve the perfect glass of wine. Check it out!

DC Wine Week is coming up quickly too! The kickoff is this Saturday. There are events all week, but Tuesday might be the most fun mixing fashion and wine over at Lost Society and co-hosted by Very Busy Mama. Tickets can be purchased here for $40 which includes an open bar and lots of pretty people/things to oogle. I already have my ticket, so get on it before they are sold out! I look forward to seeing you there.

Now, what to wear?

DA+AH: (e)merge and a performance by Holly Bass

I had the pleasure of sneaking in a visit to the (e)merge art fair last Friday in between travels. I arrived just in time to hear a panel discussion about performance art, what it is and it’s place in and outside of the art institution. Afterwards, Holly Bass performed her newest piece, Come Clean.

I don’t know if you are familiar with Holly’ work. You probably are if you live in the Washington D.C. area as she very active in the art scene here as a performance artist and poet. She hosts weekly open mic nights at Busboys & Poets and recently performed in the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s Take it to the Bridge series this summer. You can read more about her work and her bio here.

In Come Clean, the stage was set with a rural backdrop, wooden bench, and a hand painted sign that read, “Come Clean, Open to All, Fridays 3:30, Saturdays 1:00.” Holistic ingredients, like eggs, avocado, honey, beer, and coconut milk were arranged in mason jars on the top of a three tier metal cart. Two young African American ladies dressed in all while and barefoot stood to the side. One carried a white antique basin and the other a large pitcher.

Holly also dressed in all white and to begin the performance personally greeted every single viewer, “Thank you for coming.” When we made eye contact I felt like she was my friend. Unlike a theatrical performance, she did not raise her voice but instead kept things at a very conversational tone. She asked three people, whom she just met, to help her with the performance. One would condition her hair, with the natural ingredients of their choosing, the second would rinse and shampoo it, and the last would oil and comb it.

The first person was a young man, a fellow artist exhibiting his work at (e)merge. After Holly washed both of their hands, she asked him to choose the ingredients to condition her dry hair and asked him to touch her hair to gauge its dryness. Once the conditioning elixir was made, she asked him to put it in her hair so that all her hair was covered. They both slowly unbraided her hair, not facing each other as she was sitting on the bench. She was very vulnerable sitting there letting a man she did not know touch her. Yet he was enthusiastic, gentle, and followed her instructions. He spent a great deal of time covering her hair with the mixture. They chatted about his work, where they were from, how their day was going, all the things one normally talks to their hairdresser about. It reminded me of all the times I went to the salon and made small talk. I felt relaxed in my chair as they became comfortable with each other. Once her hair was fully conditioned, they parted ways with a friendly hug.

The second person to assist Holly was a young woman, who looked very similar to me and about my age. Conversation between the women came easily. Holly asked her if she had ever worked with black hair before and she said no. I hadn’t either. I had no idea what went into grooming their locks. I was watching something I’d never seen before, yet it was something I am so familiar with. I love the conviviality of women sitting around together taking care of one another. Vanity can be a cruel weakness, but it can also build community. I was also very curious to continue to see what the differences between Holly’ hair and mine were during the shampooing and combing processes. I wanted to feel shameful about watching, in a way, the exotic, but there were no walls up between the women. The white girl shamelessly asked Holly about her hair, grooming habits, and history while Holly laid on the bench and she poured water over her hair. She touched holly without shame and playfully gave her a shampoo Mohawk and a scalp massage. Holly said it reminded her of all the times her mother did her hair when she was young. I agree, this was definitely a collective experience. Also all of the assistants treated the artist kindly; they gently touched her, respected her body, and chatted with familiarity.

While this was going on, the two barefoot assistants took the water back and forth to ensure that the performers always had a clean basin and fresh clean water.


For the last part, Holly was nervous about asking a non-black person to comb her hair. She was worried that it would be too foreign to them. The assistant chose natural shea butter and coconut oil to apply to Holly’s roots and started the combing process. Section by section she put the oil at the roots and combed it up to the ends, then Holly twisted the hair to keep it separate from the other sections. By this point it had been almost a full hour. Many of the audience had come and gone and some of Holly’s friends sat loyally up front. They began to chat about hair myths, curses, and legends surrounded by the grooming rituals of their mothers and grandmothers. The things women go through for beauty! I finally had to leave. I don’t know what came over me, but at this point I felt so familiar with the artist that I said, “Holly I have to leave, but thank you so much.” And she waved goodbye. 

I’m curious to know if her hair was actually more conditioned and if she felt cleaner. I’ve always wanted to know if beer and lemons really strip your hair or if coconut milk and honey really smooth the follicles. But when I left I forgot to ask. I was too busy thinking about how the vulnerability of letting someone touch you-not just in a sexual way but something as simple as washing and brushing your hair-builds trust and how that trust leads to secrets leaked (coming clean, perhaps?) and lives shared.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Exploring Wine: Napa Valley AVA

Map created by me and is not to scale

Napa Valley AVA is the most famous wine area in the United States. It's also one of the oldest areas, first grape vines planted in the 1860s, and most saturated with over 300 wineries. You can't drive more than a few minutes down St Helena Highway (the main drag) without being overwhelmed with options. It's like oenophile Mecca. So I went there and here's what I learned.

Napa Valley is flanked by mountain ranges on two sides, San Francisco Bay on the South, and Mount St. Helena to the north. The area is a historically suitable climate for farming and the culture there is still focused on the land. Wine making took off in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but between prohibition and a deadly outbreak of phylloxera (a plant disease which can infect grape vines) the industry came to almost a complete halt. By the 1960s and 70s though, the vineyards started growing again and attracted many entrepreneurial minded businessmen, eccentrics, and wine lovers, including Robert Mondavi. Now the industry is thriving and is one of the go-to destinations for wine lovers around the world. Those lucky enough to live in Napa full time enjoy a comfortable outdoorsy lifestyle that revolves around farming, bocci ball, and drinking wine. There is little rain, lots of sun, and cool evenings. I didn't want to leave! 

When people talk about wine from Napa Valley they are taking the Napa Valley Appellation or AVA. An appellation is simply a geographic growing region that is governed by rules that are overseen by a government body. These guidelines are generally used to produce better quality wines and regulate the industry standards. In France, the appellation system includes rankings but in the United States the American Viticulture Areas or AVA only define growing regions. 

You can tell where the wine in your bottle was grown based on the AVA labeling. For instance, in order for a bottle to say "Napa Valley" on it, 85% of the grapes must come from the Napa Valley AVA (this is true throughout the country). If a bottle says "California" then 100% of the grapes must come from California, but not necessarily a particular AVA. There is a lot of back and forth and some controversy surrounding the labeling laws, but as a consumer I find them helpful when I'm trying to decide what to purchase at the store.

All the mountains and valleys create a bunch of little microclimates, which give Napa the ability to be a suitable growing area for many different types of grapes. However, since this is an overview, when you are ordering wine at a restaurant or choosing at the store, you can't go wrong with a cabernet sauvignon or a chardonnay. These are the two most widely planted and successfully grown grapes in the Napa Valley. When I was there I also tasted a few very nice sauvignon blancs, merlots, zinfandels, pinot noirs, and syrahs that I really enjoyed. So if you are feeling adventurous, try one of those too. 

Here is a list of the sub appellations in Napa, which correlates to the map above. I'll be referring to the map when I talk about more specific wineries and varietals in the weeks to come.
1. Calistoga
2. Diamond Mountain District
3. Howell Mountain
4. Spring Mountain District
5. St. Helena
6. Chiles Valley District
7. Rutherford
8. Oakville
9. Mount Veeder
10. Yountville
11. Oak Knoll District
12. Stags Leap District
13. Atlas Peak
14. Los Carneros
15. Wild Horse Valley
16. Coombsville

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Art to Inspiration: A Declaration of Shoe Love

October's Art to Inspiration, Ashley Lettich's Shoes in Soho, reminds me of the one, the pair, that got away.  I'm with my girlfriend shoe shopping. We've asked the sales associate to retrieve our selection in our sizes. As we wait, I anticipate that perfect moment, the fit, the excitement. How will they look on my feet? Will they be comfortable? Will I care? What occasion do I need to create to justify this purchase? How much were they anyways? I'm so distracted as we sit and wait that I can't hear my friend talking but she's so excited that she can't stop talking.

The sales associate finally comes back. What seemed like years was only two minutes. She balances a stack of boxes, slowly puts them on the ground, then opens the first one. The smell of fresh leather, glue, and paper rush towards me. She talks about the quality of the shoe, the special sole, the leather from Italy, as she delicately unwraps first the left, then the right, for me to try on. The paper slips off to reveal the naked shoe underneath. She hands them to me and I put my size 9.5 inside, sometimes clumsily, sometimes gracefully. I'm overwhelmed with excitement and anxiety, do they look right? are they my size? Then I stand and walk towards a mirror. As I walk, flash memories flood my mind. I've made this walk hundreds of times and I visualize the experiences layered on top of one another. The walk could be painful, difficult. I could step out of the pump. I might like the color and texture, but the strap gives the cankle effect. Or it fits like Cinderella's glass slipper.

This time, they are perfect. The three and a half inch heel is just high enough to show off my calves but not too high that I start wobbling. My heel is cupped in the back and the ball of my foot lightly touches the bed of the shoe. My toes aren't jammed up in the front or holding on for dear life. But I'm not sure. No. I'm sure. I've got to convince myself to let go of uncertainty and just bring them home. This moment is the most important. It's like a game of hard to get. A flirtation. I take a lap around the shop, brushing my fingers along every pump in my wake. I walk slowly, feeling my feet, looking for any signs of future blisters. There's no rubbing. Of course. They would feel more comfortable than bedroom slippers.

But is it lust or love? Could they stand the test of time? For a price like that, would I wear them for years to come? Would it be worth having them re-soled when they start to wear down? Should I just get a cheaper pair and then replace them with another cheaper pair? Is it better to have many short lived lovers than the one great love of a lifetime? And how would I know if it was the love of my life in only a moment? I doubt all my feelings and fear commitment.

I'm urged to try on the next pair and reluctantly take them off. The leather already began to mold to my feet and I reach out and silently gasp as the sales associate places them in the box. I smile and chat with my friend. I look at her shoes and give feedback, trying to convince her in or out of the purchase based on non-verbal signs she's giving me.

The second pair have nothing on the first. Now I'm hungry and I convince myself to walk away as I don't like making impulsive purchases, especially ones with this price tag. I think, what was I doing in there with those shoes out of my league?! As we leave the store, we discuss where we will go for lunch and how cute the shoes were and how we didn't try on those sandals but maybe next time. The rest of the day I relive that moment. Standing in front of the mirror, confident, radiant, and elegant. I try to go back but they are gone. Someone else's dream realized. I'm heart broken and sooth my troubled mind by purchasing other pairs of heels. The cheap fixes. The so called non-regretful under $100 cheap lovers that always hurt, always come up short. The plastic makes my feet sweat and no matter the occasion, I stand there, uncomfortable, dreaming about the ones that got away.

Started by the lovely Supal of Chevrons and Eclairs, Art to Inspiration is a once a month blog post inspired by a work of art.If you would like to participate in Art to Inspiration, click here to read more and sign up.  

And in case you missed it here's July'sAugust's, and September's Art to Inspiration.
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