Friday, May 31, 2013

We're Moving!

Hello dear readers! I have some big news to share with you. As some of you may know, Gman and I have decided to take this whole travel lifestyle to the next level. This summer we will be making the journey eastward and setting up our home in Kuwait City, Kuwait. We couldn't be more excited about exploring the region and learning new cultures, tastes, languages, and styles.

I've never been to that part of the world before! Neither of us has visited Kuwait or really seen many pictures as it seems the more glamorous locations like Dubai, Qatar, and Morocco are more widely visited and photographed. We can't wait to get our feet on the ground and to acquaint ourselves with our new neighborhood.

I am looking forward to sharing the journey with you through the blog and magazine! In the meantime, we're still living it up here in the US, checking things off our DC bucket list, and preparing ourselves with lots of reading materials for the changes ahead. Cheers!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Exploring Wine (through beer): Dogfish Head Brewery

Fermenting barley greeted our nostrils before we rounded the corner and saw the facilities of the Dogfish Head brewery. We happened to arrive just as new wart was being extracted after fermentation and dumped into a dump truck just outside the entrance to the tasting room. Later we would learn that the mash was going to local farmers as feed for their cows and that cows become greedy, excitable animals upon tasting the delicious mash and their mouths have been rumored to water as soon as they see the truck pull up. Their flesh, in turn, feeds hungry travelers at the Dogfish Head Brewpub on Rehoboth Beach. Making for one of many lovely sustainable little life and business cycles in greater area of Milton, Delaware provided by the brewery.

Dogfish Head is a craft beer brewery, founded in 1995 by Sam Calagione an English major who jumped the train headed to teacher land for a love of brewing. His knack for play on words and puns abound. For example, the machine used to continually add hops to their IPAs (a signature technique) is called Sir Hops A Lot. Being categorized as a craft brewery means Dogfish Head has a small production, less than six million barrels per year, it is owned by people, usually the beer maker, vs large companies like Anheuser-Busch. Because the people who live in the community make the beers locally, craft breweries tend to use sustainable growing methods and include lots of community outreach and programing. They also look at the past to revive flavorful historical brews and enjoy the challenge of improving on them.

The motto at Dogfish Head is “off-centered brews for off-centered people”. They are brewing beers for the sake of brewing beers, which don’t always appeal to mainstream tastes. Being a smaller production company, when we went on a tour of the beer making process, it was actually in the same facilities they make the beer in, along with actual brew masters deep in thought. I mention this because I’ve been on several brewery, winery, and distillery tours where the tour takes you through a simulated brewing process set up like a museum. All have been incredibly informative but it was neat to be so intimately exposed to the beer makers, facilities, and ingredients at Dogfish Head. It made me feel connected to what I tasted later.

The architecture of the interior reflected the cedar and metal of the exterior giving one the impression you were standing inside of a beer tank. It had a home-y, industrial feel if that makes any sense. The smell of cedar, kegs, old beer, new beer, raw barley, yeast, and fresh water filled every space inside. Bright sunshine poured through the floor to ceiling glass walls of the tasting room and on to the faces of beer nerds of all ages and origins - over 10 different license plates spotted in the parking lot.

After the tour we tasted four beers. The descriptions of each beer were similar to the language I’m used to seeing on wine descriptions like, “notes of lemongrass, orange peel, or coffee”. Just like a sommelier, the notes listed food-pairing recommendations and even a wine they felt the beer compared to in terms of mouth feel, weight, and sometimes flavor. Very useful indeed.

When I’m not in the mood for a glass of wine (gasp) or I need a little carbonation, my favorite thing to do is to go to a beer place and order a sampler. I tend to be indecisive when ordering beer because there are so many great, small production regional varieties. Its hard for me to commit to a whole pint when I want to try everything. Usually with a sampler I can try 4 or 5 beers at once (hooray!). During our visit to Dogfish Head and later at their brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, I had the opportunity to sample over 10 of their beers (and was somehow still standing). Here are some of my favorites from the day with wine comparisons.

Namaste was the first brew we tried upon arriving for our tour. It is a Belgian-style white beer that was compared to a Gerwurztraminer from Alsace - meaning bright, crisp, with floral notes, and refreshing on a hot summer’s day. Namaste was made with dried orange slices (not just the rind), lemongrass and coriander so it had less floral notes than its listed wine comparison and made me think of a Sauvignon Blanc. It was perfectly light and a great place to start our beer tasting journey.

Chateau Jiahu shows off what Dogfish Head is all about. The story behind this one is that they worked with molecular archaeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern to recreate an ancient Chinese recipe for beer. This recipe dates back to 9,000 years ago from the village of Jiahu in China. The flavor was highly distinctive and definitely not for everyone. Muscat grape juice (a type of wine grape) is added to the barley malt along with orange blossom honey and fruit then fermented for a month with sake yeast. (Dogfish Head uses many different strands of yeast for their selection of beers.) It basically tastes like a Muscat wine (very sweet) mixed with a citrus-y beer. Another interesting historical beer we tried was Midas Touch.

As noted above in the Chateau Jiahu, Dogfish Head experiments with adding wine grapes to their beers. The most successful, in my opinion, is Sixty-One. It is basically their famous 60-minute IPA with a touch of Syrah grapes thrown in. It was my sixth tasting of the day and I remember feeling pleasantly surprised by its balanced flavor and rounded mouth feel. The touch of Syrah took the bitterness out of the IPA.

My over all favorite was the Raison D’Etre, which unlike some of the others were tried is available year-round and at most of their retailers – good news for me! It boils down to Belgian brown ale plus raisons added to the fermentation process. This is comparable to Bordeaux red wine and pairs perfectly with a steak dinner, which was the point of its creation. It tastes kind of fancy but not overly messed with.

Perhaps with all this new knowledge, next time Gman takes me to a pub I’ll be able to make a more decisive choice when selecting a pint. In the meantime, I leave you with this.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How to wrap a head scarf 1940s style

I have very thick hair and can get away with washing it every three days or so. Because of this, when I'm traveling I'm super lazy about my hair. On day one I'll style it, but after that its ponytail and top knot city for me. If I don't have room to pack a hat, I like to bring a silk scarf. The scarf becomes a great multi-functional accessory. I use it to decorate my handbag, as a belt, and to cover my hair in the place of a hat.

I love the look of the women in the 1940s so I was very happy to figure out how they used to tie scarfs around their head. Rosie the Riveter comes to mind, yes? The women working in factories like Rosie had to tie their hair back so it didn't get damaged or cause an accident in the machinery. With only two bobby pins to secure the scarf on the head it stays in place surprisingly well. I never feel like it is going to fall off, even in a gust of wind. I can see how useful this style was for those hard working ladies (and its much more glamorous than a hair net!). I don't like copying the past exactly and style my by tucking the ends under and leaving my hair straight and parted to the side. I like to show my ears and front of my hair, I think it makes it look more contemporary.

Whenever I wear my hair like this I get two types of comments. From women, "You look like the lady from the 'We can do it!' poster. How did you tie the scarf?" Then they move in closer for a better look. Men will say, "You look like one of those 1940s pin-ups." If I'm with Gman they look at him while they are talking. Of course both comments goes straight to my head. Who doesn't want to feel like a woman, in either case, who conjures up beauty and strength?

After many requests on how to tie the scarf, here is a step by step guide. If you are thinking, "Jamie, come on, I can't pull that off." You can! Try wearing it with something you would anyways: a gray t-shirt, jeans, and ballet flats.

What you'll need:
hair tie
standard size silk scarf (36" x 36")
two bobby pins

1. Pull your hair back with the hair tie in a loose knot at the back of your head. The placement of your hair will determine where the bulge of the scarf is at completion. If the knot is too tight or high the scarf will look uncomfortable on.

2. Fold the scarf into a triangle. Put the long side of the triangle against the nape of your neck so that you can bring the long sides up together at the top of your head.

3. Tie the long sides together once at the top of your head.

4. Bring the third side of the triangle up over your hair to meet the other two at the top.

5. Pull the long sides tight so that it securely wraps around the bottom of your head and hair. If it isn't tight enough your hair will fall out of the back. Then tie them together a second time with the short side of the triangle pulled through the center of the knot.

6 and 7. Secure the sides of the scarf to your head with one bobby pin on each side.

8. Tuck the third side of the triangle (the one that came up from the back) underneath the knot.

9. Remove the bobby pin on one side, tuck the tied end of the fabric underneath the scarf and re-pin. Repeat on the other side.

10. Volia! You're done! Once you do this a few times you can do it blindly without a mirror, like I did for you here. :)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Washington, D.C. Monuments at Night

My favorite organized tour of Washington, D.C. is the Old Town Trolley tour of the monuments at night. Advertised as a three hour tour, it sounds frightening (Gilligan's Island anyone?) and terribly long, but I assure you the time flies by. When you are visiting DC in the middle of the hot and humid summer (with temperatures reaching 100 degrees on some afternoons), which most tourists prefer, then you will want to save lugging yourself from monument to monument across the National Mall for the cooler evenings. Trust me.

The tour starts and ends at Union Station. I recommend showing up at least an hour early so you can get a good look around the station. The powerful classical architecture, grand colonnades and interior spaces shouldn't be missed. You might even recognize a few spots from issue one of The Magazine. While inside grab a sandwich and a drink for the trip (you can't eat, drink, or smoke on the trolley but if you want something along the way, options are very limited as are restrooms). Also bring a sweater as it can get cold driving around with the windows down.

Once on board you will be whisked away past the Capitol Building and National Mall on your way to see the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Iwo Jima Memorial, FDR Memorial, MLK Memorial, and last but not least, the White House. The monuments seem even more grand with dramatic lighting in the evening. They look like they are glowing. While driving from place to place the drive acts as your guide, giving you useful historical facts and stories. I've been on the tour twice and each time the order we stopped was different, which is especially nice for the local going multiple times with out of town guests.

After the tour it's fun to talk about which monument you like best, mine is the Korean War Memorial. What's yours?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wardrobe Staple: Chambray Button Up

It seems like Gman and I are always getting ready for a trip, on a vacation, or just coming home from one. I like to see new places and visits friends, and each new place has a style all its own. The problem with all that travel is that people in all those different places have different styles. Although it sounds fun, trying to buy a new wardrobe before each trip is both time consuming and eats into my budget for the trip itself. So I decided a few years ago to start building a wardrobe that could be flexible enough to meet the needs of my daily life while also looking stylish and put together no matter where I am. I needed pieces that would look good whether I was living in NYC and visiting Paris or living in DC visiting Buenos Aires. This way I can pack according to the local style (conservative, chic, cold or hot) but also save a little bit of money for a souvenir or spa treatment while on vacation. My wardrobe is by no means complete (after all, I love to shop!) but I do feel like I've gotten to a place where packing for a trip or picking out what to wear for work is no longer a dreaded process (I still have breakdowns now and then, I mean, who doesn't?) 

I'd love to share what I've learned along the way with you. I’d like to expand the wardrobe series on the blog to not include what to pack for a noted destination but also what to have in your closet already so you can jet off in a moment’s notice. I will show you how to style the pieces as well as items in various price points in case you are interested in giving it a go yourself.

It’s important to have classic pieces that you can build on or style with accessories, bags, and shoes. This way you can play with trends if you’d like but really focus on investing in staples that don't go out of style. My goal is to purchase items for my closet that I can use for many years to come no matter where I am. 

I’d like to begin with one of my favorite shirts in my wardrobe: my chambray button up. I purchased the one I’m wearing in the pictures in the spring of 2010. I used to frequent Club Monaco so much when I lived in NYC that I had a designated salesman I worked with when I went in (embarrassing at first, but then oh so helpful!). During one visit, he convinced me that a soft denim oversized button up was the way to go. He paired it with a crepe mini skirt and promised I would be shocked at the versatility of the blouse. 

Three years later it is the most loved shirt in my closet and has been on almost every trip with me. I wear it to the office with black trousers or a nice pencil skirt. I pair it with brightly colored pants for going out or just with boyfriend jeans on the weekends. I’ve used it as a jacket while in Key West and as a layer while snow skiing in Colorado. It’s been a cover-up by the pool and a backdrop for statement necklaces. Its also very comfortable on long flights. I can't think of an occasion I haven't worn it for. After three years of wearing the same shirt at least once a week, I recently purchased the Club Monaco Carter Shirt. It is getting softer with each wash and I couldn't be happier with it. I also have my eye on several from Madewell, which has an entire section of their website and store dedicated to the chambray cause. Huzzah! 

If you are interested in adding a chambray shirt to your wardrobe, you're in luck! They are trendy right now so the selection is fantastic. Here are some of my favorites in various price points...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Exploring Wine: Rudi Wiest Selections Rielsing

Rudi Wiest Selectins, Riesling, Rhein River, $15.99
My rating for this bottle? I would drink a glass.

On the nights I decide to be lazy and not cook dinner, Gman and I usually order a pizza. However, one night a few weeks ago we were feeling jazzy and ordered Thai take out instead. I had to grab a few bottles of wine while we were out (had to) so we decided to pick up a bottle to pair with our dinner. I choose this riesling and felt like I nailed it. The sweet, slight citrus (lemon) and touch of slate taste balanced my hot Panang curry. It cooled my mouth right off afterwards and made the meal enjoyable (versus my mouth burning to the point where I can't feel it). 

The only reason I wouldn't rate this bottle higher is because although it tasted pretty good, it left my cheeks red and my body feeling like I was having a hot flash (I never get this feeling from Thai food). So I think a riesling is the perfect thing to pair with spicy Thai food, but I wouldn't buy this bottle again.

Friday, May 10, 2013

On Lipstick and Beauty

If you know me even a little bit, you know that I have a thing for lipstick. I wear it every day, usually applying it as soon as I finish my morning coffee, even if I have no intention of leaving the house. I always have at least 20 shades in my makeup drawer and carry 3 or 4 shades in my purse at all times.

Back when I was in college, I lived with 12 girls. If I was having a bad day it was clear to all, as I would prance around the house with my tallest heels and bright red lipstick. Wearing heels and lipstick just made me feel put together and infinitely more beautiful, successful, and feminine. I would immediately feel better enough to push through the frustration, stress, or pain I was experiencing. If I got upset, my roommates would go into my bedroom and retrieve my lipstick. It was their way of saying, “you’re right, we support you.”

I would wear red lipstick to my classes, to work, to play. I found that changing lipstick shades was a fun and easy way to change my look, and follow trends of the seasons without investing a lot into clothes and shoes (having the reality of that college shoe-string budget).

A few years ago Gman and I had just moved in together when he had to go overseas for work for over two months. We barely spoke while he was away and I missed him terribly. The day he was returning from his trip, I made an appointment at my hair salon to get a blowout and to get my makeup done. I wanted to surprise him at the door, lookin’ pretty.

While I was getting my makeup done, the man doing it asked me which shade of lipstick I usually wear. I said, “something bright, usually an orange-red.” To which he replied, in a very concerned and condescending tone, “Oh honey, you should never wear red lipstick. Your lips aren’t symmetrical and are too thin. You don’t want to bring attention to it now do you?” He then proceeded to give me tips on how to make my lips look fuller and how to even them out with a nude pencil (I felt like a clown).

I was so blindsided that I didn’t know how to respond. I just sat there. I wanted to smack him and walk out. I never thought something was wrong with my lips. Out of all the things I might nit-pick about myself, I never thought about my face like that. I mean, you can’t really change your face (well, without surgery) and I was completely OK with the lips God gave me. I never considered them “too” anything; I never really thought about them. I was just like, “oh, there are my lips.” My sense of beauty came from how I felt. It wasn’t about the lipstick or my lips; it was about how the lipstick made me feel radiant and confident.

I said nothing else during my appointment and left without tipping that man. As soon as I got home I washed the makeup and shame off my face. When Gman got home I greeted him bare skinned and he was just happy to be home. He kissed my mouth without noticing or caring if my lips weren’t perfectly symmetrical.

It can be difficult to maintain a sense of self-love in a culture with a critical eye. It can be hard not to take the advise of or seek the approval of experts or strangers when faced with wanting to be included, liked, and feel beautiful.

If I’ve learned anything from travel, it’s that standards of beauty are fleeting. What is considered beautiful in one place is considered vulgar in another. At the end of the day, when we are alone faced with ourselves in the mirror, we are the only ones who have the power to choose to find beauty and love in our own reflection.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Celebrating Our Wedding Anniversary

Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. Gman and I celebrated three years of wedded bliss by re-creating our first date. Seven years ago we went on a picnic and had gouda and tomato paninis with little fruit tarts for dessert. We got a 4 euro bottle of wine from a bodega and sat in the grass behind Les Invalids on a beautiful summer day in Paris. We sat there for hours and hours getting to know each other for the first time. Later, Gman proposed to me in the same spot. Amazing how a little patch of grass (pictured above) can be filled with so much meaning.

So last night we made a picnic on the living room floor. We lit candles and laid out a picnic blanket, then made gouda and tomato paninis. For the wine, we opened a bottle we purchased when we were in Bordeaux a few years ago, a 2005 St Emilion (I'll give full notes another time). The taste of the wine brought us right back to France and our memories flooded back. We sat on the floor for hours reminiscing until finally the wine was gone and it was time for bed.

I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate then remembering all of the wonderful moments we've shared so far and I can't wait for what the future holds.

PS - last year's wedding post.

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Dedication to Honey

Honey is one of my favorite ingredients. I say a lot of things are my favorite, but honey really is. Its dependable and so versatile. I like that it can only come from bees and that people across all continents can enjoy their own domestic honey (that's right, its everywhere!) and that the honey's taste reflects the local flora, so its always different. It can be eaten directly out of the comb or strained and packaged. It lasts for years too, not that I've ever experienced that first hand. It can make the perfect addition to a bowl of fruit or take the edge off of a spicy meal. I like to add a touch to my otherwise black morning coffee. 

A few weeks ago I went down to my cousin's house in south Florida. He has a small farm, trapping business, and recently started harvesting honey from his own bees. I was impressed with his ability to take on a new challenge and to do it so well. His honey (pictured) was the perfect souvenir from my visit. I swear I can taste what Florida smells like when I eat it - citrus, fresh cut grass, and wild flowers. He recommended eating it on vanilla ice cream. There's no going back now, my ice cream has gone to a whole new level of delicious. He really should bottle and sell it (maybe through High Heeled Traveler?).

On a side note, bees are apparently non-aggressive when you aren't trying to get their honey. I witnessed another one of my cousins actually pet a bee once and it didn't try to sting him. I almost passed out watching him do it.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Exploring Wine: Fox Run Vineyards and Finger Lakes AVA

Fox Run Vineyards, Cabernet Franc Lemberger, Finger Lakes, 2009, approx. $15
My rating for this bottle? I would drink a few glasses.

When I saw this bottle at the store I was intrigued by where the wine was produced: finger lakes. There is much attention paid to the power-house wine making regions in California but there are passionate wine producers strewn across the nation. I had no idea there was such passion for it in upstate New York. Also, I've never heard of a Lemberger grape. So I had to give it a try.

Not only is there a passion for wine way up in the Empire State, but the Finger Lakes AVA was approved in the mid-1980s and includes a area of over 2 million acres just south of Lake Ontario with over 70 wineries. The grapes commonly grown here are Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, GerĂ¼rtraminer, Pinot Noir, Reisling, Lemberger, and many Native American grapes (I haven't explored any of these yet!). Here's a little map I drew for you to get your bearings:

Lemberger is a grape grown in Austria, parts of Germany, Washington State, Oregon, and several areas in Eastern Europe. It produces a light red wine with high acidity that actually doesn't grow well in the cold. A seemingly poor choice for upstate New York, known for blisteringly cold winters. Apparently though, the area around the glacial lakes where this AVA is located produces a warmer micro-climate where the grapes thrive. Imagine, a little hot spot on the edge of a glacial lake! Who knew? 

In addition, Fox Run Vineyards practices sustainable growing habits, being careful to disturb the beautiful surroundings as little as possible. If you're interested you can read more about Fox Run's sustainable growing methods on their website. 

Upon opening this bottle and taking a sip, it tasted and smelled like a woodsy fire - smoke, vanilla, earthiness - paired with bright cherries and possibly raspberries. The Cabernet Franc and Lemberger seemed to compliment each other nicely to produce a well balanced, medium bodied wine. I drank it by itself, but it would pair well with grilled food like kebobs, burgers, or even s'mores! If there was a wine to bring on a camping trip, this would be it.

I'm glad I took a chance on a new growing region, vineyard, and grape. I'll be adding this one to my regular rotation.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Notes on Viewing Conceptual Art

I was strolling through the National Gallery of Art yesterday after attending the panel discussion on Photography’s function as diplomacy (very interesting, will write about this next). I came upon this piece by Glenn Ligon. The wall text only gave these details:

Glenn Ligon 
American, born 1960 
Condition Report, 2000 
iris prints with screen-printed annotations 
Gift of the Artist 

This work is exactly why I love conceptual art. I will attempt now to explain my thought process and the conclusions I reached while looking at this painting. I am not familiar with this artist or his work. And for the purposes of this discussion, I haven’t looked anything up. I am only describing what I see.

To start, Condition Report consists of two paintings both painted on the same size paper and in identical frames, suggesting a duality. It invites us to compare the two paintings. The words “I AM A MAN” are written in large black capital block letters. The word “am” is underlined. On the piece to the right there are notes scribbled on the boarder with lines directing you to marks. These notations are how a registrar usually creates a condition report for a work of art. They use a picture of the painting, sculpture, photography, or whatever the artwork is and they make notes on it just like this to indicate where there is damage on the work. The condition report is used for shipping, insurance, and in some cases pricing. On this painting there seems to be extensive damage.

Now here’s where it gets interesting, I hope you’ll agree! When I was looking at this I thought about the quintessential conceptual art pieces by Rene Magritte (1898-1967) called Ceci n’est pas une pipe, 1928-29, oil on canvas. His artwork questions the idea of representation and challenges our conception of reality (he was part of the surrealist movement, along with our boy Salvador Dali). Ceci n’est pas une pipe is a painting of a pipe, it refers to a pipe, but it is not an actual pipe. The words call attention to the paintings attempt to recreate a pipe. We say, “that is a pipe,” when we look at the painting but somewhere in our minds we understand that we cannot reach out and smoke it.

In Condition Report, Ligon’s words “I AM A MAN” are multifunctional. They are simply making a statement; they are a representation of Ligon’s thoughts and reality. He is a man. The words are written in black, which might indicate that Ligon is African American. It suggests that although he doesn’t mention his race when he states his identity, it is ever present and silently the focus.

The words also indicate that perhaps the paper is a man. Perhaps the words are labeling the paper. Like how we say "spices" or "office supplies" when organizing things. Perhaps they are labeling the object not the artist. I would argue that the condition report takes on a whole new meaning in this context. There is excessive damage noted on the painting to the right, pointing out cracks, tears, dark spots, etc. I wonder if the painting on the left is how the artist sees himself, simply as a man, without any criticism, as he is. And maybe the painting on the right is how society sees him. We point out his flaws. We think of him, as a black man, as damaged. But then, we didn’t make this painting. The artist did. I wonder if he is pointing out what others have observed in him or if he is making assumptions on what he thinks we see when we look at him. I didn’t notice the damage on the painting to the left until it was pointed out on the right. Suddenly, this work is loaded with thoughts on identity, race, and politics.

The painting got me thinking about myself and my views, judgments, and preconceptions. What if the painting said “I AM A WOMAN” and it was written in white letters? How would we read the condition report? Would it point to wrinkle, scar on right hand index finger, double chin, overbite, and left foot larger than right foot? Would it represent how I saw myself or how I think others see me? And what is the difference?

When you are walking through an art gallery I encourage you to take a few minutes to really look. What do you see? What is the artist trying to tell you? You might not be familiar with the artist or their genre of painting, sculpture, etc. but that doesn't matter. You can pick up clues from the painting itself, even if the wall text gives you nothing more than a label. There is so much more than meets the eye. Although Condition Report needed little skill to create (i.e. “I could paint that”), it isn’t about the virtuosity of the artist in a traditional sense. It is mimicking reality in a different way than the Old Master’s or Impressionists and deserves to be considered by us, the viewers.
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