Friday, June 29, 2012

Shoe Love: The Summer Sandal

I'm always on the hunt for the perfect brown sandals. Call me traditional but I love that a neutral brown goes with everything while always looking fresh and chic. During a PMS shopping trip a few weeks ago (simlutaneously the best and worst time to be in public and spending money), I found these little darlings in Madewell. It was love at first sight and we haven't been separated since.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Essentials for the long haul

necklace, dress, bag, sunglasses, popcorn, gummies, M&Ms, Garmin, sandals
Not only did I enjoy a country drive with Gman last weekend but a few of my girlfriends are taking a road trip from Florida up to see me in D.C. then head up to Boston for the Fourth of July festivities (remember when I went a few years ago?). So I got to thinking about car ride essentials, things for entertainment and nourishment. Here's a list of my long haul necessities:

A comfy dress for hours of sitting with accessories and sandals that are either easily removed or easily napped in (baggy pants would work too).

Candy and salty snacks for a special treat (am I the only one who gets the munchies in the car?) and lots of water to wash it down.

Sunglasses to combat the glare on the road.

Music! Gman and I love listening to satellite radio on long drives. We switch between music, listening to sports (I don't know why I like doing that, sounds boring right?), and the comedy stations.

A Garmin because you will get lost and your phone will die.

Are you taking a trip by car this summer? What are your essentials?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Weekend Recap: A Country Drive

This weekend was Gman’s birthday, certainly cause for some much needed celebration. Since I’ve been out of town for nearly two weeks, I wanted to take him on a special get-a-way, just for the two of us. I stalked magazines, journals, travel books, blogs, and websites for ideas and felt uninspired. Where could we go for a last minute weekend trip that wouldn’t break the bank?

Gman isn’t always up front about what he wants. He doesn’t specifically say, hey I want a pony for my birthday. He’ll just send me articles about ponies and talk about how interesting they are. Does your partner ever do that? Although not trained as a mind-reader, I’ve become rather good at picking up the clues and since he’s been harping on going to see Monticello since January, I ascertained that it might be a good spot for a birthday trip.

So I booked a rental car and told him to take the day off on Friday. With the car reserved from 9am – 9pm and I expected to leave the house around 8am, jump on the metro, grab the car at Regan International Airport, and then hit up Whole Foods in Arlington to stock up on treats and items for a picnic lunch in some fabulous garden at the top of the mountain. After an idyllic drive, we would arrive at Monticello by 11:30am and have 4 or so hours to tour the gardens, house and have our picnic. I imagined we would be laughing hand-in-hand as we learned about some good ol’ American history and made fun of the other tourists. For dinner, I planned on going to the Rappahannock winery to have a tasting/pairing and some fancy food. We would have stimulating conversation over dinner and I would sleep in the car on the way back to the city.


But this is what really happened.

We woke up at 9:30. Stumbled out the door, got the car, and went to Whole Foods where they were out of coffee. I thought people were going to start tearing up the place until almost the last moment, more was served. At noon we were finally on the road. I was getting stressed. I called Monticello to see if we could reserve our tour, they said no. I tried to relax. Gman was relaxed.

Finally at almost 3pm we walked up to the visitor’s center at Monticello. There was thunder. No tickets being sold. Crowds of eager families waited to see if the storms would pass. So distracted by the coffee incident, I forgot to purchase picnic provisions so we ate at the cafĂ©. At this rate we would certainly miss dinner at Rappahannock. I felt defeated. Could anything else go wrong?

I realized then that although my fantasy day wasn’t turning out the way I imagined, it didn’t mean reality was wrong. It didn’t mean that I failed my husband. He was having a great day. He had no expectations and thought it was great to just get out of the office. I had to learn to be flexible, think on my toes, and go with the flow. So I took a deep breath and ordered a glass of wine with my lunch.


can you see the skydivers?

For two hours we slowly ate lunch, meandered through the expansive gift shop, and toured the small historical gallery/museum. At 4:30 they got the ‘go’ signal from the powers that be to sell tickets. People bum rushed the line (why do people do this?) and we realized that by the time we actually got to the house, it would be time to turn right back around. So we left. We went for a country drive instead.

It was so relaxing to just look out the window and see the world go by. I caught glimpses of other people’s lives. I could see their stories quickly zip past. We saw lots of animals – chickens, deer, horses, cows, crows, and even a groundhog. We saw men working construction, parachutes open for skydivers, and farmers checking their crops. We passed by great historical mansions and burned out shells of old homes. We even stopped to get some candy at a gas station!

Once back in town, we met up with my dad and cousins who were unexpectedly in town. I quickly changed all the plans and put together a guy’s night- Texas BBQ at Hill Country then exotic beers at Beer Baron (yum, yum). Everyone had a great time!

The day turned out to be much more fun and relaxing than I could have ever planned and Gman had a fantastic birthday. I realized that sometimes life is better than what you envisioned and sometimes the most difficult expectations to manage are your own.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Exploring Wine: Comparing Vintages

Mouton Cadet, Bordeaux (blend, mostly Sauvignon Blanc), 2008 (no price, sorry!)
My rating for this bottle? I would drink the whole bottle.

Mouton Cadet, Bordeaux (blend, mostly Sauvignon Blanc), 2010, $10
My rating for this bottle? I would drink a few glasses.
Last weekend Gman and I drank the last bottle of white in the house on Friday night. I know, tragedy right? But it was so good. I mean so good. Honey, dried peaches, notes of citrus filled my nose and my palate with flavors of summer. It wasn't too sweet or too dry and had a medium body, sort of viscus on the sides of the glass and had some weight or texture in my mouth. We really enjoyed drinking it and were sad when the last drop was gone. We drank it as a meal, but I'd imagine it would pair nicely with some BBQ or s'mores (yes!).

So Saturday we swung by one of our local wine shops to stock up a bit. To our surprise we found the same brand wine but a different vintage, 2010 vs 2008. So we decided to do a little experiment to see if they were any different. Oenophiles always talk about how important vintage is and how each bottle, each year can be so different. I haven't given it much thought before so this was our chance to see if they were full of it.

So the 2010 was lighter in color as you can see in the photos above. The first sip (glass) was very tart. Too tart to really taste anything else. I couldn't tell if there were notes of anything because it was just sweet. We were shocked at how different it was. I guess oenophiles know what they are talking about! The second glass was better, smoother with a fresh citrus taste but no peach or honey. I enjoyed the lightness of this vintage once it opened up a bit and can also imagine drinking it with some summer BBQ, though nothing too heavy.

Mouton Cadet has a fun website. They suggest pairing their white with scallops or lobster. Can't argue with that!

So have you ever tried different vintages of the same wine? Did you have similar results? What did you discover?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tips to Travel by: Bringing Kitty

“You’d be surprised at how many people try to put their pet through the X-ray machine.” The TSA employee noted when we asked him about bringing out cats through the airport security. We were told to take the cats out of their carriers and hold them as we passed through the body scanner. I had to remove my jacket and realized I mistakenly wore a tank top when I reached to pick up Buster the Cat, who I was only just acquainted and who had all of his claws. The thought of him freaking out and clawing his way to freedom ran through my mind as I gingerly stepped through the scanner. He squirmed only once and happily leaped into his carrier as soon as we arrived safely and unscratched on the other side.

Traveling with a pet can be a nightmare. Many people don’t travel because of their pets and others opt for short distance trips by car to avoid all of the added stress of airlines and busy terminals. Missed flights and very specific inter-state and inter-national laws make bringing your animal more of a hassle than the trip is worth. The whole experience becomes complicated and tiresome.

Last week I had the pleasure of helping a friend of mine begin a new life in Scottsdale, Arizona. She and her husband called me the week before to see if I was available to fly one of their cats from NYC to Phoenix. It seemed like a strange request, but airlines only allow one pet per person to travel and my friend was flying solo. I am not a huge fan of cats, and don’t have any pets myself, but I immediately said yes. How could I resist the chance to not only help out a friend but see a new place (more on my trip later)?

Our trip went relatively smoothly, besides a few unorganized airline employees at the airport, there were no issues with the cats themselves. In fact, I often forgot I was carrying the kitty around! Our biggest problem was not finding chips and salsa anywhere in the terminal (huge fail JFK!).

Here are a few things I learned about our domestic cat flying experience:

1.       Call the airline you wish to use and book your travel over the phone. It might sound old fashioned but many airlines limit the number of pets per flight. If you don’t tell them you are coming ahead of time, you will be sorely disappointed when you have to switch your flight last minute.

2.       Make sure the travel carrier fits underneath the seat in front of you. How embarrassing would it be if you finally got on board and the pet carrier didn’t fit underneath the seat? Would you be asked to leave? To avoid any extra issues, we used Sherpa carriers which are approved by many airlines and include a travel guarantee. The kitties were also very comfortable inside.

3.       Have up-to-date medical records on hand. We were not asked to show the airline the kitty’s medical records but it’s a good idea to have all of their shot and medication information with you in case problems arise. If you are traveling internationally, these records are required.

4.       Make sure your pet has an identification tag on its collar and is micro-chipped. If you become separated from your pet, you want to be sure it is returned to you safely. Having your animal micro-chipped is required for most international travel. Have the micro-chip number on hand as well.

5.       No pre-gaming. Don’t give your pet food or water for a few hours before traveling. There are no kitty or doggie bathrooms on board and they can get motion sickness just like us. You wouldn’t want to have to smell kitty puke for six hours, would you?

6.       Depending on your pet’s personality, you might consider sedating them. Our kitties slept the entire plane ride without medication. However, if your pet has anxiety issues talk to your vet about easing their (and your) trip.

Do you have any tips for traveling with pets? Any horror stories? Please share in the comments below!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Discovering Art and Art History: Garth Fry aand ArtSee DC

Garth Fry and Elizabeth, founder of ArtSee DC

What does a print maker do when he moves cross country without his beloved studio? Garth Fry faced this predicament when he traveled from California to Virginia. Without a full studio immediately available he began to examine his materials in order to determine a new course for his work. Inspired by the graphic look of printmaking, Fry created sculptural images of intricately torn, glued, and rolled paper, a material usually more comfortable taking a background role.

I imagine it’s an isolated, time-consuming experience to meticulously coil bits of paper for hours on end and that the practice would elicit such emotions and energies as patience, frustration, eagerness, and delight (and quite possibly rage when your fingers get stuck in the glue and rip the paper, or is that just me?). The three-dimensional images of flowers, spirals, and landscapes of tightly wound coils are charged with the artist’s process of creating them. I enjoyed looking at them in the changing light as well as the shadows and light fell across each desolate sculptural landscape. Fry titles the works Jaded, Sprig of Doubt, and Memories which further connect the emotions expressed throughout the creative process. Fry delivers a body of work that is both relatable and attractive.

I had the pleasure of meeting mixed-media artist Garth Fry two weeks ago at ArtSee DC’s Artist Showcase at Local 16. Visit Garth Fry at his website to see details of his work and purchased by contacting Elizabeth at

These stylish ladies were there too...

Tammy of A Loyal Love, Cenita and Salome of aTypical Day

The next Arist Showcase at Local 16 is Wednesday, July 11th at 6pm. I hope to see you there!

Museum Spotlight: Clyford Still Museum

In almost every art gallery the art on the walls tell a story. Each piece is strategically placed in the room. Two paintings next to each other aren't there by happenstance, a curator is considering their relationship by comparing and contrasting them. The story might be by theme, like these are all Dutch still-life painters or chronologically, these sculptures were all done in 1967. Some art responds directly to the space, perhaps it was even made for it, while others seem juxtaposed. In the case of the Clyford Still Museum, the building was created around the artwork.

Clyford Still's career spanned fifty years of the 20th century. Growing up in Washington state and Canada his early work focused on figurative works of working class people. Around World War II his style moved towards abstraction though still inspired by the figures in landscape theme. In the 1950s he moved to New York and worked with other Abstract Expressionists, like Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollack, and Barnett Newmann. In 1961, his story takes a different trajectory when he outright rejected the art market and isolated himself on a Maryland farm in order to solely focus on his work.

His interest in figure vs. landscape developed into an obsession with the relationship between canvas and paint. He explores their relationship through strategic use of untouched canvas. The canvas dictates where the paint will go and seems to restrain Still's movements, creating patterns from the separated blocks of color.

The obsession with medium as subject is elegantly carried over into the museum. The entire collection was bequeathed to the city of Denver by his second wife, Patricia (read more on that and the museum's conservation and research efforts on their website here). The building was designed by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture in 2009 and was completed just recently in November of 2011. The building provides a background for the paintings but the walls also determine where the paintings will hang and how they relate to the space. Although poured concrete and drywall are different materials than oil paint and canvas, they interact in much the same way with the works of art - the building is background but then the building is subject.

What I mean to say is that walking around the galleries I found myself looking back and forth between the brightly colored oil paintings and the raw surfaces of the concrete walls. They balanced each other so nicely that I enjoyed being in the space just as much as looking at the paintings. (I was also mesmerized by the soft natural light flooding down from the sculptural ceilings. It seemed unusual for a museum.) The building and museum seem to be a continuation of Still's life's work. I am curious to see how they develop over time.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Weekend Recap: on the road again...

Two weeks ago I got a panicked phone call from a friend of mine. He and his wife were in a bind and needed help moving their cats from NYC to their new home in Phoenix, AZ. I jumped at the opportunity to not only help them out but see a few new places too. My journey began Friday with a train ride to Westchester from DC and an extremely hospitable stay at my friend's parent's home. Saturday we prepared for the trip out west and squeezed in a little kickboxing action (I'm still sore). We flew out Saturday night. The flight with cats was surprisingly easy! I'll share some tips with you later this week.

I'll be out here in Arizona for the week and looking forward to exploring! I've never seen such enormous cactus before and I've heard there are even road runners and coyotes out here. I can't wait to share this next adventure with you. If you have any favorite spots near Phoenix, let me know in the comments below. I'd love to check it out.

On the blog this week... I'll be profiling a museum in Denver, reviewing an exhibit in DC, giving you some travel tips, drinkin' some wine, and seeing if AZ has any Shoe Love.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Wardrobe: A Funky Summer Hike

jacket, tank top, bandana, shoes, shorts, sunglasses

Denver style could be described as super casual, hippie granola, tie-dye, with no make-up and Teva sandals, not really the sort of vibe that interests a high heel aficionado. But it also has this funky edge to it that I found quite intriguing.

On a typical day in Denver, you might find yourself hiking through red rocks by day and sipping craft cocktails in a hipster speakeasy by night. These retro Merrell hiking boots perfectly describe what Denver is to me, urban meets outdoorsy. You could even get away with wearing this hiking look from the great outdoors to the bar!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Destination: A Hike Near Denver

We pulled up to the payment booth and rolled down the window. “That’ll be $7,” the park ranger said asking for our payment. As we passed him the money he started going over the park rules, “It’s a drought so no cigarettes. Right now its bear, mountain lion, and rattlesnake season, so boys – you lead the way on the trail.” We laughed uncomfortably. As he confirmed each item on his list of rules and regulations, his voice sounded very affirmative as if he didn’t trust us. “And for future reference no dogs” we looked around at each other in confusion. Usually when someone says that they are saying you can get by this time but here’s the rule for next time. Sort of like when you are pulled over for texting and driving, you act like you didn’t know and the cop gives you a warning. Except in this instance we had no dog. Before we went on our way he warned us of the incoming thunderstorms and asked us to turn back on the trail if we saw inclement weather.

The hike at Carpenter’s Peak Trail at Roxborough was a leisurely trek* up a mountain through red rocks and desert foliage. I asked too many unanswered questions along the way like, what kind of tree/flower/rock is this. What type of bird is that singing? I think there are several different ones. Are they all the same species? Has anyone ever seen a bear? Is that a humming bird? My hiking mates, my sister, cousin, and friend, had no qualms about expressing their annoyance. I then hiked quietly, only slightly aggravating them when I stopped every 5 seconds to take pictures.

The storm the park ranger mentioned seemed to be passing north of us, so despite some thunder we marched along. I loved the way the orange-red rocks popped against the dark sky. It was like night and day all at the same time. Slowly we realized that everyone else we passed on the trail was going in the opposite direction. We must have gotten here later in the afternoon than normal, I thought. Then more thunder. The clouds started shifting and separate groups of clouds began to darken and grow heavy. I asked if we should head back and my experienced outdoorsy companions teased me and urged me onward.

We were almost to the summit, when a couple hurried past us and said, “There is a lot of lightening up there. We’re heading back and so should you.” They gave us a look a mother does when she says “young lady.” I took this as a validation of my previous anxiety and was now begging to return. Disappointed and reluctant they finally agreed. But only half way down it started to rain and we stopped in the woods to determine a course of action. Should we stay or should we go? After more coaxing and dirty looks from other passing hikers, we left.

We ran back to the car with the cold rain drops wetting our hair, clothes, and skin. I've never been out in nature in a storm**. It was terrifying and exhilarating to run through the branches with dusty path underfoot. The rain refreshed me as I sweat while the thunder and lightning motivated me to keep going. By the time we got to the car I was soaked and out of breath. We jumped in and drove back more quickly than we arrived. I exhaled a sigh of relief and thought about the experience. I will never forget the smell of the stormy mountain air and the quietness it brought to the wilderness.

*The national park website says the trail is moderate but I didn't find it to be too intimidating.
**On land. I owe you a story about my time on the stormy seas.
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