Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dans la Rue, Dans ma Tete

I'm increasingly less able to concentrate on things that usually interest me. Participating in the demonstrations in both San Francisco and in Oakland (at whose general strike I spent all day with my 3-year-old and many thousands of peaceful and positive people last Wednesday) gives me hope. People are making connections there and coming up with creative ways to drive change in a world that has been out of balance for too long.

Do I believe in hurling bricks to bring about social change? Mais non! But in keeping with the general theme of the blog, this image comes from the May 1968 strikes in Paris.

I'm confused and annoyed by all the mainstream press I read, but not enough to dwell on it. It seems so clear that the Occupy people are asking for such a simple thing: that those who control the great majority of the wealth in the country should also contribute their fair share to society and pay taxes. Access to medicine, food and shelter are human rights, and it's criminal that we don't have these basic bases covered in a country in which banks can take massive public bailouts from our citizen's tax dollars into one hand, and dole out generous bonuses to their CEOs with the other. No media circus that focuses on a few "hippies" or "anarchists" in a population of thousands of "normal" people who are coming out to demonstrate can overshadow that. And though I am in the 99%, my family is fortunate that we are employed, well-fed, and comfortable. And the taxes we pay are disproportionately low. So we continue to support those organizations whose work we believe in.  And I continue to be excited that our world seems poised for positive change.

In other news, I have myself signed up for National Novel Writing Month. What a disappointment to confirm what I already knew: I may love writing but I don't have a creative bone in my head! So I'm using the November 30th deadline to write 50,000 words as my prompt to complete a non-fiction book. It will be unofficial; the rules of NaNoWriMo state that work is to be fictional only. But if I can use this month to complete a work that I've been shuffling around in my head for six years? Official or no, I will call it a success.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fresh Fall Leaves

The weather is crisp and life is a blitz as usual. We've been trying to slow down, establish rituals, and enjoy the season. As a family, we're in a phase of being more politically active. I'm really excited by all the potential change that it looks like may start happening in the world right now. At home, as I've gotten into the swing of living in this small town for a year now, I want to really build community-- or at least get to know a few more of my neighbors. So the plan for this week looks like this, stapled to the telephone poles and taped to the big sycamores on our street:

Come one, come all. (I hope people come!)

Lately I've been inspired by the Playborhood web site. I was reminded of it when I read this article on the "Trick-or-Treater Index." An urban theorist named Richard Florida came up with this index to rate the child-friendliness (basically, the health and safety) of a given community. It basically says that if you count the number of trick-or-treaters you get on Halloween night you get a good indication of how safe and friendly your neighborhood is all year.

(There are exceptions. I lived in a very safe San Francisco neighborhood for years. Every year I would dress up and ready my huge bowl of candy. Every year I would watch as the neighborhood kids made their way to the Halloween party at the martial arts school across the street. Not one trick-or-treater ever graced my door, and every year my downstairs neighbor and her grand-daughters would get our big bowl of candy [or what was left of it] on November 1st. My neighborhood was safe but it wasn't a community. People didn't congregate and kids didn't play outside.)

The beginnings of our Halloween and Dia de los Muertos decor. Ghost tree and blood-sucking spiders not shown.

My current neighborhood is a Halloween heaven. Parents from the big (and very unsafe, if news reports are to be believed) city to the east of us drive their kids in for trick-or-treating, and the neighborhood is full of our own local kids anyway. So we expect a big turnout for the happiest night of the year.

Before that, though, I'm hosting my mother's 70th birthday dinner this weekend. I'll be busy planning and cleaning this week, and I'll post pictures if it turns out lovely. What would you do to make an intimate family party special?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Back from Beyond, Freshly Showered

I have been so busy, away from home, shopping for a new office, taking on a board position at my kiddo's school. I feel like I should have something fabulous to write to break back into this little blog of mine, but I don't and instead I will share the pictures from a dear friend's baby shower that I hosted last month.

The theme was casual vintage in a Mid century way. I had tons of fun scouring Etsy for period invitations and decor.

In one corner, I set up a funny old wicker peacock chair decorated with blue and yellow flowers. I laid out a Polaroid camera and film, asking each guest to pose for two pictures next to the Mama of Honor in her "Queen's Chair." One photo got pasted into an album with the guest's best wishes for the new mother and the other photo went home with the guest as her keepsake from the shower.

I served minosas and nice cheeses, things wrapped in bacon, chicken-- and arugula salads, a healthy, yummy gelatine mold (seriously! a good one is good for you!) and a very cute and very easy donut cake topped with a vintage stork and baby topper. The menu was très Ladies Who Lunch and all in all I felt great about how easily the day came off. Plus, I got to wear a darling little dress, similar to the one on Ms. Draper, below. Mine is a tad shorter and I wore it with a cute shrug and a giant peony corsage.

By the way, I am late to the party and only started watching Mad Men a few days ago. Even though I adore the aesthetic and my area of concentration in college was Atomic Age Advertsing. (Really, it was! I was a choose-your-own-adventure Cultural Studies-type.) But I knew if I started watching I wouldn't be able to stop, and it's true that now it is nearly all I can think about. But that and this book are a post for a different day.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Vanity (both kinds)

Happy Birthday, USA! Today we went to our little town's 4th of July parade. For a wee little burg it happens to boast the second-largest parade in les États-Unis.

The antique store was kind enough to deliver my new vanity over the holiday weekend

and, since I'm feeling cute, a picture of my anonymous son and me after the do today.

I'm wearing a vintage blue and white polka-dot number with new red cork-sole sandals and a bit more post-s'mores pooch than I'd like (but enough self-love to rock it anyway).

Now to wake my sleeping kid and husband to head out to a friend's little bbq. What are your plans for the day?

Happy 4th to you!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fruit and Veg, Woeful Sprawl, White Teeth

It was a hot weekend of playing in the garden. We now have edible green beans, strawberries, arugula, mountains of chamomile for tea and skincare formulation, lemons and limes, spearmint for tea, Morrocan mint for mojitos and juleps, three kinds of lettuces, and some decorative plants. We planted zucchini and hope that will be ready to harvest in a short while. In the meantime, have a look at our chard and apples!

We returned from our little vacation on Friday. It was an unexpected delight. We had planned a week of camping in the redwoods but we got rained out after the first night. So we packed up our camping stuff and checked into a chain "inn" in Santa Cruz to ride out the rainy days. It was a lot of fun. There were hikes in the redwoods, lots of train and trolly rides in various places (because vehicles, particularly the antiquated kind, are my toddler's current obsession), and day trips to Big Sur and Monterey. Except for beautiful Big Sur, I noticed a depressing abundance of chain restos and awful tourist traps everywhere we went. It got me thinking: has the landscape of this state changed so much that there is no longer any place to go except nature, tourist places and chains? Are we lazier now that we travel with a child or is there really, as Gertrude Stein once said about my neighboring town of Oakland, California, "no there there?"

This feeling of opressive sameness was mitigated somewhat by the glorious, gritty descriptions of North London and its varied population in Zadie Smith's fantastic 2000 novel, White Teeth. I loved this book, with strong, funny characters and an epic narrative that spans WWII to 1996 or so. Smith has wit and spark as she touches on such issues as colonialism, race, class, sex, beauty, religion, ethics and coming of age. White Teeth spans generations and locales--India, Jamaica, Bangladesh and London-- to weave together seemingly disparate people into a surprising story line that I whipped through because I couldn't put it down. I believe I am the last semi-literate person on Earth to pick this book up (there was a time that everyone I ever encountered anywhere was reading it). But if there are any other latecomers out there, expecially those who love Salman Rushdie (who I would have guessed was the writer here in a blind taste-test), I recommend it most highly.

Now I'm onto a reread of Living the Savvy Life and a book of short stories by the very promising Katherine Mansfield.

What are you reading?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

On Vanity

I used to have a delightful chinoiserie vanity table. I got it when I was a funky young creative type. It was a fabulous flea market find that had the patina of age and a milky turquoise paint chosen by some previous old funky creative type. I sold it in a move many years ago and I've been without a space to get fabulized ever since. I don't tend to shop for sport but I was thrilled to find the vanity of my dreams today. It is similar to this:

but a thousand times better!

It will go beautifully with my nightstands. They look a lot like these:

The rest of the room is rather sparse, save a beautiful Indian tapestry that sounds hippie in the extreme but is actually rather lovely in person. I will take pictures of my boudoir when the new vanity arrives. For now I was excited and wanted to share!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Blogspot Hurts My Brain

I'm trying to respond to your lovely comments but something flonky is happening with Blogspot. I read your comments. I appreciate your comments. I might go so far as to say that I LOVE your comments. Alas, I am unable to respond to your comments.

Clearly a sign to get off the computer and get back to packing.

Chic-sighting San Francisco

I don't technically leave on my little trip until tomorrow but I didn't think I'd have time to update here before then. As it turns out, I couldn't head out without sharing this adorable ensemble I spotted on my way to the office yesterday. I love her cloche-and-bob combo, and the flats with the trench and dress are so cute and practical. I was too shy to ask permission before I snapped her photo and I wanted to rush to capture the look before one of us turned or went inside.

Thank you, strange woman, for the chic inspiration! And bon week-end to all.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

In Which I Get Didactic about Nature

I once read an essay by Stephen Jay Gould in which the author talked about how crucial it is for one to know his own local geography and place-- for many reasons, one of which being our civic-mindedness. Without being intimately acquainted with our own landscape and local flora and fauna, he said, we can't be educated voters. I'm a Northern California girl, born and bred. My own geography is red clay hills, a roiling ocean, blackberry brambles, oak trees and redwoods. What care do I have, beyond an academic sort of appreciation, for Great Lakes or Amber Waves of Grain? My consciousness, my voting, are rooted in my relationship to the place I live.

I fret about raising a kid in an era of technological over-saturation. So many kids are engulfed by TV, computers, hand-held electronics. Time outside is rare and it frequently means being shuttled to and from organized activities. I read about Nature Deficit Disorder and Free-range parenting and it all really resonates with me. Of course I want to avoid childhood obesity (the result of lots of screen time along with poor diet). I also want my child to grow into a passionate and engaged adult. I want him to have a connection to his place, his history, his culture.

Our reality is a fragmented, atomized suburban existence. My dream is an integrated "village" of extended family and a love of our place. So we throw dinner parties and we try to get to know our neighbors. We grow some vegetables and herbs and we hike on the weekends. Lately I am including "more nature" in my cultivation of a more intentional life.

This week we will be going camping down south in the redwoods, our first of such trips for longer than an overnight. Truthfully, I'm a bit worried we will get bored. But I hope to come back a bit tanner, a bit lighter, and a bit more grateful for my fluffy eiderdown and soft bed. Plus, I'm looking forward to the s'mores.

Bye for now!

I'm Dating Myself

Last night I took myself on a lovely date. First, a new dance class that I have been in for only a couple of weeks. I go there and I ask myself, What could be better than a class so frustratingly difficult I could literally cry? Answer: Many things.
American Tribal Style belly dance. So much harder and more frustrating than the Egyptian "Raqs sharqi"style I am used to- and better at doing.

But I persist because I want to get good and the workout is amazing. Since I've gotten more seriously into dancing after a break of a few years, I have become much more aware of my posture and carriage. As a person who has the farthest thing possible from what I think of when I think of a dancer's body, this awareness of posture has been almost revolutionary for me. I began noticing this when I started dancing with a teacher who outweighs me by a lot but who has such grace and amazing carriage that I look positively dumpy by comparison. One of my current missions is to get my posture gorgeous and to really work on carriage. Clothes fit better, my neck is elongated, my cute little postpartum belly (let's be positive, here) is tucked and - extra bonus - the body feels better.  Bar Method and Floor Barre classes are helping a lot. If only I had ample free time to take all the classes I wanted in a week. I would be a specimen.

 After class I walked to a little restaurant and had a lovely chicken skewer and a glass of wine before a late showing of Midnight in Paris.

I have been living in my own little dreamworld lately and I wouldn't have even known it existed if it weren't for the lovely Rich Life (on a Budget), so grazie mille to Adrienne for the heads-up. Other than a few cast members and the fact that it was Woody Allen's newest I had not a clue what this movie was about. I won't spoil the plot if any of my three readers have yet to see it but I will say it is worth seeing, probably twice (as I'm sure I will if only for the sheer Paris valentine of it all ).

Sets, costumes, acting and plot were all amazing, and if watching the beautiful Marion Cotillard and Carla Bruni are not motivation enough to keep working on grace and carriage, I don't know what is.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Slow Family Weekend

This Father's Day morning began with a lovely hot cafe mocha in bed for the man of the day.

then, a walk around town
to see the neighbors' gardens
and stop for a while at the beach.
Next, a short trip over the bridge to see the streetcars and rocket ships.

Happy Father's Day to the dads out there. Next week, my belated 100-Things wrap-up and a couple of book reviews and links I love.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Take That, McDo!

I stumbled on this brilliant piece (with admittedly annoying narration) that looks at French public school cuisine. Oh la la, regret la difference. I love the high school lunch room chef who says, "Just because they don't have the right to vote. . . we can't just throw anything in their face."

The Inimitable Jonathan Richman on French Style

French style, French style is so fussy
French style, French style is so proud
French style, French style is creamy color
More often quiet than loud.

French style, French style what is it?
Something sort of delicate
French style, French style, French Style.

It's not as foxy as Italian
Nor as dramatic as in Spain
But what they do is so hard to copy
It's something that they can do with something plain.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Where I'm Calling From*

“One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can't utter.”

*imperfect grammar courtesy of Raymond Carver. The quote above is courtesy of I don't know who. But it sums up where I am right now and why I don't have a lot to offer the blog world. So I'm taking a break and returning when I have more that is light and fun to say.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Feng Shui Friday

The things surrounding you in your home serve as subliminal reminders of who you are. They will continue to direct you towards old patterns of behavior. Subconscious beliefs are generally so deep-seated that one is not aware of them.

~ Denise Linn, Feng Shui for the Soul

Well, if there is one thing I need it is new patterns of behavior. And this de-cluttering is addictive. Yesterday I filled the dread voiture to its little metal rafters with boxes and bags to be dropped off this weekend. I also left some stuff on the curb that I was thrilled to see dematerialize as quickly as I left it. Kitchen counters are on their way to being sparkling and clutter-free. Crockpot, Cuisinart, toaster and extra roasting pans? Goodbye to all of that!  Bathroom cabinets are getting closer to minimal after my sister visited yesterday and liberated me of teeth whiteners, sunscreens, serums, scrubs and assorted never-worn makeup products. The kiddo's room is looking more and more like a Montessori classroom, easy to find things and easy to tidy up. And all that plastic garbage handed down from older cousins and well-intending grandparents is starting to slowly, subtly disappear.   

More as I go. For now I'll head to work on the train. I have notebook in hand to jot down thoughts about a culling strategy for the sentimental items. We're a knick-knack-saddled family. But are snowglobes from business trips really a demonstration of my husband's love? There has to be a better way.

Monday, May 9, 2011

1000 Things! It's Going to Be Too Easy.

I'm picking, sorting, packing and I reached at least 75 things this weekend. I am so excited to be in this process. Shedding, getting liberated, feeling light. Pictures of "After" will be coming at the end of the month. In the meantime, here's a small corner of the "During."

Saturday, May 7, 2011

100 Things in May Update

I'm deeeep in the thick of this massive decluttering project in la mia casa. So many clothes (so many clothes and yet I mysteriously have nothing to wear), so much good china. So much kitchen stuff. Too many toys, too many books. It's a ridiculous wealth of stuff, but I don't feel rich. I feel like I'm drowning. I'm particularly loathe to get rid of books, and some of them have been useful in this project. 

The Joy of Less is where I read my current mantra for the week:


On the topic of storage systems, Francine Jay writes,

But while the containers made my house look shelter magazine-tidy, they didn’t bring me the serenity I’d hoped for. Even though everything was arranged neatly in pretty boxes (cloth-covered, wooden, wicker, plastic, etc.), it was still there.

In reality, all those lovely boxes, bins, and drawers served no higher purpose than to hide my junk. At some point I realized that I wasn’t organizing my life; I was organizing my clutter.

My advice to anyone who feels they need to get organized: declutter first. If you have to, declutter for a year before you start buying fancy boxes and squirreling things away.

Then think long and hard before you put something into a container (especially if it’s not something you use regularly). Because once you give something a warm, cozy abode, it can be hard to get it to leave.

As I go through these boxes we brought with us when we moved here in September, I realize just how much needs to be given away. Today I'm grateful for strong coffee, a sunny morning, the kiddo at the park with his dad, and the energy to get the clutter out.

At the end of this project I will have given away well over 100 things. Maybe I should change course and strive for a goal of only owning 100 things, a la Dave Bruno. Now that's some serious minimalism.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Is anyone here from San Francisco?

If so. . .

One of my favorite book stores is hosting this tomorrow. I'm working on childcare and hope I can make it myself.

CAROLYN BURKE will discuss
No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf
Thursday, May 5 at 7 PM at Bookshop West Portal, San Francisco

Join us for a fascinating evening with Carolyn Burke, who has written an enthralling and empathetic biography about the beloved French chanteuse, Edith Piaf. Burke, who has chronicled the lives of photographer Lee Miller and poet Mina Loy, captures Piaf's charismatic appeal, along with the time and place that gave rise to her remarkable international career.

As a child, Piaf grew up in a Normandy brothel run by her grandmother, then led a vagabond life, touring as a singer with her father's acrobatic performances. Burke had access to previously untapped Piaf documents, and highlights aspects of the artist that are rarely mentioned, such as Piaf's aiding Jews during World War II. The author demonstrates how, with her courage, her incomparable art, and her universal appeal, "the little sparrow" endures as a symbol of France and a source of inspiration to entertainers worldwide.
"Burke's terrific biography of Edith Piaf shucks the simplistic arc of self-destructive urchin to a more complex portrait that includes the singer's heroics in the French Resistance and roles as mentor, lyricist, and enduring icon." — Kimberly Cutter, Marie Claire  

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What I am Doing and What I Want to Be Doing

I want to be reading today. I have two quick reads going and each has me transported somewhere fabulous when I pick it up. But even as my mind is off handcrafting shoes in Greenwich Village and Buenos Aires

or swilling martinis or scotch and sodas with Nick and Nora at the Normandie hotel

my body is here taking advantage of a few childfree hours to make progess on my 100 Things in May project.

In two days I am up to three kitchen garbage bags of clothes to give away, a huge box of toys, and a bag of toiletries for which I need to find a home.

When I finish this round I get to go in for a skincare treatment. It's an intermittent fasting day so I'm doing what I can to treat myself in food-free ways. But I wouldn't argue with a martini later on


Monday, May 2, 2011

But I'm an Earth Mother Type (a long post, mostly about parenting)

So I had the pleasure of spending a short bit of time with a charming femme d'un certain age at an art show this weekend. She was a jewelry maker originally from France and she had great style. We chatted a lot and I took mental notes on her to report here. She wore glasses and strong eye makeup with a definite bohemian vibe. She sported her own unique jewelry and flowing clothes in neutral, subdued colors. Her hair was a long blunt cut with bangs (and the women debating Ines de la Fressange's style guide on the Yahoo French Chic group will be interested to note that this was not a gal who appeared to wash her hair on anything even closely resembling a daily basis). Mostly I noticed the forthright way she spoke- confident, vivacious and also a keen listener.

We began talking because I had my three-year-old with me and talk tends to go to those who spill the most ice cream and giggle most loudly. Mine is a spirited kid and she told me hers were too. She said that when her son was young, the teachers at his (US) schools would chide her that he didn't "respond well to social pressure."" That a teacher of small children in our educational system would find fault with that quality doesn't surprise me; it was her delight in it that suprised me greatly.

I've had German, Greek and Italian acquaintances with young children but I haven't known any French parents that I can think of. But one thing I have read repeatedly is that French parenting is all about training children to respond to social pressure.

Charming petite Parisienne in her natural habitat, 2004

An essay I read recently (yes, I'm talking about this book again - there was a lot to chew on in its pages!) looks at French parenting and its differences with "Anglo-saxon" style childrearing. The writer is Janine di Giovanni. Like part of me, she is Italian-American. Unlike any of me, she appears to be a glamorous award-winning international journalist who is married to a frenchman.

Watching a crying child exhaust himself trailing behind his chic, slender (and unrelentingly quick-stepping) mother in Luxembourg Gardens, she writes,

'Well that kid will be in therapy for the rest of his life.'

I joke about these things but it's not altogether funny, One of the toughest things I have had to get used to in an otherwise idyllic Paris is the huge gap between Anglo-Saxon (or Italian American in my case) parenting and parenting French-style. The French are certainly stricter. They shout more. They slap more. And they enforce manners.

As a result, you find beautifully brought-up children, and many of my French friends who are parents will argue endlessly that instilling discipline and setting boundaries is the way to show the utmost love.

All true. Kids need boundaries and they need to be civilized for their own good. But Di Giovanni writes that, despite the fact that French children are better behaved than their American counterparts,

the hippie earth mother part of me still wonders about originality, creativity, and freethinking. (There is no such thing as an earth mother here; it is simply not chic.)

I'm an un-chic earth mother type. I wonder a lot about these things too. And this process of parenting a young child as he moves into a sprited third year on Planet Earth is a challenge: to transmit knowledge and instill manners and social savvy while respecting the dignity and liberty of this small person -- without slaps and without shaming -- is often difficult.

Free-range American kid in his natural habitat, Sea Ranch CA 2010
How to negotiate the goal of teaching boundaries with the reality of sharing space and a life with small children? How to "train" them well without treating them like lesser beings? After trial and error I have come to a philosophy of trying to approach mine as I would someone who is as worthy of respect as I am but who lacks the life experience to navigate life without help. I see myself as a combination translator, tutor and concierge, if you will. And he is, so far, a really great kid. But it's true you never know how well you've taught your children until they are grown.

Slow Toys

Today my family and I visited my dad and his wife at an arts show they were working. My dad is an artisan who hand-crafts beautiful wooden toys. It's a post for another day, but I'll say that I'm proud of his work and we are incredibly lucky that my son is kept in a ridiculous wealth of beautiful toys in a world that is otherwise full of the cheapest disposable garbage at the lowest price. It's hard to sit at craft shows and see kids fall in love with his toys and then watch their parents balk at the idea of spending a bit more than they would on something toxic and plastic, assembled by a child in a developing nation. I know we are living in a tough economy but so much of it is our unrealistic expectation of what it costs to make things. We expect things to be cheap and disposable, and anything else seems too dear.

This girl was too cute to not photograph.  My son has this same rocking horse,
only his is 35 years old. It used to be mine when I was his age!

It's an interesting time in the culture, though. There is a movement growing in which people are seeking quality over quantity, and not a minute too soon. (Think par example of the prevalence of cheap fast food and the growth of an appreciative culture around more delicious, healthful and fairly priced "slow" food.) I think we live in an exciting moment. I'm proud of my dad that he and his work are a part of that.

So it looks like the post for another day found its expression today. Anyway, in the booth next to my dad was a charming an attractive femme d'un certain age, and I took mental notes on her that I am eager to share. But let's let her be the subject of a different post and spare my two readers' eyes from weariness on too long an entry.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Dread Voiture

Something wonderful and maybe terrible happened: we were given a car. We had lived so long car-free: me, my whole life, and for my husband it had been at least 15 years. Now we have one and our beautiful life of daily walking and knowing our neighbors and daily shopping for the freshest foods is perhaps threatened. Will we become the kind of people who drive 10 blocks to the park on a rainy day? Or will we continue to splash our way east the 15 minutes it takes to walk, all soggy hair and drippy boots and loving the way it feels to live in the weather? Will we rush to school in the car or will we remember to make time, leave early, and walk that mile first thing in the morning, maybe stopping for coffee in a paper cup, maybe riding on the back of the stroller--scooter style-- for the last two blocks before the mad rush to another day at school? Will we still shop at the farmer's market twice a week, carrying only what fits in our canvas bags and what stacks on the seat of the scooter-stroller?

I don't know. One thing I do know is that we have grown accustomed to every day being like that special market day many people in less walkable cities and towns only dream of. We don't shop for sport, and if we did we would be very lucky: we live in a place where our options extend beyond chain groceries and big box stores. We have shade trees and good buses and wide bike lanes. There are independent books stores, non-chain coffee shops and organic options as far as the eye can see. We have hills and a beach and, across the bridge, all the culture we could ask for, for the price of bus fare.

Without trying we live many of our dreams daily. I don't want to give that up for the convenience of getting there faster and in our own little metal world.

But one thing that the car does provide that we didn't have before is the ability to cull our stuff ruthlessly. We no longer have to wait for one of those monthly charity donation trucks to come by and take away the stuff we thoughtlessly let into our homes and our life. Now we can pack it all up and drive it to the nearest Goodwill. So today, between fundraising, craft-selling, and margarita-drinking, we began a huge purging project. The goal is to box up and donate 100 things this month. I'm calling it 100 Things in May and I'm excited to see the final outcome. Updates and photos tomorrow!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mocha Cioccolata Yaya

Oh, Augustus Gloop, ruiner of childhood's peaceful sleep. Your movie demise has kept so many of the world's therapists gainfully employed since 1971.

 But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I too crave the dark stuff.

This week especially. I'm detoxing from last week's See's and Cadbury binge, and last month's run-in with the Girl Scouts and their tasty baked goods. Newly back to my paleo ways, I find myself missing sugar a lot today. I'm all out of coconut milk so there will be no nice cup of chocolat chaud. Instead I'm mixing up a little body scrub that I use with skincare clients and rarely think to make for myself. It's a perfect treat for my intention to care for myself as thoughtfully as I try to care for others; to take the long view and do what is best for my body, not just what seems tastiest at the moment. As nice as a piece of something sweet would be, there is something more satisfying about trimming down and having beautiful skin. So tonight it's a mini spa night for me.

This scrub is so delicious and it does such gorgeous things for the skin. It should only be used for the body, not the face. I shared it on my business blog last winter and I'll share it here now with my wishes for a very delightful evening.

Rich organic oils soften while the chocolate's high antioxidant content nourishes tired, rough skin. Espresso temporarily lessens the look and feel of cellulite. And the scent? Pure heaven.


1/2 cup coconut oil
1/8 cup half and half
1/8 cup coarsely-ground espresso
2 tablespoons macadamia nut oil
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (tonight I am substituting ground raw cacao nibs for higher antioxidant content, because I happen to have them on hand.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (alcohol-free)
10 drops sweet orange oil

Feel free to play around with ratios. If you like a scubbier scrub, decrease your liquids and add more espresso. If you prefer something less invigorating, add less espresso and more oil. Additional macadamia nut oil is excellent for aging skin in need of rejuvenating. Less scrub and additional half and half is great for sensitive skin, or substitute with heavy cream.

Obtain all organic ingredients whenever possible. Coconut butter will be solid at room temperature, so begin by melting this, still in the bottle or jar, in a container of hot water. When softened, mix all ingredients and use right away. Cap leftovers tightly and refrigerate, using the remainder within four days.

Second Thoughts, Serge and (Last) Fin de Siècle French Rap

I may have been a touch harsh on myself and my lack of style yesterday; I am lately more of a cardigans-and-jeans type than a scrungey 15-year-old boy type, but either way it's getting old and the urge to learn how to dress myself before I am aged is getting stronger. I appreciate your feedback a lot.

Today I wrote a bit about food and drinks on my other blog. Tonight I'll prioritize sleep and leave you with a cool little video from an artist I like a lot. This is Senegal-born French rapper MC Solaar sampling the classic Serge Gainsbourg/Brigitte Bardot song Bonnie & Clyde. Youtube won't let me post that video but it is well well worth watching by clicking here. (I may be biased toward the original; my husband and I recessed to it during our wedding ceremony.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I don't know how to dress myself

It's true. I really don't. I commented recently on the amazing Aesthetic Alterations blog that I can't rock a biker jacket because my style is too androgynous. AA rightly replied that a biker jacket should be perfect for an androgynous look. Too true, but my comment was ill thought-out: it isn't that I try to be androgynous in my dress. It's that I literally don't know how to dress myself. I have no idea what looks good on me and what doesn't. So my resulting outfits are usually a variation on v-neck, jeans and big boots theme. If I dressed in a more stylish or feminine way then a biker jacket would add an edge. As it is, I frequently feel like I walk around dressed like a lazy 15-year-old boy.

I recently commented on a French style Yahoo group I am part of that most of the usual must-have clothing lists are lost on me. I wrote, "I like a little black dress as much as anyone, but I look ridiculous in avaiator glasses, old in pearls and terrible in 'classic white shirts.' And don't get me started on trench coats. They're mad sexy on everyone else but I've never met one that didn't make me look like a double-breasted caramel puff." I should add that I am trying to understand why scarves are de rigueur for those who want to pass as stylish. I have experimented lately but I can't help but feel that scarves just nudge me closer and closer into sartorial middle age.

I's not that I don't know what suits me. It's more that I don't yet know how to dress my age. Lifestyle is a factor too. I love vintage (1940's suits my curvy frame) and I've mentioned before that I'm an aging alterna-whatsit, but dressing for the day is difficult when kid-schlepping sans auto means something I can walk in and get muddy, and something movable like upmarket yoga wear is what's appropriate for my work with skincare and massage clients. I'm also terrified of color so I wear a lot of black and grey and denim.

That all said, I did buy these fab shoes today. $15, not made of plastic, and decidedly impractical. But they aren't (too) mumsy and they aren't black and they made me as happy as a pair of shoes is likely to.

I read a lot of blogs on the subject and I am always interested in hearing how others hone their personal style. How do you know what works for you? How do you make it work for you?

Monday, April 25, 2011

La musique - AIR

A foggy, rainy Monday with breakthrough sun by day's end. It's the perfect day for a moody, atmospheric soundtrack. Do you know the amazingly talented French duo, Air?

Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin play an intoxicating psychedlic retro-tinged "chillout" electronica that is some of my favorite and some of my most precious music of all time.

I've had the great pleasure of seeing them live a few times. The best was a few years ago at Oakland, CA's historic Paramount Theater. This is a classic deco building where I'd previously only seen Miles Davis (in high school; the kind of event for which I believe the phrase pearls before swine was invented).

Air are a surprisingly upbeat live act. They're funkier that you'd think by listening to their recordings and they play all kinds of interesting analog musical equipment like Wurlitzers and Moog synths to geek out on, if you swing that way. Aside from that the band has been the soundtrack to so many important things in my life. In 2001 I met the man who would become my husband. Air's 1998 album Moon Safari was the soundtrack to our courting and falling in love in taxi cabs and clubs all over a city that was riding a fairytale high about to come crashing down. In 2004 they were still playing tracks from that album in the smoky little bars of Paris when my husband proposed to me there atop la Tour Eiffel on a windy January night. In 2008 I gave birth to my son listening to that same album. (I remember being vaguely embarassed that a song called Sexy Boy played during one conversation with my midwife. But ultimately the music soothed me to a place outside of time, outside my head.) This profoundly gorgeous, otherworldly music has truly been some of the most important in my life.

I am 10 years older than when I first heard this song. I'm a mother; I've moved to the suburbs. And it's been many years since I have consistently been as optimistic and carefree as this music still reminds me, occasionally, to feel. As it begins sprinkling again I want to offer two sweet Youtube finds: the first is an odd studio video of Moon Safari's hypnotic opening track La Femme d'Argent.

The second is the same song with scenes from Antonioni's classic 1960 film Eclipse.

A lovely drink of something warm and a very lovely week to you.
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