Thursday, February 28, 2013

Exploring Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon

Leese - Fitch, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 2010 $13.99
My rating for this bottle? I would drink a few sips.

This bottle of wine is a perfect example of how sometimes using an aerator can come in handy. The wine was light overall - in color, smell, and taste. It had no body or complexity and not really a good example of a Cabernet Sauvignon. I was hugely disappointed in my first sip and decided to run the wine through an aerator.

An aerator is a nifty little wine gadget that pulls oxygen through the wine as you pore it through into your glass. The onslaught of oxygen opens the wine up, essentially decanting it with super speed. It is supposed to enhance the flavors of your wine (I think it does). In this case it made a bland wine drinkable. 

I don't recommend going crazy and using the aerator on every bottle you open, but it is a nice piece to have in your back pocket for those times when it's 17 degrees out, you already opened a bottle, and going back out into the cold for something better is not an option. 

You can purchase an aerator just about anywhere, here is the one I use.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Shoe Love: Cleavage

A friend of mine can't stand when her shoes reveal the cracks between her toes. I think a little toe cleavage is sexy. Where do you stand?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Vegan Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Although I've never published a recipe post, I'm an avid cook. As much as possible, when we aren't traveling, I try to make delicious whole food meals. Besides my other interests in travel, style, lipstick, art, and wine, I love food theory and the culture surrounding gastronomy. I read cookbooks and food writing literature in my spare time. Since I get bored with eating the same thing over and over, I am constantly experimenting. One of the great pleasure of travel is that I can also bring other people's ingredients and cooking methods to my kitchen after a visit. Like the sumac spice Gman brought home from Iraq.

I used eat vegetarian and vegan too at one point, though now I enjoy an omnivore diet. I cook with different methods to see what tastes best to me. Many of my friends have dairy or gluten intolerances too, so I like to make things they can enjoy if I am entertaining.

All that being said, I started posting my homemade meals on Instagram and received many recipe requests. So here's the first one! Let me know if you enjoy reading food posts and I'll do some more. Thanks for sticking with me!

This Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Banana Bread is vegan. That means there are no animal products used in the recipe, no milk, butter, eggs, or even honey. If you have a dairy intolerance you will enjoy having a baked treat worry-free without making any adjustments to the recipe. If you have a gluten allergy, switch the rolled oats for gluten-free oats and you'll be in the clear. Having no eggs also means you can lick the bowl afterwards with reckless abandon.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Banana Bread
Adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

To start, heat the oven to 350 degrees F and measure 2 cups of rolled oats into a food processor and grind until oats are the consistency of cornmeal. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. Set aside.

In a separate mixing bowl, smash 3 very ripe bananas until they are mostly smooth. Then add 1/3 cup of light brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature so you will need to place the jar in a bowl of hot water to melt it a bit first, this takes only a few minutes. If you have never baked vegan before, you might be concerned that we aren't adding milk or eggs. Don't worry, the bananas are very moist and used in vegan baking to replace eggs used in traditional recipes. You won't miss the milk and eggs, I promise!

Add the banana mixture to the oatmeal mixture and blend with a fork. Fold in 1/2 cup of vegan chocolate chips, 1/4 cup coconut flakes, and 1/4 - 1/2 cup crushed walnuts, depending on your preference. You might also add a tablespoon or two of crushed flax seeds. I add them to almost everything I bake (even to salads and smoothies). They are very high in Omega 3 and Omega 6. I don't eat fish or red meat (often) so I think it helps give me those vitamins I might be missing out on.

Transfer to a non-stick bread pan and sprinkle with some brown sugar and whole rolled oats, about a tablespoon each. Bake for 45 minutes. A fork should come out clean besides melted chocolate (I recommend licking from the fork afterwords). Let the bread rest in the pan for about 15 minutes before removing and slicing. I portioned the bread into baggies for on-the-go breakfast during the week, too.

Pour yourself a hot cup of coffee and enjoy!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A World Apart: Anna Ancher and the Skagen Art Colony

Anna Ancher (Danish, 1859 - 1935), Interior, ca. 1916-17
oil on panel, 17 1/2 x 14 7/8 in ( 44.4 x 37.9 cm), Skagens Museum

The National Museum of Women in the Arts highlights one of Denmark’s national treasures, Anna Ancher, and the colony of artists in the remote Jutland peninsula town of Skagen in the late 19th century in an upcoming exhibition, A World Apart: Anna Ancher and the Skagen Art Colony.

Anna Ancher lived her entire life at the tippy top of Denmark in the small remote town of Skagen. Many artists (including her eventual husband Michael Ancher) came to Skagen to paint. Her parents, Ane and Erik Brøndum, owned the only local hotel and it became the artist hangout. Because of this Ancher was exposed to many of these painters at an early age.

During this time, 1870s-ish, many artists were moving away from crowded industrial cities to find idyllic landscapes and rural towns to paint in (remember Monet moving to Giverny? Where he painted the waterlilies? Yes?) Artists going to these remote locals started forming groups, which we art historians call ‘colonies.’ In Denmark, a few of the artists attending the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Copenhagen started traveling to Skagen to get away from it all and to paint the fisherman. They formed a colony and Anna Ancher, the only local, was one of their leading painters.

This is unusual for the time as women weren’t allowed to do much outside the home and they certainly weren’t encouraged to continue working after they were married and had children. Not only did Anna continue but she enjoyed a fruitful partnership with her husband, Michael. Since the day they met he encouraged her to paint and they even completed a significant canvas together in 1883, Judgment of a day’s work. Notable Danish artists came to the colony including Carl Locher, Viggo Johansen, Christian Krogh, Laurits Tuxen, and P.S. Krøyer, whose work is also featured in the exhibition.

The Skagen colony of artists was part of the “Modern Breakthrough” movement in Denmark, which sought to break with traditional painting of religious and royal painting and paint what was real, what was going on around them. Their painting looked back at Dutch Old Master painting and looked forward at their contemporaries painting Naturalism, Realism and the loose expressive brushwork of Impressionism.

What set the colony in Skagen “A World Apart” was their depiction of light. These artists just didn’t randomly end up in Skagen, they came here because of the specific type of light occurring in this place. The light in the summer lasted sometimes for 24 hours and permeated everything it touched illuminating the banal and daily goings-on of life in the small fishing town. To expand on above, in painting style, you can see references to Dutch still life, portraiture, and domestic interiors (Vermeer and Rembrandt come to mind). The Dutch Masters were arguably obsessed with the way each material reflected and absorbed the light. Impressionist painters were also interested light. They were showing how light and time can change a subject, like Monet’s Haystack paintings, but the colony in Skagen was interested in the light itself.

This can be seen in Ancher’s work as NMWA’s Associate Curator Virginia Treanor points out, “when Anna Ancher paints light, it’s contained, geometric.” My favorite painting in the exhibit, Evening sun the artist’s studio, after 1912, best demonstrates what the colony at Skagen was exploring and how Ancher was making innovating and interesting paintings. This painting depicts a blue colored room with minimal furnishings – two frames leaning against the wall towards the bottom-center of the painting, a thin wooden side table with a few books resting on top. In the bottom right hand corner, along with the side table, another brown colored object is cut off from view. Much of the painting shows the blue walls (one almost perpendicular to the picture plane) but the main subject here is the golden evening light reflected on the wall. It is central to the composition and Ancher builds the paint up on the canvas until the light “becomes a tactile object” as Treanor puts it. A detail of the painting is seen below.

What I liked about this exhibit is that it is broken up into thematic spaces based on the interests of the Skagen artist colony and not chronologically. Ancher’s work is mixed in with her male contemporaries, putting her work in context and showing that she is not only equally as talented but an important contributor to the movement. She is working in relation to her peers and in and out of doors to follow the light. They are all depicting their family, neighbors, domestic interiors, and beach scenes; first with heroic large-scale depictions of local fisherman then with the leisurely activity of the afternoon stroll.

One section of the exhibit is dedicated solely to the idea that Ancher was innovative in her own right, exploring light as form and color, completely detaching it from context. She goes as far as to “make a composition with light [as] color and form” in Light on the wall in the blue room, ca. 1890. You can see her brushstrokes and exploration, the subject getting her full attention. While her male counterparts are busy depicting monumental paintings of fishermen and portraits of their wives, I can see Anna in her studio obsessing over what she sees and what is unseen - the evidence of molecular life only noticeable by the detection of brightness in a room, how emptiness is full of color. She takes the interior scene and strips it of human interaction, then of its structural components, thus liberating her subject and setting her beloved light a world apart.

A World Apart: Anna Ancher and the Skagen Art Colony is on view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts from February 15 through May 12. If you are interested in learning more about Anna Ancher and the Skagen art colony, there are several opportunities to attend insightful gallery talks. Check out the NMWA’s website for details.

Wardrobe: What I Wore to NYFW

Here's what I wore to NYFW. You may have already had a glimpse through Instagram. Not as lady-like as I imagined for my first time; I was quite possibly the only one wearing Patagonia! I was, however, very warm and comfortable all day long. Some women had their legs exposed and no sweaters. What were they thinking?! I wanted to wear something I could stand outside in for hours so I could capture the excitement without freezing to death. I also packed my bags and ran out the door in less than an hour, so considering that I'm pretty happy with this look.

As a high heel enthusiast, I was disappointed I couldn't wear them but there was a blizzard after all! I've had those combat boots since high school and it was fun to give them new life. 

For a shot of me in full photographer action, check out Cheralee's recap over on her blog, Miss Lyle Style

Coat: Patagonia, scarf: DeNada Design, sweater: Gman's, denim: Joe's Jeans, bag: Madewell (similar), boots: army/navy surplus store, Lipstick: my new fav shade from NARS

Exploring Wine: Gewürztraminer

Hess Collection, Small Block Series, Gewürztraminer, Anderson Valley, 2011 $14.40*
My rating for this bottle? I would drink the whole thing.

I've been drinking a lot of great wines lately and my first Gewürztraminer was no exception. This grape is typically grown in cooler climates and most famously in the Alsace region of France and Germany. Because of that, I was surprised to see a bottle from California which I always think of as warmer. 

The Anderson Valley APA is north of Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley and much cooler. The weather there is similar to the Rhine in Germany, Bordeaux in France, and Alsace as mentioned above. So it  yields similar types of wine. 

Gewürztraminer has a darker golden color and strong bouquet of roses, honey, papaya, and a little citrus (lemons and oranges). It tasted like that too with a medium body, sweet without being sugary, dry on the finish, and delicate considering all the flavor going on in one sip. 

Hess recommends pairing it with avocados, shrimp, or scallops. I can totally see myself sipping this in the spring time out on my patio with a huge bowl of guacamole and pile of chips. 

*This wine was purchased through my Hess Collection wine club membership.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Destination: Mercedes Benz Fashion Week NYC

Tadashi Shoji

Photog pit

Tadashi Shoji finale 

“Are there any notable VIPs you’d like us to shoot?” Two male photographers were standing near me talking to the stage manager. She was in charge of making sure things ran smoothly and on time backstage. She wore her dark hair sleeked back in a low bun, bright red lipstick, and head to toe black. Many of the photographers backstage were men. Most looked to be in their mid-thirties to mid-fifties and they had the grungy-fashionable-artist thing down to a science.

Their photography equipment ranged widely and was as personalized as each of their tattoos, piercings and beards. Some had zoom lenses, others specially rigged homemade flashes, and some were following around TV hosts.

Two and a half hours before the show the models were starting hair and makeup. There are generally around 40 models per show (one had 200 (!) and others only 10) and each one was assigned to a hairdresser, makeup artist, and dresser. The teams worked quickly and efficiently to get the models ready. Everyone woke up by 4am for the 9am runway show. The models ate bits of breakfast, drank coffee, and played on their phones while being transformed.

Two hours before the show press was admitted behind the scenes for interviews with the designer(s) and a glimpse of hair and makeup. The tent began to resemble controlled chaos as editors, assistants, and managers rushed back and forth and photographers swarmed the already crowded beauty zone. Constant chatter and camera flashes distracted my eyes and ears around the room. It was hard to focus on one person for too long.

Thirty minutes before the show the models were whisked away to get changed with their assigned dresser, who ensured their ensemble met all the designers’ specifications. The entire morning was energized with music pumping through the speakers. The models were lined up behind the runway in order and bounced from foot to foot waiting to make their debut. I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to stand or what I was admitted to do, but somehow quietly made my way to the perfect spot where I could see the models just as they were going out onto the runway. I wondered what went through their heads as they prepared themselves to walk. Then the lights turned off, the music started, and the spotlights flashed. The first girl stepped out, turned, and kicked off Fashion Week. As each model returned backstage, they quickly changed to another outfit or lined up for the finale. 10 minutes after it started, the show was over. Celebration was saved for the very last moment. Everyone backstage clapped with self-congratulation for a flawless job well done. And just like that, it was on to the next.

The chaos consumed me as I tried my best to be a fly on the wall and just take it all in. I never attended a fashion show, let alone had the courage to walk past Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, and now I was backstage at the first show on opening day.

Hiding from blizzard Nemo

Two months earlier I was flipping through Vogue and decided enough was enough. It was now or never, I needed to do everything I could to get to New York City and attend a fashion show. It was a lifelong dream. One of those bucket list items you make when you are 12 years old while flipping through your first Vogue, you are captivated with a powerful woman dressed in a white YSL pantsuit. The urge was so strong that I could think of little else.

A few of my friends go to Fashion Week regularly and tried to give me some tips on how to go. But it was generally a blind effort on my part, emailing many, many people and applying for press credentials. It was no from every angle. It was too late. Most people made their fashion week arrangements before Christmas and by mid-January the press boxes were full, credentials denied, and no after no after no. I booked a bus ticket anyways, hoping to be a part of the scene and maybe get some street style pictures for the blog. I planned on going up Friday morning and staying through Monday.

Then, on Wednesday afternoon at 4:02 pm I received an email with the subject “BACKSTAGE CONFIRMATION: Nickolas K, Noon by Noor.” I couldn’t believe my eyes! My heart started racing and adrenalin rushed through my veins. Nickolas K was at 9am the next morning, with backstage access starting at 7am. I started panicking, I had hours to book a train, find a place to stay, and pack my bags. Thanks to Gman’s help, three hours later I was sitting on a train, camera in tow, filled with anticipation.

Backstage at Nickolas K

Before a fashion show, the stylish people poured into the tents, after making their way through frenzy of photographers. For the early shows, they too had been up in the wee hours of the morning to get ready. People joke about “#fashionweekproblems” but its really true! Each show is an emotionally and mentally stimulating rush of inspiration lasting about 10 minutes. If you don’t have a ticket, the waiting in line for each one is exhausting. Your mind races while you wait - Will we get into the show? What will it be like? Who will be there? Will my camera’s battery last? How does my hair look? Once you do get tickets and step inside, the important fashion industry people are already there, settling themselves into place and probably getting their picture taken. Then the lights go down, the music starts, and the first model steps out to the middle of the runway and makes her way towards the clamoring pit of photographers. Before you can fully take her in, the next one comes out, then another, and if you look to long or not long enough you miss it. Throughout the day you go from show to show without much regard for food or sitting until you suddenly realize eight hours in how incredible starving you are. And how much your feet hurt from heels (I imagine. I planned ahead and wore comfortable boots).

A runway presentation is something we have all seen before through the magic of TV and Internet. I used to watch Video Fashion into the wee hours of the night. Back when the production budget was a camera on a tripod at the end of the catwalk. Afterwards they would go backstage and interview the designers and celebrities. How could you not want to be a part of something that exciting?

But being there in person is different. Its something you haven’t seen before and not just because the presentation is new. Each one has a different vibe, different air, ambiance, sounds, and crowd (I’m terrible at spotting famous people, so I really couldn’t tell you who was there). The fabrics and textures blew my mind, laser cut leather that looked like lace on evening dresses at Tadashi Shoji, carefully draped jersey at Nickolas K, and wool beanies with silk dresses at Candela. Woven textiles, cotton, nylon, lace, wool, and cashmere all saturated with such vibrant colors that under the weight of being soaked in dye, the fabric looked like it would slip off the model and into a puddle on the ground. It reignited my passion for clothes in a very real way.

Fashion is bigger to me than the next big thing. It’s bigger than pointed toe shoes versus round toe or blazers versus denim jackets. Those are trends. Those can be fun. But fashion is style. Fashion is a passionate creative process that pushes the bounds of what we can do with technology and how we dress our bodies. It says something about our culture and it is very tangible. I felt like I belonged in those tents. I felt peaceful. I felt the weight of a life long dream lifted from my soul, making room for more dreams to be realized.

Carlis givin' me some sass

my beautiful friends: Sara, Carlis, Natalie, Erika, Cheralee, Katya

Serious Shoe Love

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Art to Inspiration: Charlen Williamson

In the Mist, Charlen Williamson

When I look into Charlen Williamson's In the Mist, I see what is unseen on a cold winter's day - the nip in the air, the fog, the grey tone to everything. It makes me want to take a winter vacation, not to escape the cold but to see just how beautiful winter can be. I'd love to curl up by a fire in a log cabin after a day of exploring the snow filled woods. Here are a few lovely winter spots from my Travel Inspiration Pinterest board. Where should we go next?

Clockwise from top left: ocean storm, New York City, island get away, European architecture, Paris

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's, August's, September's, October's and December's Art to Inspiration.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Exploring Wine: Syrah

Cakebread Cellars, Syrah, Napa Valley, 2009 $55
My rating for this bottle? I would drink the whole thing.

The last time I had a Syrah was in college. I remember it like yesterday (oh, the college days...) - every Thursday night my roommate, Jacqueline, and I would each buy a bottle of Syrah (also known as Shiraz in Australia where this grape is widely grown) and various snacks to snuggle up on the couch with and watch the newest episode of Grey's Anatomy. This was when Grey's was good, like the first season. 

At the time, we sourced our wine from the grocery store or 7Eleven and just grabbed whatever was less than $10. The Syrah was heavy, spicy, bold, with no subtleties or relief from the full on tannin attack. I didn't like it very much and it certainly didn't pair well with my chocolate chip cookies or brie and crackers. I since swore off Syrah and because obsessed with Malbecs, then Bordeaux blends. 

Over the summer I went to Napa Valley and discovered a new love for Syrah. It was this bottle of Cakebread that opened new doors. You'll first notice an inky blackish-red color, then a complex flavor of spices and juicy fruit. Most noticeable to me was the taste of plum and blackberry similar to a Cabernet Sauvignon but with a lot more depth than what I had previously experienced. I wrote in my tasting notes "warm and sexy" to describe drinking this wine. 

It turns out the key to drinking a Syrah with more depth of flavor and a balanced palate is to buy one that has aged slightly. The wines we were drinking in college were fresh out of the barrel and aging this wine rounds it out and softens those harsh tannins.
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