Sunday, September 25, 2011

Five things I love about NY

The Temple at Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The vegetables at Butterfield Market.

House concerts at Ihor and Marisha's
Music on Four
Here, last Thursday, the Honey Dewdrops.
Just awesome, awesome, awesome.
Makes me happy and want to cry at the same time.

Zan, Jessie and Anna.

The warm morning croissants at Eat on Madison.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Shopping D&D yesterday

From Cervanza - very old world grasscloths. Beautiful colors.

"Pheasant" wallpaper by Twigs - shown here in two colorways.
Think client Josie will love these!
Found these gorgeous wallpapers yesterday at John Roselli in the D&D Building in NYC.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Business Card Inspiration

When I was in Rome in April, I was doing a bit of antiquing and found a couple of interesting things in a shop near our apartment. I took photos with permission, then asked for a business card - thinking I would want to (perhaps) contact the shopkeeper later. He was ruffled, turned around and found a piece of paper. Then he picked up a stamp, hand stamped the paper and handed it to me. This is what he gave me. I have kept it since on my idea board. I love it. So, it is the inspiration for my own next generation of business cards. While I am here in NYC, I'll go shop for paper.

Back in NY

I love my return to NY. Since we rent the apartment while we are away from it, I never know exactly how I will find it. Usually, it has been cared for with astonishing grace and we arrive to find love letters on the dining table from our guests. I love filling the refrigerator and getting fresh flowers.This trip we sent a new chest of drawers, our beloved photo of the Guggenheim, which seemed like it was sorely out of place in Minneapolis, and a beautiful 19th Century Italian mirror I got from Claire Steyaert, my favorite antique dealer, and the woman who has the greatest shoes ever - she buys them when she is in Europe.

I've always had a little fantasy about being a hotel keeper - a little bed and breakfast. Although I no longer have THAT fantasy, I love making our apartment nice for guests - down to the linen hand towels, Kiehl's soaps and body washes, linen bedding, goose down comforters, even linen kitchen towels, blah, blah, blah. But, I show up and the housekeeper has mixed up the bedding in some crazy way - like, not sure how you put dark gray cotton sheets on a bed with white linen pillow cases, when there are dark gray pillowcases right there. OR white linen sheets right there. Then, mixing up the towels - instead of four nice matching towels. Why am I so anal about making a place really nice for other people?

I guess that is my job. Duh. Okay, now I get it. Who would pay me to design a room if I didn't care, really care about the details? I know it doesn't involve blood - and in a pinch, I know what is really important. But given the choice....I prefer my four towels to match. I'm so shallow. :-)

Straight on shot of the main living room. It feels bigger than it is because of the luxurious  10-5 ceiling height!

Lee's writing nook with the Guggenheim back where it belongs - in NYC!

This is the amazing chest of drawers I found at the antique shop on Xerxes and 50th.
Vintage - probably 19th Century cherry (not the new stuff!)
It takes a bit of room, which we are getting used to. Practically, it is just right.
Claire's Italian mirror is above.
So, here are a few updated pics of the apartment. Btw....while I am here writing, there are workman in our bedroom removing a pipe that was original the 1880 building. I went in to grab some laundry and it smelled suspiciously bad  - like burning bad. Then I saw smoke. The Polish workman looked rather sheepish and asked for water. Really? You just ask for water? You don't want the fire extinguisher or the fire department? Yikes. I kept bringing him containers of water and, apparently, all's well that ends well. The bedroom is too small for me to get over to see what they are really up to, but I know that a big chunk of wall is missing. Glad it's their job and not mine.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Meno (monthly)-pause (to cease)

I haven't written much from the heart lately. I think when my dad died in June it was easier to just be more superficial in my writing. I didn't know where my heart would take me and that scared me because I wasn't feeling myself. So, after 3 months, I saw that I needed to talk to someone about my "symptoms" - insomnia, anger, irritability, night sweats, feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. (A positive symptom is a huge surge of creative energy.) I thought it was grief - unprocessed grief. But, it didn't make a lot of sense because I sat with my father for 8 beautiful months while he died. I cried with him, I thanked him, I told him I would miss him, I just hung out with him. I felt pretty complete about that. The "symptoms" didn't fit the self-diagnosis. And the diagnosis the world seemed to be giving me.

So, I called my trusty therapist and told her what was going on, that I was at risk of doing major damage to my marriage and business relationships if I didn't sweeten up. We wiggled around and through a lot of the symptoms. And then she asked, "How old are you? This sounds like menopause. If it is, we don't this lightly. It is a powerfully demanding time of life. You will never be the same."

A woman in her late 50's (I am guessing) which is my age - she was like a harness for the hurricane I had been feeling. She is the first to acknowledge that the anger I have been feeling is healthy and real. And after 1 hour with her, after 3 months of having trouble breathing, of sleeping, of feeling guilty about my dis-ease, I finally feel liberated and heard. And this is what I got:

We are told something that goes like this: Menopause is a perfectly natural state for women. If you are eating right, exercising, not abusing your body and spirit, there is no reason that you should suffer the "symptoms of menopause". If you do, it is a sign that you are not taking care of yourself. And, have you ever noticed that almost everything you do / want / eat is related to the problems of menopause???

Okay, fine. I'll cut back to one cup of coffee a day. I'll cut back on my red wine. I'll exercise almost every day. I'll eat kale until it is coming out of my ears. I'll meditate. I'll go to yoga 3 x a week. I've done all these things and OF COURSE I mostly feel better. Who wouldn't?? I spend half my income on organic, locally grown foods! But my menopausal symptoms have not diminished one iota!

I still have hot flashes. I still have insomnia. And now I will tell you about the other symptoms....anger and feeling like the weight of the world is on my shoulders.

When I told Carol about this - she lit up like a light bulb. "This is because menopause is a time to take your body back. You have been giving for years - for 30 years? It is time for yourself. This is a profound change of life. Do not take it lightly."

I noted several things of late:

1. I turned Isabelle's bedroom into my own office - WITH A DOOR! immediately after her move to Charleston. I have "a room of own's own." For the last year, Lee and I sat 8 feet apart in our main living area, each working on our own projects - it was wonderful after living apart for so long. But, when Isabelle left as a young adult for her own life, I began to purge the room and take it over. I can hardly tell you how profound it is to have a quiet place to myself with a door. And, equally important, Lee has his own space now that he begins life anew.

2. I HATE feeling responsible for feeding people! I LOVE to cook - but not when I have to work around my work. My work is important. And I don't want my primary role to be taking care of people any more. It would be neurotic to WANT to continue to take care of people as my primary identity since my children are grown.  I LOVE to cook for friends and for Lee and myself when I have the time, but as a daily duty, I am so over it.

I love love love my husband and children, but so happy they are doing their thing. Also....a note that I am so happy my husband isn't in the "retirement" mood!  The surge of creative energy needs a partner who can meet that - at least that is true for me. I need Lee to have as active a creative life as I want.

3. I want to say "No" more than "Yes". I find myself not willing to do the "favors" I used to feel like I had to do. It isn't that I wanted to do them then; I just thought to be a good person you had to do it. Now, I feel like I need to be clean and clear and say yes to the things that matter and no to the things that don't. The writer of the 4-hour work week makes a practice of this.

4.  Finally, the major life transitions can be painful. Birth, death, puberty. All of these are spiritual passages. More primitive (or not?) cultures created rituals to inflict pain on its youth at puberty to emphasize the threshold that must be crossed. This is how I am now thinking about menopause. I don't want my guy friends telling me I need to clean up my liver. I want to just be a woman experiencing menopause. I may do it well. I may not. I wasn't that great at giving birth - I had 2 C-sections, but I still love my kids. I am still a mom. I am a woman with hot flashes. So what? It is a physical reminder of the skin I need to shed to create this new life. Change is painful sometimes. I don't want to feel guilty about the pain anymore. I don't want drugs. I just want my authentic life back. Guilt free. Ready to figure out what is next. Pain and discomfort don't scare me. Denial does.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Back to Charleston for the Moment

Ikea? Go figure! Sweet pendant.

Love the color palette of these linen pieces.

Sweet, (slightly spooky?) angel dolls of driftwood with handmade vintage linen dresses.

I came across these photos from a shop in Mount Pleasant - in the "village"- a wonderful early 20th C development across the Cooper River from Charleston. I can't for the life of me recall the name of the shop, but Izzy, Tami and I had a great time digging around - it was something between LaRue's in Minneapolis, a country gift shop, Victory in Minneapolis, then a mini Barney's shoe salon. It was kind of crazy - but that good crazy :-). I got a great pair of shoes and a gift for a friend. Will photo the shoes soon.

A Doctor's Wife

Lee D. Stevens, husband and love of my life, is now officially Lee D. Stevens, Ph.D. in Depth Psychology as of Tuesday. His Ph.D. was conferred upon him by two colleagues at Pacifica Graduate Institute and a third outside reader of his dissertation, a PhD graduate from Stanford. Lee did a wonderful job presenting his defense - 30 minutes (and no more!) to distill the 250 pages of his dissertation into something that made sense. Each of the readers then asked a question to which Lee had to respond. One of them was challenging. An interesting thing that was pointed out is this:

Degrees have been around since the Middle Ages - beginning with the guilds. After a period of apprenticeship, one became a "master". Eventually the doctorates were created, a sign that the student has moved beyond just mastery but has now reached the pinnacle. Only doctors can confer the degree of doctor on another. So, it is an honor to be invited into the fold as your work is judged by those who have already attained this degree of knowledge.

After almost 8 years, lots of work, sacrifice and expense, it's done! Several people congratulated me, too - and I really do get it. We lived apart for 3 of the years when he started this journey in California. He took this past year off to complete the writing while I worked and supported us. I was moved when he began his presentation thanking me for allowing him to do that and for caring for us. I was just happy to have him home again. But, I know now it is a great privilege to not work,  to do what you love, especially when someone else is paying the bills! was my pleasure, Lee D. Can't wait to see what's next for you.
We really celebrated - whoo hoo! Went for a walk on the beach, then to the Worker Bee cafe for breakfast the next morning - that was his only request - in Carpinterea - near Montecito, CA. It was a ritual many of his school buddies repeated each month when they met during the 3 years of classes. Here are some photos of the day, starting with a walk on the beach.

 A little National Geographic on our walk.

 Carpinteria Beach.

View from the beach toward land. Really.

 California sun required that I wear a hat - jeesh - it is so intense.
I never wear a hat like this otherwise!

The Worker Bee Cafe - since 1965. :-)
Love those bisquits and honey!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Best Ever Mexican Food

They sell t-shirts. Before I leave, I'm havin' one!

The kind of salsa you can't stop eating. 

My "new" Margarita - only Cuervo Gold and Triple Sec. 
Bring 3 - 4 slices lime on the side. Salt on top.
Squeeze limes yourself. Never too sugary that way.

 Lee's Chicken Burrito with the freshest black beans and only a bit of rice.
(I think bad Mexican restaurants load up on rice because it is cheap.)
This was mostly chicken and the most delicious lime / jalapeno sauce.

Lee and I drove to Carpinteria today - a short reach from Santa Barbara. We stay here at a Best Western which sounds mostly dull, but is actually really nice - a gorgeous courtyard filled with bougainvilla, banana palm and I don't know what else, but lovely all the same.

It is a place we know. When Lee was a student at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Montecito, this is where they housed many of the companions of the students - we stayed here together on many occasions. Wanting to stay close for dinner (no car!) we got word of a great Mexican place called Delgado's and walked the two blocks. Carpenteria may be 85% Hispanic. It is made up of the working classes  - all those hard-working people who work for the wealthier classes of Santa Barbara. So, we figured a Mexican restaurant in Carpenteria is probably the real deal!

Well, it was as good as we could have imagined. Best ever for me (girl from Iowa and Minnesota.) Even New York doesn't have very good Mexican (authentic) restaurants. Lots of over-priced upscale Mexican, but not much that is just great quality, fresh, fair priced food. This bill including 3 drinks, 2 dinners and guacamole - $45.00.

Delgados in Carpinteria - if you are in the 'hood, don't miss it.

The LA Thing

Well,  now it's tested. I really don't like LA much. I thought for a long time, it was just my neuroses that didn't like LA. Now I know. It's me. I really don't vibe with LA.

It's fine if you don't need history and moss-covered buildings and cobbly streets and architectural surprizes tucked away in corners. It's fine. The food is good. The ocean is dramatic where the mountains dip down to lift it up. It's always nice to have palm trees wherever you are if you ask me. So that's nice. The weather is good - really, really good. In fact, it probably doesn't get better. Except for me, I would be bored out of my gourd to have that every day of the year. Even 2/3 of the year. But, don't get me wrong, I can see why some people wouldn't ever get bored with it. My husband is one of those people.

The other thing about LA that made me laugh is this: we arrived on Saturday mid-day, rented a car, parked it in the garage of the hotel and never, ever got back in the car until we left today for Santa Barbara. Dinner at Chaya in Venice Beach? We called a cab. Took a cab home. For both of us the thought of being on vacation and spending it on San Vicente Blvd or the 405 or Wilshire over in Hollywood made us itch. So we just did nothing that couldn't be done on foot (after one night in the cab.) I now know this is what we love so much about New York. I just LOVE LOVE LOVE not being a slave to my car. So, we didn't do much in LA. Really nothing except walk along the bluff overlooking the ocean in Santa Monica, walked to have lunch with a lovely couple (will tell you more about that in the next post!), walked to dinner, wrote, walked to breakfast. That is it! No Chateau Marmont, or Viceroy for drinks. Just boring, boring, boring. But, as I was really needing to chill, it was quitea nice kind of boring. I just don't want to ever live there. Or have to return very often.

Today, we headed north for Santa Barbara because Lee's oral defense is tomorrow. (No, this does not involve a dentist or orthodontist - this is all about getting his PhD...:-) When we return to Minneapolis, he will now have to go to work, which seems to make him a little nervous. You know, figuring out how to make a living isn't the easiest thing in the world. And then, once you do figure it out - you still have to do it - to make it happen. That can be even harder. Then, again, sometimes, it all just falls in your lap. That calling stuff is funny business. (I'd love to hear some stories about how you all have found your callings!)

But, back to LA. When Lee lived there from fall 2004 to fall 2007, I had to visit. Well, I was insecure enough that my husband and I were living apart. And I didn't feel at all at home in LA - in fact, I felt like a freak - an Iowa farm girl in my men's Gap jeans and black J crew t-shirts (that's all I could afford at the time.) At least I had a cool pair of Frye boots in 2004. No one else did then, so I probably looked a little like a lesbian in that outfit, come to think  of it.  I just know I didn't look anything like the LA women with their thongs peeking out of the top of their coral Juicy velour pants tucked into their Uggs.  So I hated the place because it felt like a threat to me, to my marriage and to everything I understood. I kept saying that I thought it was kind of shallow and not very interesting or intellectually energetic. Too casual for me. Blah, blah, blah.

Well, who would have known that I still think these things after spending the weekend there? I no longer feel insecure about LA and its women. (NY has cured me of that.) It just really isn't my thing. At least I know that I wasn't crazy then. My distaste for the culture and geography still stands.

I like green. I like lush. I like history. I like (old) architecture. I like density. I despise cars. I like diversity. I like seasons. I like elegant men and women - not overtly sexy men and women. I like to be covered, not exposed. I don't like too much sun (I hate getting my skin burned.)

C'e la vie. We all have our preferences. And one of the great things about getting older is that, if things work out,  you get to live your preferences. What are yours?????

Sunday, September 4, 2011

La Garçonne Moderne - my FAVORITE look!

Especially here in LA, where women bare as much as they can legally get by with in public, 
this is the epitome of beauty to me. Channeling Katherine Hepburn. Covered and leaving it all to the imagination.
This coat is on my wish list by Kris Kim.
*From the NY Times, T The Moment, 9/4/11

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Reporting from Santa Monica

The unmistakable Pacific ocean.

Shutters on the Beach. Lovely.

I'm feeling like a travel writer these past few weeks. I realized tonight at dinner in Venice Beach, California (with Lee) that I have been in my 3-4 favorite places in the US in the last 2 1/2 weeks! New York, Charleston, Minneapolis, Santa Monica / Santa Barbara (where we are headed on Monday). The only place I can think of that I also love, but didn't make in the past 2 1/2 weeks is New Orleans. It seems insincere to complain about being tired when I am so lucky to spend time in these amazing places.

And, it is all for good reason. I had to move Isabelle to Charleston - a right of passage and great pleasure for me. Then, of course returned to MSP for work and family and general life. And, today, we flew to LA for Lee. His turn. On Tuesday, he presents an oral defense of his PhD dissertation at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara. (I guess he could have attended a school in Nebraska and I would not be nearly as happy to attend this ceremony.) I'm so proud of him - that he got this darn dissertation done! 250 pages - it's a book. He's written a book and we get to celebrate it on Tuesday.

So we had this great day - after a long, hard week. It started out on this perfect note when I asked for an upgrade at the check in desk at our gate and got it! Loved sitting in 1A and 1B - I got lots of writing done, had a glass of wine and a perfectly nice goat cheese pizza. And LA is just far enough that first class is especially nice! Then, we went to FOX rent-a-car. They were out of cars with about 40 people waiting for one! We didn't really know what to do. After almost an hour, we thought we'd just go to our hotel and forget a car. We'd get one on Monday to drive to Santa Barbara. But, we hung around, joking about how things had gone well for us today so let's just trust the big Michelle Bachman universe (wink, wink). Before you know it, a big old Nissan Altima pulls into the lot and they call our name. Another upgrade and we didn't have to pay for it. (We booked the super compact size!) 
Off we go to the hotel. I am not a fan of hotels. In fact, I hate hotels. I like to stay in apartments or homes or just a hole in the wall as long as it has a refrigerator and coffee machine. Lee booked this and it was a crap shoot that I would not complain. We are so "vibing" with this ask and you shall receive thing, I ask for some money to fall out of the sky - joking. Now this is true. I get to the room, clean out my messy wallet to tuck away the reciept from the cab this morning and FIND $220! in a pocket I had forgotten! So this is a really good day! 

And....ya know...the room has a perfectly fine scale. The TV isn't the size of Mt. Everest. There are two full beds so you don't have to deal with that mammoth king size thing. There is free wifi, a nice desk, a nice lounge chair and great air circulation if you open both your door and window. It is across the street from the beach and the breeze is just exquisite. It is like early fall in Minneapolis. So cool and beautiful. BUT SUNNNY! BLUE SUNNY SKIES.

It is only 8:30 and we are headed to bed - way past our normal bedtime in MSP. But I wanted to post some photos from Day 1 in LA. I just can't get my head around this place, but we've had a lot of fun, it is really relaxing and we had a great dinner at Chaya Venice. Here are some scenes. (Dinner pics from Chaya tomorrow after I upload.) For now...sweet dreams.

Yoga on the beach. 

Back therapy?

Lee at Shutters on the Beach.

The Dude?

Okay, this was kind of scary. This is under the Santa Monica Pier with high tide coming in.

This needs no sub-title.