Monthly Archives: June 2012

I’m Never Serious Except for Right Now, Seriously

The sun has emerged and people are smiling more.  Couples walk hand-in-hand, no longer huddled under soggy umbrellas and though the wind that blows is cold, they do not button their jackets. 

Yesterday, I had the worst migraine of my life and I’ve spent much of the last 30 hours restlessly sleeping.  What is wrong with me? I wearily asked David.  He thinks I’m stressed and lonely, and you know what, he’s right.  But I also woke myself up laughing yesterday- my optimism never tires. 

I’ve tried writing this post a couple times already, but I haven’t been able to get the tone right.  You see, I don’t want anyone to think I’m throwing confetti around at my pity-party-of-one, but I also have a commitment to myself to be honest in this space and share the things that go on behind the scenes.  Life isn’t all cocktail parties and sequins dresses, after all…

I was talking to my dad on Skype last week.  He’s in Australia right now, working on a project that has been keeping him there for months on end.  He’s always traveled a lot for work and he understands what it’s like to be lonely, to feel displaced.  As we were talking, he said something that didn’t sit well with me, he said, I knew you were making your life so much more difficult by moving to England.  And yes, an international move is difficult.  Trading a great job and an amazing support system for a suburb where I know nobody and work from home is difficult.  Having to make room in my life for the care and needs of David’s two sons has been difficult.  But who’s to say difficult is a bad thing? 

Things are difficult, yes.  Some days I feel really sad and I weep at everything that reminds me of home, but most days I’m energized by this adventure and see these difficulties as a hurtle that I’m going to be proud of jumping.  If life weren’t difficult, I don’t think it would be worth living and though I’m sometimes scared by the uncertainties that lie before me, I’m fully prepared to enjoy the process of getting to the place I end up being.

And where will I end up?  Will I end up freelancing forever, will I finish my book and become a successful writer, will I find a great branding agency where I can lend my voice and develop my skills?  Maybe I’ll end up doing something else completely.  Who knows?  Certainly not me!  And if I’m quite honest, sometimes it makes me feel like throwing up, but that’s the fun of it, right?  This uncertainty.  It’s like that moment before you walk on stage for an audition and all your nerves are buzzing at once but once you start to say your lines you feel a sense of complete and total clarity.  Then you walk off stage and your body turns to jelly.  Right now, my life is just like that, and it’s kind of difficult, but it’s also quite exciting.

Just a Note

I love walking along the canal in East London.  I love that the Redcoat wears pink stripey socks.  I love blossoming flowers and graffiti that reminds us to appreciate the good things in life.  I do not love that the weather still calls for a heavy jacket in June.  I mean, WHAT’S UP WITH THAT, ENGLAND? 

DIY: Glittery Nail Armor

If you follow me on Instagram, then you already know that I’m OBSESSED with my gold glitter nails.  This isn’t the first time I’ve used loose glitter to create a look that I like to describe as rough luxury at its finest and back in December, I used loose red glitter for the same effect, but that glitter was finer and the result was more soft and pretty.  This time ’round, my nails look like shining armor.  Very urban warrior, very very sexy. And the best thing is the glitter gives your nails so much texture that a couple accidental chips or dents won’t ruin the finish.  PERFECT! 

The process does take a couple hours, so I recommend starting a new television series on Netflex and touching up your nails between episodes.  David introduced me to Spooks on Saturday which gave me the perfect opportunity to give my nails a super-glam makeover.  

Step One: Paint your nail with a thin layer of a neutral polish.  Let dry for a few seconds.  (If you are using a colored glitter, like red, I recommend using a base polish to match the glitter.)

Step Two: While the polish is still wet, but not drippy, firmly press it into the glitter.  I picked up this pot of glitter at Supernice on Columbia Road near Bethnal Green and I love the way it looks like shards of broken gold.  To get the glitter evenly on the nail, I simply took the lid off the pot and pressed my nail firmly into the glitter.  To dislodge any loose bits, I tapped my finger on the side of the pot. As the glitter dries to the nail, lightly brush off the excess with a clean (dry!) fingertip and softly press the remaining glitter into the polish so it’s not too lumpy and it’s spread evenly over the entire nail.

I recommend completing this step with a piece of tissue or paper lying beneath your hand so loose glitter doesn’t get everywhere

Step Three, Four, Five & Six: Once the glitter has dried to your nail, it will be a little jagged and sharp.  To keep it from catching on your favorite silk blouse or getting caught in your hair (I joke, but not really) you’ll need to apply multiple layers of clear polish.  Like I said, this is nail armor and after you’ve applied enough layers of clear polish, you will have a heavy, sexy, glistening layer of glitter over your nail.  Unless you use a really fine glitter, your nail will never be perfectly smooth, but that’s part of the charm and the lack of perfection is exactly what appeals to me.

Sometimes, when parts of the glitter are heavy and jagged, I will apply a layer of clear polish and, as it dries, press the glitter onto the nail with my finger to make it smooth and less apt to catch on my delicates.  Make sure that glitter knows who’s boss!  I also recommend adding coats of clear polish throughout the life-span of the manicure to ensure the glitter stays together and stuck to the nail.

Et Voila!  Enjoy having the most badass nails on the block.

I’ve Got Mail

I GOT MAIL!  This is very, very exciting.  One, I love getting mail.  Two, this is mail from my mother, who has very beautiful penmanship and lives in Minnesota.  Three, this card speaks to my soul

The card is by Saturn Press in Swan’s Island, Maine and I’m a little bit heartbroken because I can’t find their website- presuming they have one- and would love to learn more about them and see more of their Letterpress work.  I have, however, found an online retailer.  I especially like their Animal Tracks in the Snow and Names of the Full Moon cards, too.  But obviously the one my mom got me is the best one of all. 

The Austin Phelps quote on the front reminds me of when Gertrude Stein once said, “You can either buy clothes or buy pictures.”  The first time I read that in Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast* it really resonated with me.  Often when I’m shopping, I think back on this quote and try my best to purchase clothes that are like art for this very reason (how clever of me… my clothes are my pictures, Gertrude!).  But really, like this card says, I often find myself caving to buy books rather than clothes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thank you to my beautiful mother for such a thoughtful and sweet card.  Reading it made me weep, and I love and miss you very much indeed.

*I realized as I unpacked my books a few weeks ago that my copy of A Moveable Feast is missing from my collection.  This is devastating because it’s one of my favorite books of all time and I was looking forward to rereading it this summer.   Thinking back, I’m pretty sure I loaned it to a friend after drinking too much wine and going on and on and on about how much I love Hemingway.  So, whoever you are who has my book with underlined passages and notes in the margins, I hope you like the book.  And let me know if you have it because I’m curious who I gave it to.  I won’t ask for it back, but I will ask you this: what’s your favorite part? 

Walks & Wine

I’ve been spending far too much time cooped up inside Cox Quarters, watching Sherlock and moping.  My legs are itching for a walk, but the weather’s been unforgiving and I’ve sat folded on my couch for the vast majority of this week, gazing into my computer screen and taking accidental naps with Le Chat.  Glamorous, no?

As the rain pours down on this chilly Thursday afternoon, I will think back to better times- days when the sun was shining, the streets of London were filled with sights and sounds and smells, and David and I could happily stroll for hours before settling in at a small cafe for a carafe of wine and some people-watching. 

Time now to tackle some work, pour a cup of tea, and then curl up with a book. 

Are you reading anything good right now, dear reader?  I’m cycling through some literature I first read in high school and am currently rereading To The Wedding by John Berger.  Reading the notes I took in the margins makes me giggle and roll my eyes.  I was so silly at 16! 

@Pret A Diner- Italians Do It Better

As I arrived at Pret A Diner- Italians Do It Better I took note of the candle-lit entry and the enormous neon cross, cocked an eyebrow and said to David, “This is either going to be terrible, or really really fun.”  When we were invited to the dinner, I accepted on the fact that 69 Colebrook Row was responsible for the cocktails so I walked into 50 St. James’s Street on Sunday night unsure as to what, exactly, we were in for.  Was it a restaurant, a gallery, a theater?  Even now, three days later, I’m having trouble describing the experience- for that is truly what it is, an experience- though I can say with much certainty that my initial feeling was right and the evening was really really fun.

So what is it?  Well, Pret A Diner is an avant-garde dining experience designed with careful attention paid to aesthetics and details that pleasure the senses.  It is a creative compilation between taste-makers in various industries who share their talents to create something special for a limited space of time.  It encourages diners to do just what the Olivia Steele piece in the bar suggests and go get lost.  Get lost in the music, the food, the art; let the senses take over and enjoy the moment, the company, and the surroundings.  Pret A Diner is fantasy dining.  It doesn’t ask the diner to take anything- not the food, the drink, or the setting- too seriously, but does encourage them to truly enjoy it.  What struck me most is that despite the theatrics, the bold decor and pretty plating, the entire experience felt so authentic and everyone seemed to be having a really fantastic time.  

Pret A Diner is only open until June 30th, so do yourself a favor and book a table while you can.  If you can’t, at least stop in the bar for a drink.  I promise, it won’t disappoint.

@The Anthologist

David and I beat the after-work rush and strolled into The Anthologist around 4:30 on Friday afternoon.  David asked for his staple- a Manhattan- and I ordered a Very Old Creation, which is their twist on an Old Fashioned and is listed on the cocktail menu.  Now you guys, I never order from the menu but have decided it’s important to start doing so time and again in order to become familiar with a cocktail bar’s unique perspective, i.e. I’m doing it in the name of research.  The barwoman we ordered from didn’t know how to make a Manhattan, and as my warning flags started to rise, she passed us off to the manager, Pete, who was incredibly obliging and promised to take excellent care of us.  I’m very happy to say that he accomplished this quite easily.

I generally find that the Old Fashioned is a little too sticky and syrupy for me, so I was pleased to find that the Very Old Creation was pleasant, tart and charmingly citrusy instead.  The base bourbon, Buffalo Trace, is complimented with pink grapefruit juice, angostura bitters, rhubarb bitters, and brown sugar (I asked them to go light on the sugar in mine), is served with a giant ice ball and garnished with a lemon peel.  Overall, it was quite nice.

After our first cocktail, we were introduced to the head mixologist who’s named Ben.  When I meet people who know what they’re doing, I become very trustworthy and adventurous, so when Ben offered to make me something off the menu, I was more than happy to let him work his magic.  The end result, a French Canadian Sazerac  is made with Canadian Club and features hints of maple syrup, lavender, and cardamon.  It’s garnished with a beautiful star anise which I thought complimented the bottom of the glass quite nicely, no?  I was pleased with the drink’s bright and forward flavor and, as I sipped, was completely won over.

Now, a good cocktail bar needs to boast more than just a good cocktail and thankfully there are a few other reasons to like The Anthologist.  They include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • A comfortable atmosphere that nicely transitions from restaurant to bar to lounge as you meander through
  • A stunning lavatory with yummy smelling hand soap and plenty of mirror space for lipstick applications and iPhone mirror photos (ladies, you know how important this is!)
  • Quality bar ingredients (did you see that fresh mint?)
  • Reasonably priced drinks 
  • A laid back crowd that didn’t seem to get too sloppy (but we left earlyish so you never know…)

Many thanks to my lovely friend Jill for inviting us to to meet her at The Anthologist – I hope my second visit proves as successful as my first!

Shop Thoughtful

If you know me at all, you know that I love small businesses.  Not just any small business, but authentic, welcoming small businesses that value their customers, provide a good service, and have a unique bond with their community (businesses like Samantha House Jewelry, for instance– I had to, you guys, I’M A HUSTLER…).  I love artisans, craftsmen, and people who are willing to forgo the security of a 401k + benefits package to make a living doing something that makes them, and other people, happy.  Those are the people I like to support and shop from.  I’m always so inspired when I hear that someone is quitting their 9-5 to start their own boutique/bee farm/brewery/bistro/whatever.  I’m inspired when I’m given the opportunity to work with these people, help them develop their vision and communicate with their consumers.  You guys, I love small businesses.

Similarly, I am heartbroken, so so heartbroken, when a small business that deserves* to stay open is forced to close their doors and a hard-working dreamer is forced to abandon their vision and get a real job**.  I’m heartbroken every time I pass a Walmart or even (brace yourself) a Target*** and I see people buying knock-off products at a fraction of the price and loading their carts with unsustainable goods that a local artisan would have LOVED to have sold to them at a higher quality.****
All this has been a ridiculously long introduction to this wonderful piece by our lady Elizabeth over at E Tells Tales.  Last year, I literally spent an entire weekend doing nothing more than reading Elizabeth’s blog.  I was captivated, spellbound.  She’s one of the most diligent, hard-working, and witty bloggers on the internet.  She’s insightful and sweet, she doesn’t take herself too seriously, but she still has strong convictions.  I also like her because her husband is a lot older than her, too. In fact, she and Mike have me and David beat by ten years (!!) and their love story is so beautiful.  Pour yourself a glass of wine and read it someday.  I promise, it’ll move you.
Anyway, Mike owns a grocery store in a small southern town and Elizabeth is an ex-English teacher (an English teacher on hiatus?) with an infant son named Everette.  Even though she’s insanely busy with raising a human, blogging, and finding time to bathe regularly, she still manages to run a successful Etsy shop selling her super cute hand-sewn goods.  When I read her piece on billing for what you’re worth and supporting small business, I felt excited, sad, angry, inspired, weepy and strong all at the same time.  Check it out, you guys, and then shop local, shop small.  You’ll be amazed at how rewarding it is to buy something from someone other than a board teenager at a Target check-out counter. For realz.
So that’s my message for today.  Please be thoughtful about where you spend your money- whether it be American dollars, British Monopoly money, or real Monopoly money.  Support local coffee shops, boutiques, farmers, designers, etc.  I know it’s difficult (I didn’t realize how difficult is is to know who to trust and where to go until moving here- in Boston I took my connections for granted) but at the end of the day it’s worth it.  Worth it because you had a good experience, you put money back into your community, and you literally just helped a small business owner make their rent.  AND THAT, MY FRIENDS, IS AWESOME.

One last thing: You’ve Got Mail has always been one of my favorite movies.   Because I love books, because I’ve always wanted to open my own shop, because she had to close her shop but she still found a beautiful new beginning, because Meg Ryan was still cute then.  I love the story, I love the Pride and Prejudice undertones, I love Nora Ephron, etc.  But what I love most is that You’ve Got Mail is a small business story.  Yes, it ends sadly for the store, but if it doesn’t teach you to value the businesses that make your community special, I don’t know what will. 

xxx now & forever.  
*Okay, obviously a business that doesn’t have customers shouldn’t deserve to stay open because they’ve quintessentially failed their customers.  But, like, some small businesses are so cool and special and when those businesses fail, it’s devastating to the customers, to the community who took them for granted,  and to the owners who remortgaged their homes, invested their nest egg, and still lost everything.  Additionally, many small businesses do offer a unique perspective, quality goods, and a welcoming atmosphere, and when those businesses are put out by a big-box retailer or an aggressive chain with huge advertising power and an even bigger parking lot, it is devastating and to me it feels unfair
**By the way, people, creative/artistic/craft/design jobs are still “real jobs” and I’m simply using this annoying term to illustrate the way people will tell you to get “a real job” when you’re trying to  do something unique and independent and how totally fucking annoying it is.

***I’m from Minnesota, of course I love Target.  I was raised on Target!  And they do a lot of cool stuff with artists, designers, and small businesses that I totally love, but then they do a $2 deal on really crap Archer Farms coffee and I see every local roaster in the area tighten their belts.  And then they open a Starbucks in their entryway and  kick the cute Java Hut lady out of the parking lot (this really happened, and Java Hut was SOO GOOD!),  And then they sell fresh produce and all the local farmers market moves a few miles north and that just doesn’t sit so well with me.  But I still love Target’s Christmas commercials with the Crazy Christmas Lady!

****I have a friend in Phoenix who has a local carpenter build a lot of her furniture based on pieces she finds in catalogs- especially the bedroom furniture for her two sons.  The carpenter does really beautiful work, is able to customize the pieces for her family and home, and adds extra-special details, like built-in soft-close storage drawers, which make her extra happy.  AND, his pieces aren’t just constructed better, they also cost less than the Pottery Barn pieces that [kinda-sorta] inspired them. There’s also a man in her neighborhood who started a business planting and maintaining vegetable patches for people- how great is that?! I want him in my neighborhood!  If I had a yard, that is…