Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book: A Whole New Mind.

I just finished a book that I loved and wanted to share. It's not a typical book I'd expect me to read but it was a wonderful refreshing break. It's called A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future. If I didn't know better, I'd call it a business book. But it's really so much more than that. There are great stories, lots of resources and links to fun quizzes. I love quizzes! It basically looks at how we are coming out of the Information Age where left-brainers ruled the world and garnered all of the attention and success. But now we are coming into a new age, the Conceptual Age.  That's because many of the things that the left-brainers did up until now are either being automated by computers or outsourced to China and India. So, if you want to be relevant, you have to approach your work life from the right brain.  Many of the tips-and-tricks are things I naturally do anyway which gave me a huge confidence boost and a giant sigh of relief.  I'm handing it to my husband who is totally not right brained. I think he'll love it, too. It's fun, interesting and entertaining. Here's a fun quiz here and here. And you can see an interview with the author and Oprah here

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

TV: Homeland.

Holy flipping' cow, you guys. A few weekends ago, I watched the first season of Homeland.  I heard how amazing it was last year but I held out until now to watch it.  I love watching entire seasons like that in the summer. And once you start, you can't stop!  I honestly don't remember another show that is such a phenomenal piece of work on every level. The acting is out of the world. You will be amazed with Claire Danes's talent. Mandy Patinkin, too.  And I have had a crush on Damian Lewis since he was on Life. The writing is phenomenal. The story totally grips you. It's heartfelt, sexy, smart, fast, human, intuitive, brilliant, thrilling. If you've seen it, let me know ASAP so we can discuss everything.  I'm even on the chat boards so I can talk about it -- that's how bad I've got it! But if you haven't seen it, you can watch it On Demand if you have Showtime. Or you can wait to buy the DVD when it comes out at the end of August. But why wait that long! Seriously, I'd sign up for Showtime today if you don't have it and start watching it tonight.  If you don't know what it's about ... Claire Danes is a CIA officer who is fiercely passionate and dedicated to her job in counter-terrorism focusing on Al Qaeda.  She just doesn't always play by the rules. And she can't tell anyone that she has to take medication for a mental issue. She's sort of a secret secret agent and plays this juxtaposition flawlessly. Mandy Patinkin is her boss and mentor. He's a calm, cool cucumber to her frantic and manic mess of brilliance.  And Damian Lewis is a Marine who was MIA for eight years but was recently discovered to be alive after being an Al Qaeda POW that entire time. He comes home to a wife and kids who have finally moved on thinking he was dead. And there you have it ... a beautiful mess that is the genius of Homeland. The second season doesn't start until the end of September. I'm counting down the minutes.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

New Artist: Andrew Brischler

Do you get contemporary or modern art. I sorta don't. But I really try! A friend of mine is a major collector so I always try to ask questions (such as "why is a red dot on a piece of paper a piece of art?"). We had dinner a few weeks ago and he brought along a gallery owner friend of his. They were talking about this guy being a new -- unknown -- thing. And I loved his work!  I thought I'd share ... do you like it?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Heart Health.

I lied a little bit yesterday when I said I wasn't curious about much these days. I'm super curious about heart health since my dad died --shockingly -- of a heart attack. I'm reflecting on his life and what he could have done to prevent it ... but mostly I'm making sure my brother, nephews and I have all the information we need now that we know heart disease runs in our family. And that's what I want to share --

Did you know that coronary disease is the number one killer or men and women worldwide?  I had heard that before but I never put it into context (I've always been fearful of cancer). And this shocked me -- sometimes a fatal heart attack is the only warning sign that you have coronary disease. But then you are dead so you can't do anything about it. Geesh. That's basically what happened with my dad.

Here's what I've learned -- don't smoke, but definitely have a drink or two (twist my arm). Keep your cholesterol low and your blood pressure, too. Exercise a lot. The more hard core, the better. But it's consistency that matters -- even if you just walk every day. Talk to your doctor about taking a baby aspirin every day. Eat a low-fat diet that's rich in whole grains, fruits and veggies.

If you are curious about your own health, there's lots of great tips here ... even a quiz. I love quizzes!

Here's hoping you and your loved ones are happy and healthy ...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Thank you.

Hi girls ... just wanted to say THANK YOU for all of your kind notes and messages about my dad. They really made me smile! And it was lovely to meet some of you in the process. Some of you are shy readers and don't say hi ... so it will be nice to think about you when I write my posts from now on.

My dad died of a heart attack. He died way too young. But I feel somewhat relieved that he died on vacation in his favorite place in the world. And he didn't suffer.

I'm exhausted. And I'm just not up for curiosity and adventure ... which is, in a nutshell, what leads me to what I like to discuss here.  I'll be working in New York this week and being there (in August!) might suck any energy I have. But I had some draft posts and ideas lying around so I'll try to publish those this week.  I'm not sure when I'll be feeling like myself again ... or when I'll resume Book Club (it's takes a lot of work & energy). Thanks for understanding, and I'll look forward to connecting here when I feel better. Again, thank you. xoxo

{Artwork by Nyoin found here}.

Monday, July 23, 2012

My Dad.

Hi you guys. It's with unbelievable shock and sadness that I tell you that my dad died yesterday. It was sudden and unexpected so I'm trying to try to come to terms with what has happened. I'm going to take this week off from blogging -- including Wednesday's Book Club.  As I write this, I simply cannot believe this has happened.  I'll tell you more about it when I can.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Raincoast Crisps.

I'm sort of a cracker nut. I love them. Ritz, oyster crackers, TJ's Savory Thins, Triscuits with cheese ... or how about Carr's water table crackers or those ones where there's a pretzel on one side and a cracker on the other?  Geniusly delicious! I could snack on them all day. I know I've met a dear friend when they not only admit to having a box of Wheat Thins for lunch, but they are proud of it.  But I do my best to eat healthfully and lately that means more of what's whole and natural from mother nature and less of anything processed. But I found a cracker that fits both -- Raincoast Crisps. I actually heard about them from a health nut girl who talked about them actually being good for you.  They are relatively low in calories for their size, and with all the nuts and seeds, they are packed with fiber and a little bit of protein.  My favorites are the ones with cranberries and the other one with figs.  The bummer is that they aren't cheap -- my Whole Foods carries them for about $8 a box. Yowza. But they are worth it.  With a little bit of cheese or an apple, I'm really full after eating a few so they last a while.  A friend of mine said they have a knockoff of the Rosemary flavor at Trader Joe's but I have yet to try those.  I have yet to eat them any other way than snacking but I think they'd be a great party appetizer or even crumbled on soups ands salads.  Love!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Happy Summer Book Club // Chapter No. 6

"Make time for friends."


  • Remember birthdays.
  • Be generous.
  • Show up.
  • Don't gossip.
  • Make three new friends.
Another chapter that I loved! It's great to hear that not only is friendship is a strong predictor of happiness but that you will actually live longer because of it. And -- wow -- that friendships are a healthier thing to do than quitting smoking.  Geez. This chapter had great timing, too -- there was a good article in the NY Times last weekend about the stages of friendships Did you see it? I really related to it as it talks about how much harder it is to have friendships as you get older. 

Going in reverse of the chapter, do you guys like making new friends? Is it a priority for you? I always think making new friends is fun.  I remember so many times when my girlfriends and I have squealed to each other that we met the neatest new girl. But -- like that article said -- it can really take a lot of time to cultivate a new friendship. I think there's a big difference between friends and people you socialize with. I've learned the hard way that some people just aren't up for the task of the heavy lifting when times are tough.  Lots of people will work for dinner and wine. There are few people who can help you through life's greatest tragedies. So while I think it's fun to keep things fresh with trying to meet new friends, cultivating your long-term friendships and making sure you aren't taking each other for granted is really important, too. 

Maybe that's one reason that I didn't really like her birthday idea. What did you guys think about that? I actually love the idea of it. It's just that I've done that over the years and don't find it to be especially bonding. I love sending birthday cards in the mail. And I've done my own experiments. Sometimes those far and away friends never acknowledge cards. And they may be bad at reciprocating or keeping in touch. So it ends up being a sad thing. So I stopped putting the pressure on myself to do that. If I feel like it, I do it. But I don't think that strengthened any friendships. Maybe email is better, like she's doing?  But Facebook -- wow, I think we can all agree that birthdays on Facebook are pretty rad, right? (And P.S. here's something ironic -- must be out of business because their domain name is for sale.) I'd love to hear any similar ideas you have to the birthday email idea.

And the gossip!  I totally agree -- and disagree all at the same time. But best-best friends need to be in the spousal privilege, too, don't you think?  I can't imagine seeing a friend suffer (in maybe a sensitive issue like money, husbands or substance abuse) and not asking another friend if we should be concerned and brainstorm about what we can do to help. That's not gossip! Gossip is mean-spirited and unconstructive. And let me tell you, I've been on the receiving end of ugly gossip and it's not pretty. So I learned a long time ago not to assume and not to judge. But not having a community around friendships sort of negates and important part of friendships to me -- it's the village that's part of the importance, too. But back to the spousal privilege -- I can't believe she's trying to spare her husband that. I just can't imagine holding that in! Talk about unhappy.  I really want to unleash. And I love doing it. :)

Are you going to try any of her techniques to make yourself open to meeting new friends? It really is such a fun thing to have a new friend in your life ... even though I did laugh out loud about her suggestions to "show a readiness to be pleased and follow others' conversational leads." But I've moved cities quit a few times and those would be reminders when you are trying to find new friends. And what did you reflect on for the Be Generous & Show Up lessons? I absolutely loved the tidbit about the more often you see a person the more intelligent and attractive they become. Or how about the "fundamental attribution error" where we think other people's poor actions are a reflection on their character but when we do something, we have good reason. Hysterical!

We are halfway through the book, ladies! Are you doing any sort of your own Happiness Project? I got the journal that I told you about but I'm no closer. At the end of the summer, I think I'll take the time I put into re-reading the chapter and writing about it here towards focusing on my own little project.  Don't forget -- MJ is writing about this process this summer, too. Have you been over to say hello? 

Here's a link to the book she talked about -- Practical Wisdom for Parents: Demystifying the Preschool Years

{Photo by Beth Lane. Found here}.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Travel Tips.

Did you read this article in the Sunday NY Times last weekend? I felt myself thinking three things:

1. Thank God I don't travel that much any more.
2. These people are crazy.
3. Oh, but wait, that's a great idea!

The article talks about young Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and tech executives who are always on a plane ... and they detail some of their tips and tricks. Here are my favorites:

A starter pistol (see #2 above). Yes, this idea is crazy but equally brilliant.  One guy suggests you buy one ($20 on Amazon, for example), put it in your checked bag, and then tell them you have a locked and unloaded firearm.  There's no chance the TSA is losing that bag! Genius.

Same guy with another great tip -- parking tickets can be cheaper than airport parking.  I know people who did this when I lived in San Francisco at the height of the tech boom. There literally weren't enough places to park in The City. So people just budgeted in parking tickets to their monthly budget.

Do you hate entering all of your flight details into your calendar, printing out maps, getting directions?  TripIt is an app and free website that does all of that for you.  (I was actually just cleaning up the ridiculous amount of apps I have on my phone that I never use and this was one of them -- hmmm, might need to get that one back).

Forget your laptop/cell charger?  Check with the hotel lost-and-found. They probably have it.

And I could use this one!  Do you stay in so many hotels that you can never remember which room you are in?  That's why you need the Room app -- it remembers it for you.

WorldNomads insurance looks pretty cool.  And some of the girls had clothing suggestions but none looked exciting to me. I think Wendy had the best idea with this scarf.

{Stephanie Rosenbloom wrote the article and she has a new column called The Getaway. Her packing tips are here. Photo by Alan Gant found here}.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Movie: Your Sister's Sister

I've been on a bit of a movie marathon lately and loving getting sucked backed in. Your Sister's Sister is my favorite kind of movie -- an Indie flick with great actors and you don't know what's going to happen so you are just along for the ride. Honestly, it starts out a little slow and you are like "What's this movie about? Where is it going?" Then it gets funny, a little awkward, sweet, heartfelt ... and well, you get the picture.  You know me -- I don't want to tell you too much.  Emily Blunt's best friend is Mark Duplass and her sister is Rosemarie DeWitt. That's all I'm going to tell you! If you need more then watch this clip or the trailer (but honestly, it spills way too much) or read this review.  I had to go to an out-of-the-way theater but just saw that it's OnDemand at the same time. Very cool!  If you like little films that have the most charm, then I think you'll love this.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Spray Tans Cause Cancer.

OK, seriously ... how much can we take?  Last month I found out that spray tans could cause cancer. It actually makes sense -- it's what you breath in, not what's put on your skin.  I really like being bronzed. Year round. It's one of those little things that I splurged on -- I feel slimmer and so much more vibrant than when I'm pale and white.  It's a major confidence boost. One of my best friends died of skin cancer -- and a few others have had cancerous spots removed -- so baking away like I did in college is just out of the question. Up until a month ago when I found this out, I did MysticTan -- where you stand in the booth (like Ross did). I had a great deal at a local salon where I paid $100 a month and could go often as I liked. It rocked!  That meant I went about once or twice a week and kept it up with Kiehl's self tanning lotion and Jergens lotion.  They quit business and so I had to go to other salons. And that's when I noticed that these other booths felt very unhealthy -- I really felt the sensation of breathing in chemicals. So I wasn't surprised about this new cancer development. Just really pissed that all the good things cause cancer! But now I'm ghostly white and it's the middle of summer.  I don't want to do the custom spray tans because they are too pricey to keep up.  And the tanning lotions just don't seem to go dark enough. What's a girl to do?

{Photo of the always gorgeously bronzed JLo from Allure}.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Conversation.

Did you guys watch The Conversation with Amanda de Cadenet on Lifetime?  I loved it.  It ended a few weeks ago but I just noticed that the full episodes -- and shorter videos -- are available online.  Do you know of Amanda de Cadenet?  The only thing I really knew about her is that she dated Keanu Reeves a long time ago when I had a crush on him (hehehe). And she's a photographer. You can read more about her here. She's pals with Demi Moore, apparently, and a lot of other notable ladies ... so for this show, she sits on a sofa with them for good ol' girlie chit chat. It ranges from sex, self esteem, parenting, loss, body image, style, inspiration ... you name it.  It actually runs the gamut of what I like to discuss here on Hello, Moxie! I actually wish I would have watched it with a little notebook in hand because there are lots of lovely inspirational anecdotes that come up. And they splice the conversations with the famous people with short snippets of street interviews with other women.

A few interesting tidbits -- a lot of women's favorite sex position is doggy style! And most everyone agrees that missionary is just fine, sometimes being on top is not all it's cracked up to be.  Hilarious! And maybe you'll only find this interesting if you watched all the episodes like I did but I found myself fascinated with Amanda's styling choices. She looks wildly different in each segment. And at the end of the season, I learned why -- she purposely doesn't have a mirror in her house!  Can you imagine?  I want to learn more about this. Some of the girls really dish it up. While others are way too prim and guarded (boring!). Overall, I really think it's another important opportunity for women to bond -- especially if it's just to realize that talking about it helps, and that we are really more alike with all of our struggles than we know.


{The above image is a screen grab of Gwyneth Paltrow and Amanda from an episode online}. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Happy Summer Book Club // Chapter No. 5

"Be Serious About Play"


  • Find more fun.
  • Take time to be silly.
  • Go off the path.
  • Start a collection.

I loved love loved this chapter! Did you?  It hit me on so many levels. First of all, the idea of "Go outside and play" is exhilarating to me!  Just to play. To be yourself. To be free. To be silly. I think it's one of the things I want most from life but lately I haven't been finding.  And I love the definition that play is "an activity that's very satisfying, has no economic significance, doesn't create social harm, and doesn't necessarily lead to praise or recognition."  When I thought of this, I immediately thought of some of my favorite childhood places and memories -- the burnt out center of a tree where I made a fort; an evening when I was a kid and two of our families played kick-the-can (one of the dads jumped off the roof to kick the can and win!); and a Christmas evening when my nephew and I played secret agent Star Wars with walkie talkies.  I'm really going to hold onto these memories and let them inspire me for what I want to do in my life that's more silly and childlike.

Like we learned in chapter three about work, I love asking yourself the question "What did you like to do when you were a child?" I think I think about this all the time -- but I don't think I've ever posed that question to myself so simply.  I feel like I'm always trying to get back to that joy.  That's why I have Lucy. That's why I really really really want to get horses back in my life. That's why I enjoy hiking as a workout. Do you incorporate this into your life now? Are there things you loved as a child that popped into your head when you were reading this that you want to try to add back in? Please share!

I always love how Gretchen comes back to her "Be Gretchen" mantra -- and how she's learning to embrace that just because other people like it (or that you should like it) doesn't mean it makes you happy.  She needed to acknowledge "what I enjoyed, not what I wished I enjoyed." I wish everything came as easily as her example of the children's lit book club.  Maybe it took more soul searching than it comes off in the book but it certainly was a magical connection.  But isn't that the perfect example of not caring what anyone else thinks -- and then in that moment, you bring yourself new friendships and so much joy? I need to find my own version of that ... I just don't know what it is yet.  Did her idea give you any ideas?  Fingers crossed I can find something similar for me! I just don't know where to look quite yet.

But the part that I've been thinking about the most after this chapter is this -- "I can do anything I want, but I can't do everything I want."  That hit me hard. And it made me breathe a sigh of relief in a way.  You see, I am a list maker. And I feel like there's so much to do in the world and that I'm not going to have enough time before I die to do it all. I literally feel the weight of this stress on a daily basis! So since I read this, I'm trying to lighten up and put it all in perspective -- that doing it all isn't light and fun and playful. It makes me stressed, not happy. How much happier would I be if I could just let go of some of my crazy lists and just enjoy being silly and playing in the moment.  Whew! Heavy, I know.  Do you ever feel this way?  When I figure out how to let go, I'll let you know.

Side note:  I literally laughed OUT LOUD when I read the part about Blank Books.  I, too, had an obsession with blank books for a while. I still do, to an extent (and part of that is now this blog). And it's right up there with doing what makes you happy -- not what should make you happy.  I started my books in college.  I read so many magazines and was always in love with the fashion, the inspiration, the ideas, the words.  So I started clipping them out and making dreamy notebooks. Then I graduated into a shopping book that I kept in my handbag -- it was a collection of all that I needed and wanted to buy.  One Saturday night when I was about 23, my brother said to me "Are you going to go out to that party? Or are you going to stay home and paste in your books?"  He meant it to be so sarcastic (and probably condescending) to try to show me that I should be out partying and whooping it up ... but all I really wanted to do was be home by myself and my dreams (because that's what the books are, really).

So on this note, the idea of her Happiness Box or her Interest Log were things I immediately wanted to do! But I realized I already do a version of them in my own way.  With the Interest Log, I sort of need to let that be more authentic and naturally take its course rather than putting it on a list because it makes me happy. Because all I think it does it make me realize how I don't have enough time to do all the stuff that makes me happy, you know?

And finally, start a collection.  What do you collect? Is it something like teapots and figurines ... or is it something for memories? Do they make you happy? I loved that quote from Andy Warhol about how once could be exhilarating but something everyday just loses its appeal (well, it was something like that!). I collect a few different things but the most important thing to me -- at least right now -- is pinecones.  I've always liked them (they remind me of my childhood) and I just think they are so beautiful. And now they have a special memory of trips with my husband -- so that definitely makes me happy.

Childhood, childhood, childhood ... wow, it really all comes back to that, doesn't it?

I'd love to know how you go off the beaten path!  Please share your tips.

(Psst! Don't forget to check out MJ's happiness project on her blog.)

{Photo ©Jeanloup Sieff. Found here}.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sip it up!

I don't know what's going on, but I'm seeing cute straws everywhere. Are you? A few weeks ago I was getting ready for a photo shoot and decided I needed some cute straws. I wasn't sure of the color combinations I would need exactly so I bought every color combination I could get (it was a business expense, ladies, that's how I reasoned it).  I got stripes, I got polka dots, I got solids in flashy fancy colors.  And they now make me so happy!  I think they look adorable in the water glass you sip from all day at your desk. Or they make an ordinary Tuesday dinner seem really fun. And how cute would they be for a party?  I got mine here, here and here. They were just a few bucks at the party supply store ... they are about $8 a box in fancier paper stops.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Book: Gone Girl

Everywhere I looked the past month, I saw great reviews on Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  After a draining month of work, I badly needed to escape into a page-turner for a weekend. I started reading it on a Friday night ... and less than 36 hours later, I was done.  You guys, it was good.  Whew, what a journey!  I can't wait to talk about it.  Will you please read it so we can discuss? It's perfect for a beach day, a lazy weekend or a plane ride. You've got one of those coming up this summer, right?

I won't tell you much but here's what it's about -- on Nick and Amy's fifth wedding anniversary, she mysteriously disappears.  The book is told from both perspectives -- he writes a chapter, and the next chapter is something she's written from her diary. You are kept guessing for the whole ride. I can't tell you any more! But just know that I thought the writing was great, the story unfolds was a unique way and the characters are interesting.  If you like to know more about books before you read them, you can see a review here

I think you are going to love it ...

Monday, July 2, 2012

Happy Birthday, America!

Hey American girls, isn't this a funny week week with the 4th falling smack dab in the middle of the week? I'm taking this week off from blogging -- I need to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. I'll be back on Monday the 9th (but that's not a total promise -- sometimes I can't help it and might be dying to share something before then). Book Club is taking a break this week and back on the 11th. Whatever your schedule is, I hope you have a fabulous time. Happy Summer!

{Photo by me of Jen Pinkston for her style column on Camille Styles}.

Friday, June 29, 2012


Remember a while back when I told you about that trampoline class ... and how I was dying for it to come to LA? Well, it did!  For the past month or so since they opened, I've been having the time of my life at this workout class. I've even been driving an hour each way in traffic to get to it because it's not exactly close to where I live.

Here's the deal -- it's called Sky Zone. They have them all over the country with new locations opening all the time. I describe it as Chuck E. Cheese but with trampolines. See that photo above? That's about a third of its size -- it's a giant warehouse filled with trampolines.   It's mostly for kids and birthday parties -- and there are more trampoline arenas that are used for dodge ball, basketball and doing flips into a foam pit.  Before they open to to the public a few times a week, they offer aerobics classes in the morning called SkyRobics. Each teacher is a little different but essentially you free jump for the first 10 minutes practicing all of the fun moves like tucks, toe touches, seat drops, side-to-side (it feels like skiing!) and such. You will be laughing hysterically and having a blast ... and then you'll realize that you are totally out of breath and sweating buckets. Then for the rest of the hour, you do different workout moves -- on the trampoline -- with some resistance bands and medicine balls.  You are usually in little teams. While your teammate is doing a toning drill, you bunny hop down the entire length of the trampolines -- hopping into each of those squares and back.  It's exhilarating! And exhausting. I can't stop talking about it and have brought lots of friends who are now buying packages and bringing their friends.  It's literally the best workout because it's so fun and you don't feel like you are working out.  Your first class is free, and then classes are about $15 each.  I hope you try it! Let me know what you think.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Movie: Jeff, Who Lives at Home.

Wow, it's been a long time since I've done a movie post! But here's one I saw over the weekend and was really surprised how much I liked it. It looked like something I wanted to see in the theater but seemed like it might be dark and there wasn't much buzz about it. Then a couple of weeks ago I photographed Mark Duplass (an actor, writer and director whom I'm sure you'll hear lots about this year) who wrote and directed it with his brother. You know everyone in the film -- Andy from The Office, Jason Segal, Judy Greer and Susan Sarandon. It's about a slacker dude who is searching for the meaning of life in a way that is funny, charming and sort of relatable.  The movie takes place in the span of one day as Jeff goes on a journey with his odd-ball family.  It's less an 90 minutes long, really well done and very sweet.  I didn't think it was dark at all. Have you seen it? If you watch it, let me know what you think!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Happy Summer Book Club // Chapter No. 4

Hi girls! Happy Wednesday! While I'm a dog mom, I didn't feel really authorized to lead the discussion of this chapter on parenting. So I turned to my friend Wendy who has been a previous contributor, and has been reading and sharing her comments weekly.  But don't get me wrong -- I have plenty to say -- I'll just be in the comments section. Wendy, take it away!

"Lighten Up"

April: Parenthood

  • Sing in the morning.
  • Acknowledge the reality of people's feelings.
  • Be a treasure house of happy memories.
  • Take time for projects.

Wow.  I feel like I could have written some of this chapter, particularly her thoughts about fog happiness and the line, "I was so focused on checking off the items on my to-do list that I forgot what really mattered".  Needless to say, I very much related to this chapter, appreciated its honestly, and am thankful for the great reminders of how to make the happiness of parenting less elusive.

Sing in the morning:  Since my boys immediately plead with me to "stop singing" when I try, I don't think I'm going to bust into song at breakfast.  However, lightening things up in the morning is magical; the routine is smoother and everyone leaves the house happy when the tone changes from rushed and anxious to fun and joyful.  We probably all move a little faster when we are happier, too, which really gives me no excuse but to adjust my morning attitude as a rule, not a rare exception.  I suppose summer is the perfect time to develop this habit, since we are generally more relaxed.  How great would it be to have this ingrained by the time school starts again and things get crazy?  It's on the list!

Acknowledge the reality of other's feelings:  Yep, it works.  But, wow, is it hard to do sometimes.  I have a very short fuse when it comes to what I think are irrational feelings or unnecessary and over-the-top displays of emotion.  When things are calm I can readily practice this, but my biggest challenge is to remember this when things are harried.  I am certain the small investment in time to be more sensitive will reap great benefits, but I'd love some tips on remembering to practice this in the heat of the moment.

Be a treasure house of happy memories:  I love the notion that "recalling happy times helps boost happiness in the present".  My boys have recently discovered their baby books.  I can see that it makes them happy to see evidence of our joy over their arrival and earliest days, and it makes me smile to explain all of the little goodies I've saved.  On another note, it also raised the question of why my younger son's baby book is thinner than his brother's.  Oops!  On another note, we sometimes have spontaneous "dance parties" in our kitchen, and even our dog gets in on the action.  Nothing lightens the mood faster than a family of four, plus a Golden Retriever, boogying amidst half-eaten meals.

Take time for projects:  I am historically bad at this.  Projects, particularly the fun and artsy ones, go against every bit of type-A-ness in me; they are messy, inefficient, and create more "stuff" to dust/ store/ deal with.  However, just last week I had a "project break-through" and it was pretty amazing.  We made a potted herb garden, complete with painted Popsicle stick herb markers, for the boys' sitter.  It was so much fun, everyone got into it, and we were all very proud of the finished product.  It made an otherwise boring summer morning into a very happy experience with no fighting and fun memories.  Now I get it; "take time for projects" is my new summer mantra.  I'm culling Pinterest for great ideas, so please pass some good (and not too messy?) ones along!

This chapter was such a great reminder of how to help lift the fog from the great privilege and joys of parenting.  It also reminded me to savor the times when the happiness just hits you like a 2x4, like early this morning; I spent a long weekend in Boston and returned home about 1:30am to my dog-child who about wiggled out of her skin she was so happy to see me, my six-year old who threw his arms around me and hugged me tight while still sleeping, and my eight-year who old bounded into our room this morning and snuggled with me far longer than usual.  With a welcome home like that, how can I possibly not lighten up and enjoy everything to its fullness?  A little perspective does wonders!

I am so very happy you initiated this book club, Denise; you provided me the impetus to finally dive into this book, and I am so enjoying reading it and exploring it with our and your readers.  Thank you, thank you!

It's me, Denise, again!  I can't wait to hear what you all have to say. Please please share!  Your comments are what make this book club and discussion meaningful. And P.S. Is there an upcoming chapter you want to lead? I'd love to have you lead a discussion. P.P.S. Don't forget, MJ is dedicating her blog to happiness this summer -- check it out here.

{Photo found here, photographer unknown}.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Cutest Emery Boards.

I spotted these in Elle. Aren't they so cute? I think they'd make the cutest gift for a friend along with your favorite bottle of nail polish. I've been using this color so far this summer and love how it doesn't peel or chip. Get them here. 

{Artwork created by me via the images on Parkside paper & gift}.

Monday, June 25, 2012

What's the secret password?

I laughed really hard at this article yesterday in the NY Times about the lunatic things we all driven to do just to remember our passwords. It was especially funny to me because one of my best friends was in town on Friday and we got into a hysterical laughing fit over our password mania. She never uses the same password twice -- if she's on a site where she needs to enter a new password, she'll just enter whatever she sees or whatever is on her mind. So, it could be a hotel she's booking for an upcoming vacation, a type of cracker she's eating at her desk or something on her to-do list like "manipedi."  Isn't that hysterical? She organizes them in an address book she keeps near her desk -- her password for Zappos would be under Z and her password for Gmail would be under G.  I'm sort of the opposite. I'm very secret agent about it all and only write my passwords down in code ... because it terrifies me that someone might break into my house, find where I keep the super secret notebook, break my code and have access to my things. It's ridiculous!

But the article echoes what probably drives us all crazy -- there's no uniform language to make it easy on us. Some need to be 4 characters, some need to be longer. Some need letters, numbers and alphanumeric symbols and a capitalization. Some of them make you split the letters up with the others. For the love! I can understand this for banking and such ... but my frequent flyer or shopping accounts?  If there's no credit card stored, I don't understand the need to be 007.

Do you have a crazy system for your passwords?

{Artwork from Amass Blog}.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Who's Your Daddy?

I'm a bit late to the party (three years, in fact) but I heard this song at the gym a couple of weeks ago and can't stop listening!  I love a song that's hysterical, has a good beat and makes you sing it out loud. It's so fun to have all the windows down in the car while I pretend I'm a rapper and belt it out.  I rarely ever say this but it's so much better than the original. Love!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Guess what? Last week I  was able to walk into a photo assignment and say "Hi, I'm Denise ... with Vogue."  Seriously, I had to hold back the giggle attack! I've been reading Vogue since I was 9 so it was definitely a moment. It was a super fun assignment at this place called FarmShop in Brentwood. I'm sure if I lived on that side of town I would quickly add it to my list of the things I love about LA. Here's a link to my photos online.

{Photos by me}.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Happy Summer Book Club // Chapter No. 3

"What do you do in your spare time?"

March -- Work

  • Launch a blog
  • Enjoy the fun of failure
  • Ask for help
  • Work smart
  • Enjoy now

I immediately related with Gretchen with the start of this chapter. First of all, it seems like common sense but this hit me --
Happy people work more hours each week -- and they work more in their free time, too. They tend to be more cooperative, less self-centered, and more willing to help other people - say, by sharing information or pitching in to help a colleague -- and then, because they've helped others, others tend to help them. Also, they work better with others, because people prefer to be around happier people ...
I could really dig into how the people who work the most aren't always the happiest ... but I really related to was following your heart and doing what you love. I left a corporate job to become a photographer. I always meant to be in a creative field -- I just let my stupid head get in the way of what truly makes me happy. I'm glad for that first diversion in my life because it brought me friends who are family, great experiences and life lessons. And it taught me who I don't want to be and how I don't want to act. I remember vividly one weekend at home and saying aloud to myself "I ... am an artist." It just clicked. Why was I trying to deny what was in my heart and soul? In almost every aspect of me, I can relate to that. Once I embraced that, everything fell into place.  So I really connected with Gretchen's journey and how she always admired her sister who never apologized for who she is. I love that ... and would say that I've been teaching myself that lesson almost daily ever since I had the "artist" revelation.
Enthusiasm is more important to mastery than innate ability, it turns out, because the single most important element in developing an expertise is your willingness to practice. Therefore, career experts argue, you're better off pursuing a profession that comes easily and that you love, because that's where you'll be more eager to practice and thereby earn a competitive advantage.
Where are you in your career right now -- are you doing what you love, or are you clocking your time and hoping you can do something else? What do you love to do in your space time? I loved Gretchen's revelation about asking her friend if her school program made her read the text books. And her friend saying that's what she'd want to read anyway. That led Gretchen to realize that she liked reading, writing and research ... and ultimately her new career.  I was talking to Wendy a few weeks ago and we laughed about how in our first job out of college (where we met) everyone loved to work and their hobby was what they did for work. I never understood that at the time. Now I do -- I just wasn't in the right place, I wasn't happy.

I obviously related BIG TIME to her launching a blog.  That whole part about being driven crazy with frustration? Totally true. And for many of my friends who want to start a blog, I know that the first step is crazy scary! Obviously blogs aren't meant for everyone but I think the important step is just that -- a first step toward something that will make you happy. But I loved this -- "One reason that challenge brings happiness is that it allows you to expand your self definition." I think it's so true.

Speaking of the fear of failure ... I read with bated breath the title about enjoying the fun of failure. What? I couldn't wait to see what that was going to be about! But it boils down to being fearless, giving yourself a break with perfection and standing up for yourself, doesn't it?  We always hear "The only thing to fear is fear itself." Putting yourself out there is hard, especially when so many people are mean-spirited and love to knock you down.  But I really loved that she wrote the letter to the guy who critiqued her book. Wasn't that great?!? Who cares what he said in reply -- it must have felt so good. There's such a mentality of letting others get a one-up on your psyche.  Just because someone else thinks you failed does not mean you failed. So I was inspired by that act -- and like her sister said, make no apologies for who you are.

And then she talked about time management, oy!  I'm not sure there's a magical answer. Have any of you tried her 90-minute rule? I have yet to try that -- my workload isn't manageable in that chunk of time. But I do start my day early, and when I'm working on all cylinders, I do find that taking just 15 minutes to tidy up email or my desk or the nagging little things on my list ... well, it really works. But the big thing is that I really want to enjoy now -- that segment hit me hard. I'm always so focused on the goal so I loved hearing about Tal Ben-Shahar's "arrival fallacy:"
... by the time you've arrived at your destination, you're expecting to reach it, so it has already been incorporated into your happiness. Also, arrival often brings more work and responsibility. It's rare to achieve something that brings unadulterated pleasure without added concerns ... You look forward to reaching these destinations, but once you've reached them, they bring emotions other than sheer happiness. And of course, arriving at one goal usually reveals another, yet more challenging goal. 
And she wrote "the fun part doesn't come later, now is the fun part." Every day I try to enjoy the journey ... but it's so hard. Do you struggle with this? How do you enjoy the journey? And what are your examples of the arrival fallacy? I'd love to hear!

I loved this chapter.  Did you? I can't wait to hear what you think! Don't forget ... MJ is writing about her journey with happiness this summer over on her blog, too. Please share if you are doing something similar!

P.S. I know some new photographers read my blog so I want to share this nugget with you -- only expect about 10% of your photos to be worthy of something. Even that's a lot. I learned that back in the days of film -- on a roll of 36 exposures, you could expect to like about 3-4.  Don't expect every single photo you take to be a masterpiece. Even the legends don't make a perfect shot every time -- you just don't see all of their mistakes.  I still use this rule today and I think it's true. And I think that's a good lesson in not being afraid to fail. 

{Collage above from this cute tea towel & this book}.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Greeting Cards

I love getting mail. And sending it! Greeting cards are one of my favorite things to buy and stock up on in advance. Don't you think it's so much easier to go to your box of cards and be able to send out a note quickly rather than putting "get a card" on your list of things to do? And how fun is it to get a surprise note in the mail? It's the best.  I love a great card shop but lately I've been buying a lot online. Amy over at Old Sweet Song recently did some guest posting for Crow & Canary about a trip to The National Stationery Show. She called it Papergasm -- it's so true! Check out her post here with lots of rad links to buy stuff online. And if you have a favorite online shop for paper goods, please share!

{Collage of some of my favorites from Dear Hancock, Studio Olivine, Two Trick Pony, & Blue Barnhouse}.

Monday, June 18, 2012

New Style Column!

Well, this is fun!  I'm going to be part of a new column called My Life, Styled with my friend and colleage Jen Pinkston over on Camille Styles.  Jen's an extraordinary stylist and will be writing about how she styles her life ... and I'll be snapping the photos. What's super fun is that Camille's blog is amazing and working with her and her team as we've brought it together has been actually delightful (yes, delightful!).  But the best part is working with Jen. We've worked on a few jobs together and I love love love her. She's super talented, hysterical, smart and driven. And I love that our lives blend both worlds -- my photography life, her wardrobe stylist life ... and our life in writing blogs.  Check out the first column here.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hotel Locarno.

On our recent trip to Rome, we stayed at the Hotel Locarno. And I loved it. I was a teensy bit nervous about staying there. Everywhere I looked, all arrows pointed to that being the place for us to stay. But there were a lot of bad reviews that I couldn't discount.  So I did a ton of research and decided that the magazines, friends and books that said it was fabulous would out weigh the negative things written online. I figured out that not everyone is looking for the same thing in a hotel. And not everyone has the same aesthetic appreciations or demeanor when traveling.  The pluses were that it was a historic art deco hotel in a great location and that lots of locals hung out there. Also a plus was that it was a place where artists flock to. But we read that it wasn't clean, smelled, could get loud, and that different buildings meant a vastly different room. And after staying there for a week I think I know where it all comes from. Here is our experience ...

We booked our room directly on their website -- I figured that we'd have more pull if we had a problem since we paid them rather than going through a discounted online booking service. And that way I was able to communicate with them directly about our stay. I'm not sure if that helped or not but I hoped it was a good strategy.

When we arrived, we got this room. I had seen it online and was hoping this wouldn't be our room. It smelled like smoke and was sort of dark. Plus, who wants to be in a red room for a week!  But the bathroom was modern and new, just a little small. I was trying to remain positive but my husband wasn't having any of it and he went down to see if we could get another room. And voila! We got this one. I'm so glad we asked!

Isn't it so much better? We loved it. It was bright and had French doors and a tiny balcony to step out to. We also had a gigantic bathroom ... but it was old fashioned. In the end, I loved that because it forced me to slow down. It also encouraged my wanderlust about living there and everyday I just pretended that this would be my life if we moved to Rome.

If you decide to stay here, this is what I figured out -- there are three buildings that make up the hotel. Yes, I read about this in advance but everyone calls each building a different thing so it's confusing to really understand the layout. I discovered that there's the lobby building, the building across the courtyard and the building across the street. I think the bright rooms that are more modern but have old-fashioned bathrooms are in the building across the courtyard. And not every floor in this building is the hotel -- it's also private apartments. The rooms that are dark (you can see photos on their website) are in the lobby building. Although I did peek in and see some bright rooms in this building but I think those might have been the suites. I didn't see the room at the building across the street so I can't help you there. When I go back, I'll ask for a room on the 7th floor in the building across the courtyard. But everyone there spoke English so I would recommend asking them directly before you book.

Speaking of the courtyard, we loved it.  It was such a nice place to have breakfast every morning. And we got to play our favorite game -- guess the nationality! There were lots of Europeans staying there and most had a cool interesting vibe so the people watching was fantastic! But don't be alarmed -- it wasn't super young and hipsterville. There was a great mix of couples, families, kids, groups of friends and business travelers. And I really liked the food, which is included with your room.

Just inside the courtyard was a lovely sitting area with great antiques. It's the kind of place that just oozes history and could tell amazing stories if it could talk.  In the afternoon, this lobby area bar and courtyard becomes a lunch spot where I saw lots of locals ... but it really became a hot spot at night for happy hour and beyond.  I think that's where the noise complaints that I read about were an issue. But it wasn't a crazy out-of-control crowd. It was a fashionable and sophisticated local crowd. We rather liked the noise -- a nice accompaniment with a cool breeze and a book after dinner . If it was ever too loud, we just shut ourselves in with the rolling blinds.

In every nook and cranny, there were artful influences ... like this antique hope chest with art books in the hallway to our room.

One of our favorite things about the hotel was that they have bikes you can check out whenever you need them. We loved riding them around town and checking out less touristy areas like Villa Borghese and Villa Ada. 

I really loved the location, too. It was located right near the Piazza del Popolo which is sort of the northern most hub of the central tourist area. It felt somehow central -- yet residential and quiet -- because it's on a tiny off-street of apartments and restaurants where locals seemed to eat. It always felt like we were coming home and not back to a hotel.

And one thing we didn't get to experience much but look forward to next time is a great rooftop where they serve breakfast and have cocktail area during the warmer months. This is the view. I think it's rather perfect!

Arrivederci Hotel Locarno! Until we meet again ...

P.S. If you are headed to Rome and want to consider staying here, I'm happy to answer questions. I wish I had had a helpful friend who could help. 

{All photos by me}.