Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring 2014 Trend Report

I quit doing "Fresh vs. Over" a while ago because I thought it was kind of snotty of me, but the one I did on cage veils vs. flower crowns is my most viewed post of all time, le sigh. Being wildly popular and right all the time is not for the faint of heart. Dear people of the interwebs, thank you for appreciating my superior sense of style and my nearly spotless prediction record.

Diving right in, I will first tackle things that are still going strong, but should be on their way out any day.
[collage images by me, product details here]

1. Salted Caramel everything. Don't shoot the messenger! I actually like salted caramel fine as a flavor, but it's such a default for "exotic" or "exciting" now. Just about every menu has some salted caramel dessert, not to mention every coffee house and ice cream shop/brand. It's like butternut squash - not inherently bad, but please, let's stop considering this a creative option.

2. Wedge sneakers. Once again, the wedge is my friend - a perfect blend of fancy height and comfort. But wedge sneakers do seem a little impractical (or just two things that should never go together?) and I think they are not long for this world in terms of mass popularity.

3. Macaroons. In fairness, I have never had one of the pretty macaroons (or been to Paris), so maybe they are delicious enough to stay "in" for a while longer, but I feel like they're kind of a status thing (at well over a dollar each sometimes) that people who fancy themselves elite busily fawn over with their instagrams. And here's my snark coming out: but being obsessed with all things Parisian is pretty much the biggest cop-out of all for those who want to appear cultured or well-traveled. Then again, I can't complain that the cupcake is finally loosing its footing.

On to some up-and-coming trends that I'm a fan of!

4. Tin Types. Tin Types are an old kind of photograph (follow the link for the details) that I would love to learn how to make and have portraits of our family done in. The antique frames are incredibly beautiful as well. Several celebrities at the Sundance Film Festival had their portraits done in the tintype style this year, and workshops are popping up for those who want to learn the process (pick me!). I'd love to even have an antique one, but they are pricey.

5. Cactus Leaves. FINALLY, there are rumors that cactus might be the new kale. I can not freaking wait. I've never had cactus before, but I see it all the time in farmer's markets and groceries in our area, and I would give anything not to have to eat kale or hear about it, ever again. Cactus is generally sold with the spines removed already, and kale is basically the hardest thing to cook of all time, so there's really no contest here.

6. Overalls. Don't turn your nose up, they can be cute! Get the 90s out of your mind right now. You know I'll be instagramming my take on them if and when I get my paws on a pair.

7. Snake Jewelry. I wish this weren't picking up speed, because I want it to be just MY thing! As with tintypes, the popularity of snake jewelry hearkens back to the Victorian age. I really wanted to get Jonas a wedding ring that was two snakes entwined (they have some really cool symbolism attached to them) but ended up not, because many people also associate them with negative things.

8. Baskets. In the world of interior design, large baskets in the home - of all shapes, and styles - are gaining popularity. For me, this breaks down when I can't keep whatever is in the basket looking nice, but Ishmael's toys do look better in the decorative cloth round "bin" I got for our living room as opposed to all over the floor.

9. Cross-shoulder wedding dresses (image). I think this is a detail you'll begin to see at more weddings. I think it's interesting, but I've definitely seen it look bad on some people. The fit has to be perfect, or else it bubbles up on the chest.

10. Textile art wall hangings (see more examples). Not a fan. They look more like rugs torn up by cats than home decor. I appreciate that some of these would be difficult to make, but I do not understand the appeal. Even the professional ones scream "DIY" to me, and that's not always the best look for your home.

11. The untied bow tie (image). Have we officially run out of interesting ways to accessorize? I don't think this fad is going to hit mainstream where I live before it's over, but someone needs to tell celebrities that it really just looks like you forgot to tie your tie, and that's all....

Have you noticed any of these trends? Love 'em? Hate 'em? What have you been seeing a lot of that I missed? 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Look With Your Eyes: Stasia Burrington

This incredible artist cuts out flowers from fabric to tattoo her drawings. I'm obsessed. Her "Blush" series is my very favorite, but a little too racy to post here. If you like this piece, you like sex, and you like flowers, I think you will not be disappointed. Can't get enough of the ink hair either. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sex In the Eye of the Beholder

Before I was married, I thought that I thought about sex "a lot". Come to find out, having sex does have a bit of that "fruit of the tree of knowledge" quality in that suddenly the way you think about sex explodes into so many more categories than "I want to have sex" and "this is how I imagine sex is". I spend a fair amount of time thinking about sex still, but it has scintillated into a topic with 1000 facets.

I'm much more willing to talk openly about sex and learn about it since getting married because I can't get in trouble for it and there's no threat of shame. One of the first new thoughts I had about sex upon getting married was how ill-prepared I had been for it, in more ways than one. What I had to learn about the physical aspect paled in comparison to everything I had to shift in my mind. Literally everything I had previously thought was skewed.

Though I don't have any particularly scarring memory about the Church's version of sex-ed, it had a major hand in twisting reality, which resulted in a rude awakening for me upon experiencing sex, even (especially??) within marriage. I very quickly realized upon getting married that sex was not strong enough to carry all that marriage is. Even great sex can't support two humans meshing, clashing, growing, and sworn to each other for all time. Even though no one ever said that it would, that was very much my subconscious expectation given how I idolized sex after 20 years of careful avoidance, yet anticipation, of it. [image credit]

I now know more than ever that it is impossible to impart the gravity of sex before you have experienced it, as many youth leaders make it their life mission to try and accomplish. The bond created between two people during sex transcends the physical indescribably, and how could you explain that to children or teenagers? It's a very difficult thing to take on faith, and frankly, it just sounds kind of cheesy and lame when someone tries to warn you about it - it is something unbelievable, really. I know I didn't get it as a teenager. It's unrealistic to assume that that warning will do much to hinder people. I don't think it's wrong to mention how "you children just can't comprehend it", because that is true, but what does that accomplish? Who does it help or convince? [As a bit of a side note, my dad always warned me about sharing my heart too intimately, which I also didn't entirely get, but I think that can affect a person just as much as sharing physical sex, and is a little easier to understand as a teenager, and therefore worth devoting more teaching time to.]

In fact, I believe that "talks" such as the afore mentioned are building blocks that result in placing sex on so high a pedestal that a) the natural human response of curiosity and desire for and about sex becomes associated with fear and shame and b) it is over-glorified. Premarital sex is not the worst choice you can make and sex is not the holy grail of marriage, as I'm embarrassed to say I truly believed it was.

Jonas called me on a break from work as I was writing this and got nervous when I said I was writing about sex. I assured him I wasn't discussing our personal sex life, but rather how our perception of sex has changed before and after marriage/sex. He agreed that it's not what he had anticipated either, and said somewhat sheepishly (I assured him that it didn't hurt my feelings) that it's hard work, which he didn't expect. Not just that people in movies have superhuman stamina, but that sex is about much more than the physical and all of that takes maintenance and thought in a way that we weren't prepared for.

Don't get me wrong, I want to impart the gravity of sex and my sincere hope that my kids wait for marriage to them, but I also want to be a safe place for them to ask real questions and know without question that I will love them the same regardless of their sexual experiences.

My parents were willing talk with me about anything growing up, but I wasn't comfortable discussing how I really felt and what I really wondered about sex, and though I don't think this was completely their fault, I felt strongly that I would be more or less an outcast if I had sex before I was married and anyone found out. I don't want my children to ever feel that way, but I know my parents didn't want me to feel that way either, and that makes me worried that my kids won't come to me, no matter how available and loving I am. Sometimes the best we can do as parents is to be there, and whether our kids choose to take shelter in whatever comfort we can offer is up to them.

Aside from the major shift in my expectations since actually experiencing sex, my thoughts on social/public sex in culture has shifted as well.

Growing up, my mom was "that mom" who would jump up and dance in front of the TV during sex scenes so that no one could really see. Though it was annoying and embarrassing, I appreciated her commitment to her values when it came to things like that, and let's be honest - actually watching a sex scene or vaguely looking away or what have you when watching a movie or TV with your friends or family is pretty awkward too. When I met Jonas, I was surprised and endeared by his similar conviction and obvious discomfort at watching sex. He never failed to look away, and it impressed me less because I might be upset if I thought he was too interested in watching but more because again, it communicated that he didn't take his own values lightly, even in the face of looking silly in front of his peers.

I, on the other hand, was more half-hearted in my attempts not to see anything too crazy. Not because I really wanted to see it that badly, but because I didn't want to look prudish by so vehemently avoiding it, I guess. And I was curious on some level, too. Sometimes it was almost a test of will to see how calmly I could endure something uncomfortable. Even when I watched TV by myself, it's not like I was pulling out a magnifying glass, and that balance between looking but not paying full attention remained.

Since being married, that hesitation to watch sex has almost completely faded away. It doesn't make me feel remotely guilty any more! I think the reason I felt I wasn't supposed to watch it before was because it was tempting to me as a being who was trying NOT to have sex or it was an invasion of a private world that I wasn't invited to, whether that be sex in general or the relationship between the characters on screen.

I still question the choice of actors to display some of the sexual acts they do because I think it can cheapen their personal lives even to act out something so intimate that ultimately should be shared with their real lover, but I now see sex in media as a story-telling maneuver. There's no doubt that sex sells, but sex is also a part of real life, and therefore a feature in both fiction and non-fiction, and I find it at the very least realistic that it should be portrayed as such.

I had an english teacher who once described our consciences as metal triangles in our hearts that spin around and prick us every time we do something wrong. But the more we spin the triangle, the duller the edges become until we cease to be pricked by the triangle at all. That image has always stuck with me, and part of me worries that I've worn the edges off a great deal of triangles in my life, but then I wonder whether the existence of those triangles in the first place were merely my own constructs? If sex is a legitimate part of life and is therefore an acceptable topic in storytelling, why be ashamed to discuss it or see it? I'm well aware that it can be twisted to be irreverent and even disgusting, but that leads me into my next point...

I make a big distinction between dramatic sex and comedic sex. As I've been saying, I accept and even appreciate sex as a part of reality, and therefore can watch it with little restriction in the context of drama. However, I find that sex in comedies or more often talk about sex in the realm of comedy tends to rub me the wrong way. It strikes me as making a mockery of something that is sacred. Not just sacred because I am a spiritual person, but because sex is an intimate act, no matter how brutal the setting can be at times. I find it tragic that sex can be made light of and defiled by jokes - it reduces something precious, or at the very least highly personal, to a cheap laugh, and I find that offensive and difficult to watch.

One of my all time favorite podcasts, NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, had a great discussion recently about nudity in media. I'll touch on a few of the highlights here for a minute. First, I thought their distinction between sex on TV in the US vs. the UK was interesting. They posited that because of Europe's long tradition of the nude in fine art, they are more comfortable with nudity, whereas the US has a more puritanical background which makes sex or nudity on TV fall into two categories - either to titillate or to disgust. Rarely is it used just as a normal aspect of life. They mention the show Girls as portraying slightly more realistic aspects of nudity (young women who share a house being naked around one another) and a fight scene from the movie Before Midnight in which Julie Delpy's character is topless during an argument - they praised this scene as an instance where something potentially sexual was not used for its erotic factor, but as something that would happen in real life. A husband and wife get in to a fight in the middle of changing their clothing, and the woman feels no need to put a shirt on while ramping up her argument.

I've never watched the show True Detective, but a lot of people have been in to it recently, and apparently there's a lot of nudity. In the PCHH podcast, they mention an interview with the creator of the show talking about how some level of sex on TV is mandated (to reel people in?), which Linda (of PCHH) said she found kind of troubling because it doesn't serve a real purpose. It becomes just a ploy to draw the attention of the male eye, which I agree is a degrading way to use sex on television. Furthermore, they discussed how they felt that sex is so often "de-erotisized" because they (albeit, they are media critics) said they can "feel the contract negotiations" behind those scenes. Basically, in a scene from the Wolf of Wallstreet (which I also haven't seen), some blonde in bed is showing everything, yet Leonardo Dicaprio gives only the impression of nudity and doesn't really reveal anything.

On the one hand, great! I am glad he - and many of the other powerful people in Hollywood - don't care to flaunt truly private parts. On the other hand, I again find it degrading that that job of actually showing sex, whether to draw in a crowd or make some narrative point is left to women or actors who need the money that comes with agreeing to be nude. As Linda points out during the discussion, another reason that nudity often falls to women on the big screen is because we have boobs, which show something private, but not "the whole package", and men don't have an equivalent private part to the boob.

What I don't find degrading is the normal portrayal of the human nude. In fact, I have a large painting in our home that is a self portrait of my bare back holding Ishmael as a baby (inspired by this painting by Klimt). Even before I was married, I had decided I wanted to have a partial-nude painting in my home, and it gives me secret pleasure to see people's reactions. It's somewhat of a litmus test. I want it to make people question their reaction to the naked human form, and what is art? I've wanted to take a live drawing course for ages now, partly to work through my own feelings about seeing the nude as art, or not. I think live drawing can be a very real study in real nudity - live models are often much more "real" than sexy, I assure you. Different people will fall on different points of the spectrum for sure, but I think it's an interesting question to present to people.

I personally find nudity fascinating and beautiful, but also sometimes grotesque. I don't see it as shameful when its not used shamefully. My pastor once said (though he was talking about men admiring women) that noticing beauty is not a crime, but a human hardwired tendency to appreciate that which is lovely. It's what we do with that appreciation that becomes a moral question, whether we're married or not. Among Christians, I think many people are wary of the nude body being a sexual temptation, and as I mentioned before, what is deemed tempting is in the eye of the beholder. I think it is dangerous to bombard oneself with images or opportunities if one is prone to being tempted in a way that violates one's conscience or beliefs, but for me, the nude image is not a forerunner to sin.

Some may say that I am not tempted by nudity because I'm a women. Let me just say that anyone who thinks that women aren't visual creatures hasn't spent much time around women. Just because nudity doesn't tempt me doesn't mean it doesn't affect me. Actually, I find the female nude vastly more visually appealing than the male. However, I don't think that appreciating nude beauty is always equated with lust. In my case, any feelings conjured by an image do not result in lust toward the object that I'm viewing, but rather turn me toward my husband. I don't see that as a bad or sinful thing. But it does raise the question for me of what porn is. If seeing an image results in a sexual experience, is that porn? And if so, is all porn bad? I tend to think that porn is degrading to the subject of the image or gross or irreverent in some way, but thinking of my reaction to sexual images in print or on screens has made me ponder these things.

I think I would react differently (as indeed I did) to sexual imagery as a single woman than I do now as a married women. Being fully aware of sex and free to engage in it as I please within the confines of marriage, I find myself with far fewer boundaries as far as what I try to keep my eyes from seeing or where I try and keep my mind from going. I am of the opinion that if I'm not cheating on my husband with my eyes, my lips, my words, or my thoughts, there is very little that is off limits to me. I think that Christ grants sexual freedom within marriage, and I extend that to art and media in my life.

What do you think about sex and nudity in media? Is it all bad or wrong? What about nudity in fine art?
If you're married, how have your thoughts on sex changed? If you're single and in the Church, do you feel equipped for what sex really is? 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Look with Your Eyes: Laurence Amélie

I'm just gonna start posting art sometimes. First up, this painting by Laurence Amélie. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

March 2014

I've really enjoyed March - lots of stuff going on with various jobs, decorating around the house (nesting???), visiting with friends. I'm feeling great at this point in the pregnancy which helps, I'm sure. Though I do have that bloodhound scent detection thing this time, and it is the pits!

Heard: SO much good music this spring! New (to me) artist discoveries: Sarah Jarosz, Michael Kiwanuka, Lo-Fang, Yasmine Hamdan, Bry Webb, Jetta, and St. Paul and the Broken Bones. New music from Elbow, Lily Allen (single from forthcoming album), James Vincent McMorrow, and great random (compilation/soundtrack) songs from Vampire Weekend, Laura Mvula, and Dusty Springfield. I've been jamming to it all, but I loved almost the entire album by Lo-Fang (since when does that happen anymore?) and the album cover, so here's a song from it. I love the vein of music in recent years that is so complex in sound like Alt-J and this guy, among others. I'm crazy about how this song changes drastically half way through.

Watched: I can hardly believe I went to the theater TWICE this month! Jonas and I saw Her, which I didn't love as much as I thought I would. I thought the interaction between real humans in the movie was amazing and I loved the "feel" of the movie, but I did not love the main relationship or any parts involving the computers - honestly, they reminded me of regular long distance relationships, but I found them manipulative and less engaging than the rest of the movie. Maybe that was the point? We also saw the Grand Budapest Hotel with our friends Jon and Michelle and the other 15 hipsters in Santa Maria. It was a great movie, incredibly funny and full of that perfect Wes Anderson dark charm. I especially enjoyed the winter scapes throughout. We finally got around to watching the Artist with our friends the Youngbloods. I was skeptical that a silent film would hold my interest, but it totally did! It's a worth a watch, though I never felt a great connection to the characters.

Tasted: I'm back to cooking a lot and trying many new recipes, which I thing comes with the excitement of spring and not having school in my work mix for the time being. I'm also very excited to be food blogging for Edible SLO magazine and learning/trying new things as I do more and more Pampered Chef shows. You can follow some of my PC adventures and see pictures of what I'm cooking on my Facebook page. Some of my favorite things I made and ate this month:
  • A potato salad with salmon and dill (that I made up, no recipe to post for now!).
  • This Martha Stewart meal, particularly the clementine granita and curry noodles. I didn't have yellow curry paste, so I made it myself and it was WOW. I already had a home-made dry spice blend and just added it to some of the fresh ingredients suggested in that post. 
  • These simple lemon cookies with a knock-out glaze.
  • Yellow fruit salad which also made great smoothies when added to vanilla ice cream. 
  • Roasted sweet-and-spicy parsnips
  • My friend Danielle introduced me to this fabulous fruit dip
  • I whipped up a crazy-good beach picnic meal with pita sandwiches filled with curried chicken, tzatziki, and Israeli carrot-celery root slaw. Oh, and don't forget the Virgil's root beer! 
  • My mama made this Massaman curry and I made the accompanying papaya salad
  • My dad made an incredible Uygur pilo from an old recipe my mom kept from China and the help of this video. I'm dying to have more. I cruelly crave Uygur food when pregnant, and there are very few places on earth where you can find it. 
  • I was also craving tacos one day and we had killer ones at our local Vallarta supermarket, accompanied by TO-DIE-FOR pineapple agua fresca. Vallarta also happens to have fresh coconuts most of the time which hit the spot, every single time. If you're ever there, you must take time to gawk at their tortilla making machine (and grab a fresh bag, of course) and admire their displays of seafood and strange candy-colored puddings and relishes all encased in rows. 
  • And lastly, we had a blast making a French dinner to accompany our viewing of the Artist with our friends. Jessa made amazing beef burgondy and brioche, and I braised leeks and made "meh" blood orange creme brulee. 
Before we're completely off the topic of food, I'm not a big fan of the term "food porn" or any such similar terms, but I do kind of get starry eyed about websites like this.

Great tips on when to book flights.
Much of the country is still battling snow. If only we all got to see snow flower fields

I'm in the middle of about 10 books, plus a list as long as my arm of things I "should" read, but I must say I pick my list more like this than by any desire to read X amount of classics. 
I love this look at how the Chinese view America. "No fondling furnishings!"
My kind of "mom underwear". Swoon! 
I so much admire a perfect pairing, and this tumblr meshes fashion and every day life flawlessly. I could loose myself for hours here. 

Two other fashion images I've been gaga about this month, though so very different (1, 2). I'm contemplating piercing my nose again, I miss it!

  • We had our last GC (Bible study) meeting at the group we had been a part of, which was bittersweet. It was the right time for the group to disband, but we will miss it! Thankful for all we learned there and looking forward to the next step at our church.
  • I was able to help out with the second annual Cinderella's Closet event our church put on, which was fun, as always! It provides an opportunity for girls in high school to come pick out a free prom dress, and when all the girls are done, I get to pick out vintage (mostly 80s!) stuff that no one else would wear, which is a nice perk. More importantly, I think they gave away close to 200 dresses this year! Donations of your old prom, bridesmaid, or fancy dresses are welcome all year around. 
  • I got to attend a bachelorette party for one of Jonas' coworkers which was tons of fun and gave me ideas for my sister Annelise's eventual pre-wedding shenanigans! 
Ishmael: He's figured out how to smell things (as opposed to just licking them), and he can make about 10 animal noises when quizzed with their names or just seeing their pictures. Just as I was giving up all hope, he's decided on his own that he's interested in wearing shoes and often clomps around the house in only one shoe. He's able to mix sounds and hand-signs to be fairly specific about what he wants, and is better and better about saying the first consonant followed by an "owh" sound for his more commonly used terms like "more." He can wave and say "hi" to accompany his expert "bye"-saying now, too. He's also been throwing his hands out in front of him and freezing them in a karate chop move while saying "kaa!". We don't know what it means, but we all think it's funny. He's great about "helping" blow his own nose or wipe during diaper time (eek!) and is very cooperative when it's time to get dressed or undressed. He loves to throw his own trash away or throw things away for us if we ask him to. He was SO excited to visit our friend Amber who has 3 cats - he positively beamed the entire time he was chasing them around. Putting him to bed is generally a breeze (as long as he has a small blanket, though it doesn't have to be a particular one) but I still cracked up over how to put your toddler to bed in 100 easy steps. Baby Boy #2 is very wiggly, and I think that's about all there is to say about him at this point! He's basically a dream to carry for now, and he seems to like Thai and Mexican food.

Loved: Rain, time with girlfriends, Jonas' latest hobbies of building a koi pond and experimenting with copic markers, good talks on a date, having good talks with my mama, a clean-ish and decorated house!, and gaining confidence about presenting in front of other people. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Liebster Award

My dear old friend and youth leader, Tanya, writes a great blog about her experiences living in China. I'm amazed at how well she understands the language, culture, and food. Most of all, I appreciate her heart for Third Culture Kids - she had a huge impact on me as a teenager, and I'm so excited that she's working on a handbook for people with TCKs in their lives (which I get to contribute to sometimes!). A while back, another blogger awarded her blog the Liebster award, and in turn, she passed it on to mine. 

Liebster is a German word meaning, roughly, “favorite." It can also be translated “sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, lovely, valued, endearing”. The Liebster Award is something that has done the rounds of the blogosphere for several years, and is a way for small blogs to honor one another and introduce their readers to other great small blogs.

Here’s how it works:
My “nomination” came with a list of 11 questions for me to answer.
I am also asked to share 11 random facts about myself.
Next I choose up to 11 other small blogs to bestow a Liebster upon,
and write a list of 11 questions for them to answer as their own Liebster acceptance.

Here are the questions Tanya came up with for her nominees to answer:
What are 5 adjectives that describe you? Honest, Loyal, Intense, Brave, Reckless.
What inspires you to write? Do you have a muse? I don't have a muse. I think my inspirations and reasons for writing are different. My inspiration often comes from finding myself chuckling at an internal retelling of something that happened to me or intense agreement/disagreement with something I recently heard in the news, from a friend, or on a podcast. 
What is your favourite post on your blog? I have no idea. But I do love it when people engage with me after I've put something raw on the line. It's really interesting to me that the oldest post on this blog (almost 6 years ago) is in celebration of Obama's first election. So much in the world has changed since then, and I have changed a lot too. 
What book do you think everyone should read at least once, and why? The original Dracula, by Bram Stoker. I don't think I even realized that was a real thing for the longest time, and then when I finally got a hold of it, I was so impressed and drawn in. Classic literature is the bomb, and I'm Team Forget About Edward any day. 
When it comes to media (TV/movies/music), what is your guilty pleasure? Celine Dion. I rarely put it on, but let's just say I don't turn it off when it comes on on its own. It's partly a nostalgia thing, partly that I really do like her voice. 
If you could snap your fingers and play any musical instrument flawlessly, which instrument would you choose? I'm gonna go with the Chinese Zither. 
If you could snap your fingers and speak any language on earth fluently (and with a native accent), which language would you choose? Arabic. Ideally, some dream-version of Arabic that anyone in the Middle East could understand. 
What is the most amazing place you’ve visited? It's really hard to say. Amazing, beautiful, fun... all of those might describe different places. One that comes to mind though, is the sand lake on the road between Kashgar and Tashkorgan (at the foot of the Himalayas) in the province of Urumqi, China. The water is only about 2 feet deep, so you're not even sure if there's water there unless you're touching it, and it makes this crazy, otherworldly landscape. The picture to the right is from 2005. Isn't it crazy how it looks black and white?What is your “bucket list” of travel destinations? Iceland, Japan, Sweden, Curacao, Vietnam, Cambodia, India. Pretty much everywhere. 
What is something you were told as a child/young person that has continued to encourage you? Somewhere along the way, I was taught that not knowing the answer or asking questions is nothing to be ashamed of. I wonder about stuff all the time, and even if I'm tempted to be embarrassed by my ignorance, I ask with confidence. I benefit enormously from that, almost daily. Thanks, to whoever convinced me of that! 
What is an achievement from your own life that you are particularly proud of? (Even if it’s something that seems small to others). Seeing my son learn things I teach him is constantly astonishing and elating. Most of the time, I don't feel like it has that much to do with any talent of mine, though. 

11 Random facts about me:
1. I've hoarded candy for periods of a year or more ever since I was a child.
2. I have 7 piercings and no tattoos. 
3. I was bitten by a bear cub as a child. 
4. Initially, I did not at all like the ring my husband proposed to me with (but I kept it!).
5. I'm not a great swimmer.
6. Each color of the rainbow (and then some) has been my favorite color at one point. 
7. I once spent a semester of college collecting all the bobby pins I found on campus.
8. I only like pointy toed flats. 
9. One of my greatest fears/dreads is breaking my hands.
10. Covering graffiti as a part of community service is one of my greatest regrets.
11. I wore saggy gangster jeans in high school.

Blogs I nominate:
(all images taken from the blogs below)

Nita, her sister Katie, my sister Annelise, and myself spent many a summer together as kids putting on plays for our neighbors, wearing sparkly make-up, watching musicals, pooling our allowance to buy candy, playing cards and hand-clap games in the grass, and writing stories together. Basically, we lived out how every kid should get to grow up. Nita is now a nurse and she writes short memories of her time as a missionary kid and thoughts on adulthood. I love how poignant her writing is and how she makes me get it on a deep level. She opens little windows into her past that are at once both autobiographical and beautiful prose.

Hot Pot Blog -
I think I first found Dani through one of my favorite (and wildly popular) blogs, A Cup of Jo - she told stories of her experiences as an American mom raising kids outside of the U.S. I've since enjoyed following Dani's own blog, and we even follow each other on Instagram now. Although I don't know her personally, I enjoy the familiarity of stories of growing a family in Asia, and her photography is beautiful as well! Dani, her husband, and her two kids are headed to Italy next, and I can't wait to read about and see all their new experiences there. 

Jessica and I were in long-distance high school together, and I'm proud to say my fellow students in Torrey Academy were/are just smart as can be and are using their lives to make a difference in the world. Jessica is very well read (and that makes for quality writing!), and has put herself through nursing school by being in ROTC, which I am in awe of. My sister Annelise, who studies nursing at the same school was uber impressed when I told her that I had been in school with Jessica. Her reputation proceeds her as an incredibly hard worker, and a kind spirit. I especially appreciate her take on being a woman in the military. I like the way she sees the world, and I know she is bound for great things, so keep your eye on her. 

Abby and her whole family have been so awesome and a huge influence in the growth of my own little family. She's the oldest of 6 kids to parents who have mentored, fed, and laughed with Jonas, Ishmael and I since right around the time Jonas and I got married. Abby is a girl with serious style, and she's studying library science, which is THE coolest. I love talking about which celebrity has the most impressive dresses with Abby and her mom, and Abby's blog is all about her niche style.

I first met Kara in Hong Kong when I was about 4, I'd guess. For a large part of my growing up years, she was "the really cool older girl". I remember completely coveting her American Girl planner, gawking over her senior photos, and being dreamy eyed about her engagement and wedding. She has always been the picture of grace and class to me, and I love seeing her now as a mom and a very talented party planner/decorator. I still think she is just the coolest! 

Kenna's blog isn't exactly unheard of in our area or in the party world - Kenna herself is hard to miss. Everything about her is full-throttle energy at all times and full of color. She is one of the hardest workers I know and succeeds at everything she puts her hand to, perhaps by sheer will. The first time I met her, she and her husband were leading a college retreat at a lake that Jonas and I attended, and she conscripted me to help her make crafts for her son Cormac's 1st birthday party, which I was quickly fired from due to my sub-par scissor skills. I've always admired her imperfect approach to life and her openness about it (her blog is all about that!). Oh, and she can style a mean party. 

New Questions for my nominees: 
1. What do you most admire in people of your same gender?
2. What is your biggest insecurity about your own writing or blog?
3. What color best describes you?
4. Can you remember the first tape/CD/ you ever bought? What was it?
5. What would you do with $50 of spending money?
6. What is your least favorite smell?
7. What would you describe as a "hidden gem" in the area that you live?
8. What were you known for as a kid?
9. Is there a cancelled TV show you really wish would come back?
10. If you're asked to bring something to a potluck, what's your go-to dish?
11. On what occasion do you lie?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

First Kiss

Who was your first kiss? Was it a good kiss?

I saw this video earlier this week and it's lovely. But first, it made my stomach knot up, my chest tighten, and then I got teary.

Jonas was my first kiss.
It's kind of a funny story...

I was freshly 17 when we started dating and I was so determined to be kissed by the time I was 18. I didn't want to get to official adulthood and never have been kissed. Looking back, that seems awfully silly, and possibly dangerous of me, but it all worked out, and I can say I've only kissed one man in my life!

I actually set up our first kiss as an appointment. I can't remember exactly how we discussed whether or when we would kiss, but I finally dragged Jonas out of our art class one day, and we both knew what was up. So very awkward.

We went to the music building, which has a row of closet-sized rooms, each with 2 or 3 pianos jammed inside them. The doors have glass panels in the middle. We just stood in the middle of the room, hugging tightly for almost 45 minutes. I was so nervous. But determined. I had my head in his shoulder, and slowly inched my face closer over those long minutes. Really slowly. I was mad and confused that he was making no move to kiss ME,  but he said later that he could tell I was very nervous and he didn't want to make the first move and force me into something I didn't really want to be doing.

As I'm writing this, I looked over at him in bed next to me and asked him what he remembered about our first kiss. It made us both smile like fools. He said, "It felt like the best thing ever. We didn't really make out the first time, but it was sweet. It makes me want to kiss you now."

[This song is kind of awesome, and is definitely reminiscent of some of the stuff I listened to in high school, not so very long before I met Jonas.]

It's funny to think of not knowing HOW to kiss. And then funny again how into it you get at a certain point in a relationship (or maybe it's an age?). Like someone else's mouth is just way more fascinating and lovely than you could ever have imagined. I remember finally making the move and we kissed for the first time, but the second time we kissed, a few weeks later, stuck in my memory more. I remember being able to see eyelashes, and thinking of how those moments would be locked in my mind forever, in their own deep blue movie reel. Those kisses were delicious, tender, enchanting. It was as magical as movies make it.

As it turned out, I got my braces put on days after our first kiss. We didn't get the chance to kiss for the next few weeks, but I was petrified that it was because he didn't want to kiss me with braces on. I'm not a big crier, but I was crying in the orthodontist's chair when the braces were going on (mind you, I was 17, and the whole staff was trying to console me). Jonas said that I did cut his mouth sometimes, but I never found out until after my braces were off a year and a half later. What a sweet guy.

Funny how making out becomes less of a thing when you've been together for years. At least for us. I was talking with my friend Janae the other day, and we were laughing about how making out is much lower on the list of what we'd like to be doing with our spouses than it used to be. It's sad in a way, but when you live together, making out all the time just kind of feels like having your face slobbered. The impromptu real make-out seshes that still happen once in a blue moon are a treat, though.

I think we were gone for an hour for our first kiss (most of which was spent not kissing), and got a talking to when we got back to class after that very first kiss (this is college, btw, and our class had a lab so it wasn't unusual to slip out and get a snack or something). I remember I was wearing a pale pink fuzzy sweater that was too small for me, but so soft, and I kept it for a long time. I hope I still have it in a box of memorabilia somewhere (I have a problem with saving every possible significant thing), but I seem to recall that I gave it away upon forgetting the "importance" of it. I think I also made Jonas promise that neither of us would ever divulge details of our first kiss, but that was more than 5 years ago, and all these things are becoming sweet and funny stories that I like to relive and share. Plus, I got his permission to divulge this story. ;)

The piano rooms were the only semi-private place to go on campus, but one of the teachers used to walk by and glare through the window (we were standing up, in the middle of the room, totally tame!). Once, she even stopped us on the sidewalk and said something curt about the proper use of those rooms, and we especially didn't like her after that, but it also made us giggle.

There was a soda vending machine in the hallway, and we used stick our hands under the machine to find loose change and then get Squirt, which I mistakenly called Squish, so that then became a thing. Squish became one of our son Ishmael's first nicknames, in part due to that memory, several years later.

Here's a picture of us kissing at a special spot in Waller Park, 2 or 3 days before our wedding, which was on the 3rd anniversary of the beginning of our relationship, aka the first time Jonas told me he loved me, which was also by awkward appointment at the spot we're standing in this picture. But that's a story for another time....

Friday, March 7, 2014

12 Ultra-Inspiring Weddings

Wedding season is just around the corner! We'll see if I actually manage to make a series out of this, but I do have so much wedding inspiration that's just languishing away, not being shared, that it's time to start showing it off. // I love wedding styling. I don't love actual wedding planning. At all. Thanks to Pinterest, I can dream about and gawk over beautiful weddings for the rest of my life, but I only had to plan my own wedding once. My wedding ended up being pretty classic, though definitely with some personal touches. I had planned a much more "out-there" theme centered around the bird of paradise flower before I got really frustrated with all the tiny details and costs that go into making a wedding happen, and so instead, we literally got married in a courthouse, though it ended up still being a wedding. // Over the years, I've kept track of weddings that stood out to me as extra creative, and I made a round-up for you brides-to-be and brides-looking-back. You should probably hire me to make your wedding truly unique. By which I mean make you an amazing moodboard and then never talk to you again.

While you feast your eyes, here's what Jonas and I danced to at our wedding. And by danced, I mean super awkwardly shuffled.

1. Elora and Rajiv's 3-Day Bali Wedding. Possibly my all-time favorite wedding, photographed by Jonas Peterson, one of my all time favorite wedding photographers. Though not saturated with DIY details or quirky notes by any means, the raw beauty of this wedding is unbeatable. And the jasmine dress - OH. MY. GOD. I think I swooned to death when I saw it. Full of rich traditions, and a bride who is a truly inspiring person, I love everything in this wedding from the bridesmaids gowns, to the Banyan tree dinner, to the shadow puppet play.

2. Kestrin and Jonathan's 2-Day Carmel and San Francisco Wedding. Apparently I have a thing for multi-day weddings and brides who wear as many dresses as possible. This wedding majorly impressed me when I first started taking notice of weddings (it's a tad old now, and I'm less impressed with the photography!) but it has aptly been called the "wedding of the century" (complete with pedal-powered indoor ferris wheel and a grilled-cheese bar) by the photographers behind Feather Love. I adore the stormyness of the ceremony, and the raucousness of the after-parties. Day 2 started at the Palace Hotel in SF, where I've actually stayed before. I smile inside at the "San Francisco-yness" of their guests' apparel at the second reception. I quite like how they integrated their vows, and inspired by them, Jonas and I ended up reading the same vows (that we had written ourselves) to each other at the same time instead of taking turns.

3. 50s Sparkle Mod Inspiration [not a real wedding]. I always go back to this photoshoot when I think about themes that I love the most. Go-big or go-home, I say, and this shoot went big. Really, the one thing I take away from this set (though the bar is pretty and the timer seating chart is cute) is the bride's look. I am always in favor of head-to-toe silver sequins and I can't get enough of her eyelashes. I really like the pairing of the bouquet as well.

4. The Bride Wore Orange (Kirsty and Matt). Another stormy wedding - I'm a fan of the extra drama that weather can add. I'm also head over heels with the bride's look and her bridesmaids' style. They had a great first-married-kiss and a pregnant bridesmaid, also soft spots in my heart.

5. Family-style Foodie Reception (Emily and Rob). In general, I thought the style of this wedding was totally "meh" (sorry, people I don't know), but I'm gaga over their reception set-up and the incredible food, and the way they served it. You've gotta check out the other photos of their food. I get kind of overheated when I dwell on how much I love it. GOOD food at a wedding is so important to me, and I must say that the best food I've ever had at a wedding was at my own. Yah! I'm also fond of a fun getaway vehicle, and they chose a shiny motorcycle.

6. Allison and Paul's Garden Wedding. If you know me well, you know I am a sucker for beautiful paper. And this wedding abounds with just that (even the napkins stole my heart - details like that take a wedding to the next level). The flowers are also incredible, and I love the touch of the outdoor persian rug. The back of the bride's dress and her fan were also big plusses.

7. Lynette and Gris' Victorian Old West Wedding. While I never would have imagined this theme in a million years, that's kind of what I love about this wedding. It's so stylized (and certainly a niche style) without being "comic-con". The bride's rockin' hair, the feathered sanctuary complete with white peacocks at the altar, and the proposal painting are some of my favorite details.

8. Romeo and Juliet Street Art Photoshoot [not a real wedding]. Clearly, it's difficult to create this much of a set at real weddings, but it sure does make one go "wow". The luscious florals, particularly in the rich red-green scheme were a favorite of mine, and the cake was of note as well. The bottle-candles at the altar are an easily stealable idea.

9. Food Truck in a Field Photoshoot [not a real wedding]. I'm a fan of the intimate feeling of this imaginary gathering. It feels plopped down in the middle of nowhere, in a good way. It's cozy and simple, but has all the elements you need for a fabulous day - close friends and a private food truck! I'm beside myself with the wedding party style, especially for the ladies. Doesn't it just feel like you could get lost here for days?

10. Jill and Matt's Greenhouse Wedding. I love greenhouse weddings!!! This wedding has so many lovely personal touches too, from treasure hunt invitations, to the guys' customized ties, to a remembrance pin on the bride's dress for her mother (?), to a custom boutonniere for every guest (they got to choose how to wear it)! I think the alive-ness of the setting (frogs!) is so exciting. This is another wedding that gets major points for bomb-looking food. I would have fallen over from happiness to be a guest at this one.

11. Kristen and Dustin's Graffiti Wedding. This couple pulled off a very hipster personal style in a way that is somehow still not too much of a copy-cat of every other lace-gown-yellow-shoes-denim-shirt-skinny-tie-bearded look. Go, them. I'm crazy about their altar backdrop and their invitation suite is super fun as well. So clever to use the RSVP cards as a place to get a personal message or drawing from your guests - it's so hard to come up with something good when you're in line and on the spot at the actual wedding.

12. Amy and Jonathan's Colorful Crafty Wedding. This wedding has one of my all time favorite "leave a note" set-ups and super fun altar decorations, including a wooden installation that you can't see in the picture below. I'm also a fan of a bride who uses a pop of color in her look (she wore a bright yellow feathered cage veil).

Honorable Mentions:
Dana and Hunter looks like people I would want to be friends with, and I melt at their wedding photos, even though there aren't any stand-out details for me.
Melissa and Jon ran with a very bold and graphic theme in black and yellow - I especially like the altar/installation art piece, the macaroon favors, the bridesmaid's looks, and the invitation suite.
Jill and Joey had incredible flowers and a super fun backdrop at their wedding.
Maggie and Justin themed each table at their reception after a different country, and her dress is so fun.

Which is your favorite, and why? I'd love to know. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

February 2014

I already touched on this in my January review, but this year so far has been a wild whirlwind! Take a gander at all that went down...

Heard: I'm so enchanted by the latest from Beck. One of my favorite NPR people described his new album as "heartbreaky", which is completely up my alley. The song "Say Goodbye" is the nicest, least nerve-grating use of banjo I've heard in a long time. Apart from Beck, I've also been loving some Brazilian music. See my picks at the bottom of the playlist, here.

Watched: Jonas and I have been cracking up over the Ricky Gervais show An Idiot Abroad, in which he sends one of his less cultured pals to tour the world and comment on the experience. It can be wildly insensitive (no surprise coming from Gervais), but oh-so-funny. // I haven't seen a SINGLE Oscar nominated film this year, but I definitely want to catch 12 Years a Slave and Her on Redbox. And maybe Monuments Men? Any excuse to see Cate Blanchett.

Tasted: I cooked lobster for Valentine's Day today, for the first time ever! I'd never eaten a lobster tail either, and it was pretty darn delicious, though I think I probably overcooked it. I also had a fabulous meal at the Marisol at the Cliffs restaurant, which I wrote about here. You absolutely must go and try their cream of mushroom soup. I also started a new Facebook page that I post recipes, photos, articles, and tips on several times a week. Follow me! I have more SUPER exciting food news in the works, but I'll probably include that in my March update (or even its own post!) when it's a bit more established.

This collection of photos of wet cats had me laughing SO hard.
Is your public transport commute boring? Doodle new heads for the other passengers.
The best birthday present anyone could receive.
Razzle Dazzle camouflage is way too awesome to be as obscure as it is! Learn all about it. (image)

Also gawking over these incredible high speed photo of sea foam by Ger Kelliher. 

And finally, this article giving Japanese tourists insights into American culture is so fascinating. I always enjoy explanations of how one culture views another, and sometimes the things people think about Americans surprise me! Sometimes I wonder how I appear to other people as an individual, too - both my persona and personality, and my actual appearance. Do you ever have moments where you see yourself in a mirror and for a moment, you just don't recognize yourself or see yourself completely differently than usual? Or people show you a photo of someone they think looks like you and you have NO idea why? I know other people must see me differently than I see myself, but I'll never know quite how. 

  • At the very beginning of the month, I went on my first overnight business trip to Ontario, CA for a Pampered Chef convention. I'd only signed up to be a PC consultant days before, so it was all brand spanking new, but the coolest thing (beside learning a ton in general) was that I happened to be the newest consultant out of hundreds there, and thereby won an entire cooking demonstrations worth of products that I didn't have before. So cool! 
  • Later in the month, I hosted my first Pampered Chef party. 
  • I finished my second class at APUS. One step closer to my degree. 
  • Jonas turned 24 on the 20th, and we celebrated with a weekend of good meals with our siblings in LA, funny games, museum and farmer's market explorations, the usual pit stop for Thai groceries, and a stop in at a Japanese dollar store
  • My sister-in-law Gina turned 28 on the 28th, and we had a fun dinner at her parents' to celebrate, at which Ishmael had a big poop explosion up his back. Happy Birthday, Gina. 
Ishmael can now make horse, sheep, dog, cat, chicken, pig(kinda), and monkey noises. He also has a general growl noise that's a favorite. He loves to dance and spin around, and enjoys being a homeless person in our living room living in his fortress of boxes with a diaper, a fedora, and a xylophone. He greets Jonas and I with great joy and enthusiasm when one of us gets home from work or gets him up from a nap. He throws both hands in the air, smiles hugely, and says, "WHO-DOO!" (we're not sure why). He is an expert goodbye sayer, and he mimicked me saying "Hi, Ma!" on the phone the other day. He also "counts" to 3 (although only we have any idea that that's what he's doing). He does a pretty good job of cleaning up his toys when asked, and we're working on listening to "come here." In baby #2 news, we found out this month that we're having another boy. :)

Loved: New opportunities in the work world! Young coconuts, gummy worms, and rain. 
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