Tuesday, July 30, 2013

DA+AH: The Line of Degas

Edgar Degas, Four Dancers, oil on canvas, c. 1899

On a recent trip to the National Gallery of Art I walked by a Degas painting I've walked by dozens of times. Something suddenly struck me about it. I stared at it for a while before realizing the intoxicating rhythm of the black line. It looks like it was painted as a finishing touch, after all the color and shapes were finished. The line completely energizes the subjects and seems as if he was painting it while listening to the music the ballerinas are preparing to dance to. He only uses it sparingly, bringing attention to the dancers and their movements. I think the painting wouldn't be as interesting without that line. 

Do you ever see something new in a work of art you've seen a million times? 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Exploring Wine: Hess Collection 19 Block Mountain Cuvee

Hess Collection, 19 Block Cuvee, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, 2010 $30
My rating for this bottle? I would drink the whole thing.

19 Block Cuvee is a blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Malbec, 11% Syrah, 6% Merlot, and 1% Petit Verdot. The grapes are grown in the mountains of Napa Valley (Mount Veeder) that are noted for their steep slopes and volcanic soil. The harsher growing conditions stress the vines out and make them work harder. This leads to more flavorful grapes. 

"Oh damn..." was the first thing I thought when I tasted this wine and let it linger in my mouth. It is dark cherry in color and smells like cloves, cinnamon, and vanilla. Baked red fruit like cherries and black currants are the first flavors that touch your lips and tongue. Its not sweet but has a nice balance - slight tannins but a rounded, balanced softness. Velvety and delicious. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Shoe Love: Kuwaiti Sandals

As our move to Kuwait approaches I can't help but fantasize about the types of shoes women might wear there. I imagine lots of open sandals worn with breezy kaftans or demure abayas. I imagine sandal shops filled with possibilities and cobblers ready to make something just for me. There might be days where a simple shoe would do, but then others where something a little glitzy will be in order. I'm really looking forward to finding out!

Some of my favorites on Net-a-Porter, clockwise from top right: Musa, Ancient Greek Sandals, another pair of Ancient Greek Sandals, Oscar de la Renta

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Airport Wine Bar

While traveling, I often find myself having a glass of wine at an airport wine bar in a city I've just become familiar with. On one of my trips I had to wait several hours for my friend's flight to arrive, so I decided to write about my experience as it was happening. In order to protect the people employed at this particular bar, I have not mentioned which airport or the name of the bar. 

This is the unedited edition, and a little glimpse into my mind...

The menu describes the Alots Las Hormigas, Malbec from Mendoza Valley Argentina as “Blackberry-Medium-What a deal!” and charges a reasonable price, as the description announces, at $8.50 a glass.

I’m not sure what I was expecting besides blackberry, medium, what a deal. Surely I was just appreciative that there was a wine bar open on a Thursday at 2pm. Then again I was at the airport and such bars are usually open even in the wee hours on a Monday morning.

My fellow bar companions spread themselves out almost evenly at every other seat. Couples or friends sitting next to each other and strangers with at least one empty seat between. Most of them are middle-aged single women drinking flutes of something bubbly. All with noses buried in their iPhones or books and none interact with each other as if they have no peripheral vision. There are two men next to me –four empty seats between us - discussing the labors of their daily jobs. I keep hoping they will gossip but they strategize instead. Sometimes they talk about the weather or sports. They are in their 40s. They ask to “settle up” when they want their bill. Two women on my other side are also sitting together and equidistant from me as the men. They ordered red wine and no food. They sit facing towards each other, talk slowly and don’t make that much eye contact. I can’t tell if they are tired, not that close or forced to be together. Maybe they’re sisters, maybe they’re gossiping.

The airport wine bar I’m bellied up to is located in the main terminal of the airport. It is dead center in the middle and open to passers-by, which is how I estimate they get most of their business. It is an alternative to waiting at Starbucks. People are caught one by one, as if by a fisherman’s hook, as they meander by.

There are three men manning the bar. One, flamboyantly gay, blond and in his 20s, is in charge of the food. After the rush leaves he wipes his forehead like a damsel from the civil war and says, “all that food!” He comments to his co-worker who is a middle-aged man, slightly out of shape. He wears a button up and khakis, versus the other two who are in all black with fake pilot epaulettes on their shoulders. I assumed he was the manager when I approached the bar. He seemed nervous to talk to me and had to ask me what my order was several times while clumsily fumbling with the computer, which was in clear view. He seemed to lack the memory and confidence of a bartender. Or at least the ones I’m used to dealing with. Lucky for him, I didn’t mind, I wasn’t in a hurry.

He tried to flirt with the female customers, not in an inappropriate way, just friendly and slightly nervous. The third bartender seemed to know his way around the most of the three. He was also in his late 20s, maybe early 30s and blond. He efficiently cleaned the back of bar while taking orders and drying wine glasses with a towel. I was curious to know what he thought about this out in the open set up and his colleagues. These three men seemed to get along, but also seemed unlikely to interact as friends in any other point in their life and it made me miss having co-workers.

During the lull between rushes – when I ran the front of shop for a pizza place – we would flirt and gossip as we cleaned the place and started preparing for the next rush. We had the convenience of privacy so that if customers were assholes or we ran into someone we didn’t mean to see (read: ex-lovers) we could rant about it afterwards without their knowledge. Most kitchen staff has this privilege. As I sat and ate my salad rushes came and went. The three men quietly gossiped as they did their between-rush chores. I daydreamed about the wild variety of customers they might serve on a random Thursday afternoon. Did they have regulars? Did they care? Did they have server jobs somewhere else?

The Calma Tempranillo/Graciano from Rioja Spain was described as “Red berries-roses-earthy spices-vanilla and cocoa-smooooth” also at $8.50 a glass. No wonder people think winos are assholes. It sounds like we just throw random words at bottles. “I love lamp” would have made just as much sense. These descriptions read as if you’ve already had the bottle then go about formulating a judgment.

The two wines listed after the Calma are JC Vizcarra Tempranillo, Ribero de Duero, Spain and Monte Bernardi “Retromarcia” Sangeovese, Tuscany Italy. They are described as, respectively, “Dried Cherry, Leather, Perfect for Food” and “Dried Rasberry-Tobacco-Dry” and after that Pertimali Sangiovese/Cabernet, Tuscany Italy “Dried Blackberry-Dusty-Dry” I assume these all taste like what I’m already drinking and wonder if “dusty” and “dry” would be a good combination or if I would need a glass of water and a margarita after drinking it.

A new couple sits down where the two men sat previously. They are boisterous and “knowledgeable”. They are in their 60s and three hours early for their flight. They decide to park it and make friends with the nervous one, as I now call him in my mind. They introduce themselves to him, and he warms up, even cracking a joke. His name is Tony. He also works at Carrabba’s (which is across the corridor) and I wonder if the others do too. He reveals to them that he has been working at the bar since 8am (I told you airport bars open early!) and was so tired. He said this in an apology for forgetting their order. He eventually got it WAY right when they wanted to order pasta from the restaurant and he took their order and had it served to them at the wine bar. A service I’m sure he went above and beyond to do.

The couple gave Tony very personal information. They assumed he was their friend and they monopolized his time. They will be here for at least two more hours and I suddenly want to tip Tony more than 20%.

After listening to them talk for a few minutes. The man confirms he is 65. Tony is 42. The man assumes Tony is a sociable person and now they are BEST friends.

A new man sits down and also befriends Tony. I wonder if I am unapproachable and sip my second glass. The older man says, “this reminds me of a bar in New York” to the new man. The new man feigns recognition.

My friend texts me a link to @pornforwomen’s instagram feed and a joke about John Hamm. I end up laughing out loud.

Tony’s shift is over and he is relieved of his new friends. My friends arrive and I close my tab.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Exploring Wine: Greek Style

Back in May I was invited to a fabulous wine event at Zatayna sponsored by the Greek Embassy. It included a wine tasting of over 40 Greek wines followed by a three course lunch paired with four wines in each course. I hadn't really tried Greek wine before but after the event I definitely feel comfortable ordering it at a restaurant or picking one to pair with outdoor summer grilling.

Some of the wines I tried tasted like the salty Aegean Sea and I imagined drinking them on a white washed porch with grilled octopus (because I eat that now). I wouldn't understand a single word of Greek spoken all around me, but I wouldn't care because the sun would be warming my skin and the sound of the sea would be soothing my soul.

Here's an intro to Greek wine and a round up of my favorites for summer sipping.

Greek wine got an early start in the ancient world as early as 2500 BC. You can see wine represented in Greek art, architecture, archeological evidence, writings, and philosophical writings from that time, as you're probably familiar with. But modern Greek wine production is little related to the ancient days, besides the varieties of grapes, and didn't gain much commercial traction until the 1980s. Over the last century this was mostly due to political unrest following WWII and the Greek Civil War (1946-49).

There are ten growing regions with over 300 indigenous types of wine to explore - this is not including cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, and other European grapes also grown in Greece. Some of my favorites from the event were the white wines Assyrtiko from Santorini, Moscofilero from Mantini, and Vidiano from Crete. The red wines generally weren't as good as the whites, but I really liked the Foundi Naoussa 2007 Xinomavro that was paired with a spit roasted lamb shoulder (I mean!!). Most of the wines were soft, crisp, fresh, and some were lemony. Perfect for pairing with regional seafood and small plates with piles of tzatziki.

1. Kourtaki Retsina, Moschofilero, Mantini $8.00 *
2. GWC (Greek Wine Cellars), NemeaAgiorgitiko $13.00
3. Sigalas, Assyrtiko, Santorini $25.00
4. Kouros, Patras $11.00
5. Galvala, Assyrtiko, Santorini $15.00
6. Costa Lazaridi Amethystos, Blend (Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Asyrtiko) Drama, Makedonia $15.00

*We didn't try a traditional retsina at the event, but I tried it at home. More notes on this regional specific wine next week!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wardrobe Staple: Grey T-shirt and Jeans

As some of you may know, I kind of have an obsession with wearing a grey t-shirt and jeans. Some of you (like Meg and Katherine) are even in the boat with me. To me this simple, yet chic, ensemble can be worn while working from home, running errands, meeting friends out for dinner, ladies night, date night, or traveling. There are many variations on the theme ranging from super casual light denim and baggy tourist t-shirts to paper-thin tops tucked into dark high-waisted skinnies. You can go full on bling, cowgirl style, or throw on a pair of boyfriend jeans with sandals for a day of playing tourist. 

I like a grey t-shirt versus a white one, because its more modest and I don't have to worry about what I'm wearing underneath. For instance, do you need a nude bra or strapless? It doesn't matter with a grey tee - just throw one on with anything and get out the door.

What I like about it too is that I can wear a variation based on a destination and know that I'll feel comfortable and stylish no matter where I go. Boyfriend jeans for post beach days in Florida, boot cut for dancing in Nashville, dark high-waisted skinnies for shopping in Paris or lunch in Tokyo. You get the idea.

Here are some of my go-to combinations, details after the images...

Look one:
American Apparel t-shirt, low rise bootcut jeans by Wrangler (similar here), Kate Spade peep toe pumps (similar here and here)

Look two:
Tourist tee from Cambodia, Club Monaco light wash mid-rise skinnies (similar here and here), Club Monaco bag (similar, and this one, and here too), Minnetonka Moosehide Driving Moc

Look Three:
Henley (old Urban Outfitters, similar here, and here), Gap boyfriend jeans, Target white and gold sandals, Clare Vivier handbag (updated versions here, here and another tote here)

Look Four:
JCrew vintage v-neck cotton tee, BlankNYC high-waisted denim, JCrew Janey flat, She's Unique gold ring, vintage bangles

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Summertime Florida Thunderstorm

I smelled the rain coming as a bead of sweat gathered enough momentum to drip down the side of my face. I sat outside slouched in a patio chair with my feet propped up on the one next to me. The air was still. So still that if it weren’t for the dripping sweat I would have mistaken the stillness of the water in the swimming pool for a tiny frozen lake. I looked out over the screened in patio, past the pool and into the yard beyond the screen. Not a blade of grass moved. I thought it was all make believe until two cardinals suddenly broke the stillness and flew away. Other birds followed their lead - the last to leave before the rain started to fall. I scanned the area for other movement and saw the front of the storm quickly approaching in the near distance.

Before a Florida thunderstorm begins to rain, it smells. It’s a damp scent, different than mold, wet clothes, or wet dogs. It’s fresh - the freshness of newly formed rain clouds. But it’s more than fresh; it’s also the smell of tree bark, freshly tilled soil, and rainwater. This particular scent is what I imagine the air to smell like when I look out the window in an airplane mixed with what it is like to be in the wilderness first thing in the morning.

It’s a comforting scent to a girl who grew up in Florida. As a child, the smell meant you had to abandon that game of basketball and go inside. It meant that its time to get out of the pool or leave the beach. It meant that we had to play indoors for an hour every afternoon from May to September. That hour was a welcome break from the escalating heat and humidity that was building all day.

Besides the scent, in Florida you can see the afternoon thunderstorms coming. Their clouds billow up as they gain momentum over flat grasslands and swamplands. The clouds get darker and darker and start to swirl as they visibly move forward.

The rain will come slowly at first. Soft drops here and there ting the metal cage of the screened in patio I’m sitting on. Then it starts pouring and you can’t see through the rain. Sometimes, so much rain will fall in such a short amount of time that flash flooding is common in some areas every afternoon. The rain comes predictably at the same time every afternoon. So predictably that people plan their afternoon activities around it. You don’t need to carry an umbrella.

Floridian children are taught a game about how to tell how far away a storm is. Once you see a flash of lightening you start counting, “One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand,” and so on until you hear the rumbling thunder. The amount of “one thousands” between the lightening and thunder will determine the distance of the storm to you in miles.

As the rain gets heavier the cracks of thunder get so loud and so deep that they reverberate through your body as if you were standing next to a speaker at a club. It’s the same feeling as the bass of the music through your heart and breath. I count as the lightening pops and it nearly lulls me to sleep. Suddenly my hair stands on end as lightening strikes almost directly on the other side of the fence. I can barely count “one one th—“ when the sound of thunder almost took my breath away. If this wasn’t such a normal experience for me growing up, I would be terrified. I would be hiding behind the bed, like the dog. Instead, I’m sitting with my in-laws and we speculate about how someone from a drier climate might be freaked out by the amount of rain and thunder.

As a little girl, I would sit with my dad and watch the storms. As soon as the smell of the rain touched his nostrils he would grab a beer, pull the garage door open by a manual handle, and put his plastic chair on the edge of the smoothly poured concrete. The mist from clashing raindrops would moisten our skin as we sat on the edge of our safe shelter. Our little spaniel dog, Lady, would loyally accompany us, not moving from my dad’s side the entire storm. Although she was afraid of the thunder, I’m guessing she liked the smell of the rain more because while she sat there she would close her eyes and sniff the air as if she was intoxicated by the scent. He would sit there quietly and watch the storm go by without reading, talking, or distracting himself in any way. When I would join him, I felt like I was in on a secret.

During the strongest part of the storm, the rain clashes with itself and onto every object in its path. The sound is a constant hissing that calms ones nerves, though it seems like it would be the opposite. The thunder rolls into a crescendo, driving the rhythm of the raindrops. At this point he rain is so loud that you can’t hear someone talking only a foot away. Then suddenly, it’s over.

I’m stirred by the sound of Gman’s voice, “Sweetie, we’re going to the store. Did you want to go with us?” I must have dozed off while counting my “one thousands”. I got up as he talked and wiped the misty raindrops from my legs, arms, and face. As quickly as the storm arrived, it was gone. It left the colors of my surroundings a deeper and brighter hue than when I fell asleep. It looked like I lived in an oil painting. I walked inside, the birds returned to the feeder, and the smell of the rain folded back into my childhood memory.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July! Fellow Americans, I hope you celebrate our freedom by relaxing and spending time with loved ones. I'll be doing the same, but with some pulled pork, bison burgers, and s'mores added in there. :)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My Summer Makeup Secret

I'm going to let you in on one of the little pleasures in my life, it's one of my little secrets too: I wear full makeup everyday. What I mean by that is I wear moisturizer, cream foundation, concealer, blush, bronzer, eye shadow, mascara, powder, and lipstick. I know, its not always necessary. But I honestly just love the process of putting it on. It relaxes me to feel the brushes on my face and I feel instantly put together when I'm finished. One of the problems of wearing full makeup is the summer time heat. To put it graphically, if you wear full makeup and its 90 degrees outside with 95% humidity, it looks like your face is melting off.

When I ask for advice for wearing makeup in the summer, most people have just recommended that I switch to a tinted moisturizer, but I think I may be addicted to my foundation! 

Recently I found the little secret to keeping it all together/in place: NARS Pro Prime. I started putting a tiny amount on before my foundation about 6 months ago and it has made such a difference. My makeup stays in place while I'm sweating all day long (another tip: always dab your sweat, don't wipe it). The NARS specialist at Sephora told me I could swim it in, too. I haven't tested that out yet, but I can say that this eye makeup primer stays put whilst one is crying... or also swimming. or playing tourist. yeah?

Do you have any summer beauty secrets?
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