12.31.2015

Looking Back on 2015


There's always been something special about the number 5 to me. I loved being five years old (which just so happened to be in 1995.) 2005 was a particularly special time of my life, in terms of love and friendship. 2015 only carried on the tradition, bringing with it adventure, personal growth, new experiences, forgiveness, and regeneration.

Between the Work Away adventure, a period of unemployment, and my recent relocation to one of the world's most expensive cities, this year demanded some serious financial attention and flexibility, and yet it worked wonders on my anxiety-driven, miserly tendencies. It's an interesting phenomenon; that the process of putting money toward new experiences and other people (rather than hoarding it for my own sense of security) should make me feel more at ease and, in some sense, all the richer.

While I currently have less to my name than I did this time last year, I feel more generous and less materialistic than ever before. As anyone close to me can confirm, I still spend a lot of energy worrying about my budget, but I'm finding it easier to let go of these concerns in exchange for living a fuller life. If similar financial anxiety is preventing you from following your heart -- whether it's traveling, moving to a new city, or enrolling in those music lessons you've always wanted -- I encourage you to raise your third finger to it and take what comes in stride.* The inner fulfillment that comes out of the experience will negate any stress that comes from making it a reality.

As you may have noticed from more recent entries, I am also becoming increasingly invested in a minimalist lifestyle. To me, this does not mean dressing in black and white, embracing Ikea furniture, and throwing away all my old love letters, but rather being more mindful of the information, people, energy, and physical objects I welcome into my life. In the past six months I have forgone new books for library cards, forgiven a three-year grudge toward a lost friendship, gone vegetarian, and donated one half of my wardrobe without personally purchasing any new clothes. I'm not trying to pat myself on the back about it (after all, there's always more to do), but I bring it up to illustrate: (a) you can make huge life changes in a comparatively little amount of time, and (b) one small adjustment is liable to inspire several larger ones. The simple choice to go on a trip prompted a total transformation to my lifestyle, from the way I process anger to how I shop at the grocery store. Ultimately, it has helped redirect my focus from how others perceive me to who I wish to be at heart.

Whatever you do, do it for you. I'm a firm believer that we can all change the world, but it begins in our own hearts. If you can radiate the best version of yourself, you stand a better chance at helping others find theirs.

I'd like to close with a few shout-outs to some groups of people who have been particularly inspiring and/or helpful this past year. If you hosted J and me on our trip through Europe, I so appreciate your hospitality and hope I have the chance to repay you with an open door in the year ahead. If you are a Spokanite friend who helped me feel welcome again in my hometown after six years of absence, I am grateful to you. If you are my brother or my parent, I am thankful for your accepting me as an ever-evolving person and for not tethering me to an outdated version of myself -- particularly when we all wound up under same roof again! If you live in (or visited) New York and chatted/walked/shopped/wined&dined/laughed&cried with me in the past three months, bless your heart for giving me buoyancy in this stormy, sublime ocean of a city.

Finally, if you are reading this now, I am graciously indebted to the time and attention you've provided me and Inspirsession. Every time I feel silly, fearful, or pointless in the process of typing out these posts, I am reminded of the kind words people like you have shared with me, and I am reignited once again.

*Take this with a grain of salt, obviously. If your dream is to own a San Francisco penthouse and you can't afford to feed your cat, you may need to put that dream on ice for a while.

12.18.2015

Making Space for Stories


For as long as I've wanted to be anything, I've wanted to be a writer. Wanted to be a storyteller, in a more general sense, because acting, to me, is simply an extension of that same impulse.

Being a collector of stories, however, comes with its own burdens. As anyone with similar sentiment knows, we have a tendency of collecting reminder objects. These items inspire in us certain memories, memories we cling to in hopes that someday we may pen them -- out of reflection, onto the page.

Of course, as "someday" gets pushed further and further down the pike, these collections swell into piles of clutter. They attract cobwebs and mold. They plight us with an unseen weight, following us around even when we think we've unloaded them (read: hid said weight-creator at our parent's house....) Eventually, they morph from noble memory-vessels into a lumpy burden on our hearts and minds. The stress they bring is acutely ironic; it absorbs the very air our creative muscles need to, well, create.

Yesterday I returned from New York for an extended holiday in my snowy hometown. For the first time, I discovered clear surfaces and empty drawers in my bedroom -- real space to fill with the version of me I'd brought home, rather than the dusty evidence of a me that I've since discarded. The few items that remained -- favorite books & journals, meaningful artwork, an assortment of jackets and dresses -- formed something of a personal museum. That's my life, I thought, upon opening my closet doors. That's a timeline of me.

This phenomenon is partially due to traveling and living out of a backpack for three months and substantially thanks to the recently popularized KonMari method. More than likely it's also a basic side-effect of growing up. Whatever the case, waking up in this space made me feel clean, light, and happy. Instead of raiding the refrigerator and lazing about in my pjs, sorting through old birthday cards and mixed CDs, paining myself over which to keep and which to toss, I showered, got dressed (LIKE AN ADULT), and sat down with my laptop to write. In relinquishing myself of the burden of memory, I freed myself to tackle the very thing I hoped to do all along. I didn't need my photos or books or letters to make it happen. The memories were all still there in my head and heart. And, barring amnesia, they're going to stick around for a while yet.

I've come here, to a favorite coffee shop, watching one of my dearest, oldest friends sling lattes like the badass she is (and always has been.) Because she isn't just a memory, or a letter, or a photograph -- she's real, and she's here.

12.10.2015

Holiday Festivities


With the holiday season in full swing now, it's time for party invites to hit the mail. Luckily for me (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it), my friends are all (A) too busy and/or (B) too budgeted to host any extravagant soirees, and I don't currently hold the kind of job that offers one of those infamous annual office functions.

That aside, you yourself might have exactly that kind of job. Or, like me, you'll simply find any excuse to dress up. For instance, the night I wore the outfit above, I was meeting a friend at what was described to me as a "jazz bar." Visions of a low-lit club with white tablecloths and abundant golf-clapping danced in my head, so I pulled out my shiniest little black dress and French twisted the ever loving life out of my hair...

...only to find myself in a billiard / ping-pong / shuffleboard hall, complete with a scruffy jazz band stuffed beside the overcrowded bar. Lucky for me, my friend had classed up too, so we shared a laugh at our overdressing and made sure the night was unforgettable anyway.

How do you avoid playing the fool in your fancy holi-duds?

Here are three fail-safe steps for comfortable-yet-chic holiday dressing, for ladies and gents alike:

1) Stick with the standard.
This means if you're going to an office party, don't select a dress with a hemline eight inches shorter than what you'd wear on a given work day. Likewise, if your friends are blue-collar hipsters whose idea of fancy dress is "not flannel," you're probably safe with an ironic festive sweater, tailored pants, and nice flats. (Just maybe ditch the beanie and run a comb through your hair or something.)

2) Add some glitz.
Once you've determined your standard framework, tszuj it up a little. Accessorizing is an easy way to class-up everyday basics. For dudes, this might mean the one time of year you pull out your tie clip or funky cufflinks. Ladies, feel free to consider jewelry with a bit more sparkle than your regular office accouterments. If your daily wear is more casual than business, opt for a similar silhouette with more luxe fabric choices. An everyday uniform consisting of an a-line day dress + opaque tights + ankle boots can be elevated to an embellished fit-and-flare affair + sheer nylons + heeled suede booties. Don't be afraid to shine; 'tis the season of twinkling lights and sparkly ornaments, after all.

3) Consider color.
If you're shopping for something new, there are a few standard holiday palettes that resurface year after year. Jewel tones are a safe bet for most every skin tone, and obvious choices include Christmas' ruby and emerald shades or the Hanukkah-associated sapphire. Metallics -- especially gold and silver -- often feature heavily in New Year's outfits. Finally, black and winter white (cream) are safe standbys for more formal affairs.

Them's the rules. Now get celebratin'!

12.06.2015

Christmas Playlist 2015


This is my third Christmas playlist, and every year it gets a little trickier to create. I try to keep the tunes original, but it's hard to resist my old standbys. (Especially the great Darlene Love!)

That said, restricting myself from previous years' choices led me to discover some new favorites. I (shamelessly) tuned into the holiday radio stations as soon as Halloween ended, just to ensure my new findings stood the replay test. Most of them have held up. I will tell you this: Gianni and Sarah's "Fairytale of New York" left a serious mark on my heart from the very first listen. I've been working on the guitar chords for a few weeks now, and I can nearly strum it from memory! And guys, I don't play guitar. Serious marks, we're talking here. (Check out their adorable video here.)

Other exciting finds this year:

-It's my mom who truly loves Celtic-inspired Christmas music, but this Barbara Higbie piece is a family showstopper. My brothers and I never miss an opportunity to "skate" around the kitchen in our socks to the happy little tune, in between wrapping presents and baking cookies eating cookie dough, of course! Christmas can't really start until this moment comes to pass.

-Sufjan Stevens!! Wow, what a Christmas offering this man has provided. I love the quirky takes on classic carols, but his originals might be even better. Couldn't resist sampling some of each.

-Okay, okay... I guess I knew Seth McFarlane could sing, but I'd never listened to his actual recordings. For a moment I genuinely confused his voice with Frank Sinatra's. As for "Marshmallow World" -- well, Dino would be proud.

-I felt I had to pay year-end honor to this past summer's Beach Boys obsession by including a holiday number, and I used "Little Saint Nick" last year. I only wish I could offer more Brian Wilson and less Mike Love.... Still, "Merry Christmas, Baby" isn't too bad a catchy little number.

-She & Him's take on the Judy Garland classic is gently bewitching. I like that it maintains the haunting aspect that makes the original version so irreplaceable.

Merry Christmas, everyone! I'm so happy the time of year is here at last!!

Listen to this playlist on Spotify:

11.28.2015

Tis The Season


The image above should illustrate quite clearly what last week represented for me. Trader Joe's has released their holiday snackery, including their addictive and elusive Candy Cane Joe-Joes (which are THE KING OF SWEETS, as far as I'm concerned.) And while waiting in line during a last minute Thanksgiving grocery run, I noticed an ice cream carton in the cart of the woman in front of me... Candy Cane. Joe-Joe. Ice Cream.

WHAT.

All my post-Thanksgiving intentions to temporarily lay off sweets (not to mention dairy) were quickly compromised -- as intentions are wont to do when your greatest fantasy comes dancing into the freezer.

These final November days after Thanksgiving never fail to fill me with delight. The thrill of what lies ahead -- Christmas music, snow, holiday shopping, time with family, cozy sweaters, and sweet sweet sweets... for me, this is truly the most wonderful time of the year. The very concept is itself like a snowflake: beautiful, magical, but too-soon fleeting. But like the greatest of romances, it's the very impermanence of the holiday season that makes it so marvelous.

As Tom Stoppard says: "Good things, when short, are twice as good."

Another scoop, then.

11.26.2015

Happy Thanksgiving!


Feastings Greetings, everyone! I hope you are filling your tummies full and your hearts fuller.

I have so many opportunities to give thanks for since this time last year...

My previous holiday season included a thrilling run in Pride and Prejudice as Lydia Bennet.
Spring brought a three month adventure abroad with J (thanks, Work Away!)
This summer saw my whole family together again under the same roof.
In fall I moved to New York City: a childhood fantasy come true.
I have been blessed with time and inspiration for creative fulfillment, which is really my raison d'etre.

I'm also very grateful for you. If you've taken the time to read any part of this blog, you have given me hope, joy, and motivation to create.

Happy Thanksgiving!


11.17.2015

The Humanity of Change


It's hard to believe I took a nine day break without posting, but I guess the great irony of life is that sometimes when the most important things are happening to you, you have the least time to reflect on them

If there's one thing I've always felt self-conscious about, it's my relationship to change. I've explored it over and over again in my writing, and new material is constantly regenerating itself, so it's something I keep coming back to.

It's the nature of the world to change -- this very principle explains why we have daily newspapers, Facebook, and fashion magazines. We're always hungry for novelty, but when life throws real alternations at us, many of us feel the instinct to reject it -- or run from it.

A couple I've known for a long time welcomed a baby into the world this week. (Talk about a life-changing event!) Obviously this occurrence has nothing to do with me, but of course when you witness something like this in another person's life, you momentarily imagine life through their eyes. For these two, immediate changes will obviously center around sleep schedules, baby-proof architectural choices, and new general anxieties about protecting their loved one. But deeper changes -- like discovering how to live their lives for a third soul -- are of course in store as well, and they will require continual adjustments, albeit for a happy cause.

Comparing changes in my own life to something this monumental will likely sound trivial, but we all know life is relative. Whether we're planning a wedding, applying to college, or gearing up to go to space, this circumstance will take top priority in our own brain and become THE MOST IMPORTANT THING for the time being.

This week I received some difficult news, which I won't get any more specific about for the purpose of protecting those involved. It came in the midst of a frustrating day in at the end of an already trying week, and it reduced me to a fetal-bound, mascara-streaked, blanket-covered ball for the better half a Christmas playlist. (Really, there was no remedy at the end of a week like this but some fluffy, premature holiday music.) Worse, the uncertainty this news brought on spider-webbed itself into every other area of my life: Was I really cut out for the job I'd just started? Were J and I in a good place? Was I fooling myself with this acting thing? Would I ever learn to cook a balanced meal?

Up until then, I thought the grand changes of my new life in New York were settled -- jobs found, rent paid, subway learned, friends met -- but of course no finale (hell, no scene change) is ever quite so predictable. As Lena Dunham accurately summarizes, "The end never comes when you think it will. It's always ten steps past the worst moment, then a weird turn to the left." Even something as seemingly simple as being an adult requires constant reevaluation and fine-tuning.

And then of course the saddest and greatest change of all last week came across the news: 129 people killed across Paris at the madness of another terrorist agenda. As of today, the world is still in shock, and we're only just turning our attention to the other victims involved. There is no telling how the world is supposed to recover from something like this, because it is simply not how our world is supposed to function.

But here is what I've come to realize about change, as good as bringing babies into the world, as bad as bad news, or as globally tragic Friday's attacks: it is change that makes us human. Or, perhaps, it is change that reveals our humanity. If our world remained as predictable as we all sometimes wish it would, there would be no reason to look beyond ourselves and our day-to-day concerns. The homeless plea that interrupts our daily commute and causes us to question how much money we might actually spare, the new coworker who impels us to defend our ideas, the child who suddenly asks us "why"... these shifts give us permission to live outside our heads, to interact, to evolve, and to bring our hearts to the surface.

Welcome or not, change creates us.

11.08.2015

Recipe: Gimmie-the-Green Smoothie


When you're unemployed, sometimes it's the little things in life that matter -- i.e. the free stuff. Since this is the only "green" I'm going to have at my disposal for a while, I decided to make the most of it. Focusing on my heart, health, and taste buds keeps life affordably interesting  until cash flows freely again.

Want to make your own Green Smoothie? If you're wary of putting veggies in anything that's supposed to taste sweet, this is a great place to start! Adding just a cup of kale or spinach to a breakfast smoothie will satisfy your daily Vitamin A (good for skin and vision) needs and more Vitamin K (blood and bone health) than you could possibly need -- and that's only the beginning!

Ingredients:
-1 heaping handful of kale (or spinach, if you prefer)
-1 large frozen banana
-1/2 c. soy milk (or other milk of choice)
-1-2 tbs. peanut butter
-1 tsp. honey
-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
-1 tbs. coffee grounds (optional, if you like texture or need a little kick!)

Instructions: Add greens and milk to a strong blender. Mix on high speed until the greens are fully incorporated and no leafy bits remain (you might need to "pulse" the blender to achieve this.) Add the remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly until well combined. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

11.03.2015

7 Savvy Tips for the On-Trend Shopper


While it's true in recent years that I've made an effort to focus on my own definitions of style, once in a while I like to sit down and review what's actually going on in the world of fashion. Sometimes that means window shopping or surveying the latest magazine spreads. Other times it's admiring Pantone's carefully selected palettes in their seasonal color reports. Here in the city, it's lately meant plopping my unemployed self down on a Washington Square or Upper East Side bench, drooling into a cheap cup of chai over outfits I can't currently (and may never) afford.

Maybe it's my empty wallet talking, or maybe I'm just a snob at heart, but overall I am of the opinion that too much trend-following is tasteless, wasteful, and a sure sign of an under-exercised imagination. I rarely see the point in renouncing one's own fashion impulses for the next fad item. Does that mean I never fall victim to advertisements and "must have" editorials myself? Of course not; I'm as human as the rest of you. But making a mindful effort to avoid these triggers has certainly made me less inclined to do so. In the past year I have shopped less, wanted less, and been more content with what I already own than ever before.

If you, like me, are striving to limit mindless spending and "stuff" accumulation, it's important to arm yourself with a few tactics before so much as eyeing a copy of Vogue.

Using this fall's current crazes in example, here are some approaches you can use to tune out the trends and tune in to you!

1) Board It Up 
Inspiration and "mood" boards used to seem ridiculous to me, but the more I've worked with them, the more readily I've been able to identify my own style preferences. This season, for example, it's reminded me that mini skirts have no place in my "blue collar bohemian" weekend wardrobe. So whether it's clipping magazine pics, snapping photos of mannequins, noting an outfit you saw on the street, or pinning your favorite blog posts, find a way to reference and define your personal style parameters -- then be sure to work within them.

2) Know Your Body
I've always been a proponent of dressing for your shape, but recently I've started wondering whether this kind of proscribed advice isn't just another symptom of our media's obsession with the male gaze. Rather than determining if you're a pear, hourglass, or what-not, decide for yourself what proportions (hemlines, cuts, and shapes) make you feel most comfortable. If dresses get in the way of the work you need to do, embrace pants. If heels make you want to scream, nix 'em! This self-love has given me liberty to send fall's over-the-knee boots my very best "talk to the hand."

3) Shop Your Closet
Few of us can name every item in our possession at any given moment. Chances are, you have a few of the latest trends lurking in the recesses of your wardrobe right now! Plaid is a trend that seems to resurface every autumn, and if you live in the PNW you're probably already in possession of some serious flannel. Give these items extra attention this season. By the time they're worn out, the trend will be over, and you can usher in something new, guilt-free.

4) Study Your Classics
"Classic" items are typically great pieces to invest in because they're less likely to go out of style before you wear them out. These pieces have been in circulation for centuries: The crisp white blouse. The black trouser. The tailored jacket. You can rest assured they're not going anywhere fast, even if they happen to be on-trend now. A gray suit, for example, is sure to serve you well for many years, making it one of the most lucrative 2015 trends.

5) Play The Memory Game
Trends are recycled and resuscitated all the time. (One visit to your local H&M right now will have you believing you walked into a Brady Brunch special.) This gives you good cause for looking back on your own history and asking yourself, "Have I tried this before?" and if so, "What came of it?" While researching trends for this post, I noticed the return of oversized, glitzy jewelry. Immediately I started thinking about purchasing one of those absurd, brightly-colored cocktail rings for dressing up my evening wear. Then it occurred to me: I just got rid of three similar rings last summer. Not because they were out of style, but because I never wore them! They snagged, they pinched, they made me feel on-display. Learn the difference between liking the way an item feels on you versus liking the way it looks on a model or in a magazine. Make note of what drives you crazy. It will serve as a valuable filter for seasons to come.

6) Eliminate The Stupid
I sometimes wonder whether magazines showcase these trends in an effort to make fools of us all when we follow them. Who, in the love of all that's holy, will be walking around this winter with sleeves too long for their arms? The sad answer is: probably many, after seeing it proscribed in Elle. Learn to ascend the bullshit here. Even fashion experts make bad calls.

7) When You Must, Go For Accessories
Maybe you've employed all the steps above and you still really want that present-on-your-Pinterest, perfect-on-your-body, totally-not-stupid, classic plaid print that's missing from your closet. For years I wanted to dress just like John Bender from The Breakfast Club -- everything from his plaid flannel, to his leather moto gloves, to his thermal undershirt. Almost five years after seeing the film (and many failed outfit-mimicry attempts later) I finally decided to spring for his wayfarer sunglasses. To this day, my Ray-Bans are one of my most cherished possessions. For you, it might be this season's driving gloves or funky tights. Accessories tend to be less expensive and easier to store, so you can be more experimental without sacrificing money or space.

How do you avoid or embrace trends? Share below!

10.30.2015

Halloween Costume Prophecies


The first time I went trick-or-treating, I was dressed as a dalmatian puppy. In what can only be described as ironic, just a few years after that my neighbors' newly-adopted actual dalmatian would lunge straight for my face when I tried to introduce myself to it, sending me into immediate panic and explosive tears. The nip it gave my ear (which quite possibly drew no blood) ultimately led to the expulsion of that dog from my neighbors' family. Their son (my friend until this incident) would remind me of that fact for years to come. The whole experience left me with a pronounced sense of guilt and shame in my own anxious sensitivities... and confirmed a long held suspicion on my part that I was a cat person.

Reflecting on this, I began to wonder: How many other Halloween costumes would prove weirdly premonitory upon retrospective review? The answer, it turns out, is quite a lot of them. If you look the right way....


The Fairy That Was Not Thumbelina
Ah, the great costume debacle of '94. I had a humble request: I was 4 years old and I wanted to be a tiny person. Specifically, I wanted to be the tiny person from this film. My poor mother, unassuming and obliging as ever, ordered the "Thumbelina" piece from whatever costume catalog we had lying around that year. Two days before Halloween, what should arrive at our doorstep but a generic tulle-covered monstrosity that bore no resemblance to the blue-gown / flower-crown ensemble of my dreams and every resemblance to the most boring fairy princess ever.

The prophecy? This was clearly a precursor to every other fashion let-down in my future: from my annual school-picture-day dreams of bouncy curls (which always devolved into shapeless poodle-poofs by photo time) to the day I discovered my legs were too short for off-the-rack jeans. Sigh.


Woody (from Toy Story)
By the time I hit first grade, I was in firm denial that I wanted anything to do with fairies and princesses and was instead pursuing bugs, baseballs, and all things boy. Since I grew up with brothers and on a block full of boys, I quickly fell victim to the stinging dismissal of "You can't, cause you're a girl." So I bought sports cards with my allowance and I stopped wearing dresses outdoors and I developed a talent for eating insects. As my best friend at the time was soaring on a sparkly wave of princesses and pink, I wound up living a kind of double life between dolls and dirt. And the outcome was that people stopped taking me seriously.

To circumnavigate a potentially serious investigation of gender bias and identity, let's just say that my Woody costume, which involved a not very well-concealed ponytail, borrowed cowboy boots, and a jumpsuit sized for someone four inches shorter than me, predicted an ongoing obsession with reinventing myself  -- and an inability to convince anyone of its permanence.


Hermione Granger
Let it be here stated that I did Hermione right. This was the year before the first Harry Potter film came out. We were miles from accepting the gorgeousness of Emma Watson into our collective image of Hogwarts' greatest brain. The Hermione of Rowling's books possessed two defining characteristics: "bushy brown hair" and "rather large front teeth." So I crimped my hair and got a buck toothed half-face mask. Well-meaning candy distributors spent most of the night trying to comprehend who I was between my mask-muffled voice and doubtlessly mispronounced first name.

Besides an obvious prognosis of my destiny as a book-obsessed, rule-abiding nerd, I think this costume accurately forecasted a fast-approaching tumble into puberty. That mask's chipmunk cheeks were all the suggestion my body needed to bring on three straight years of baby fat.


Punky Kitten
I was particularly proud of this costume, because it was one of the first years I worked with face paint. My mom took a bunch of pictures before I headed off to a party with some high school friends, and she later told me that the employees at Costco Photo Center (God bless 'em) wanted to know who did the makeup for "that amazing cat face!" At the party, a friend of mine, for no reason I can remember, told me I was freaking him out and to take off the paint and my wig and to "stop being a crazy cat lady."

I am no longer on speaking terms with that friend, and I've since repeated this costume three times.

I'll leave that one to you.


Swankenstein 
Almost two years to the date I shared this costume on Inspirsession, I would be living in New York, watching the glamorous women of Park Avenue clutching their fancy designer purses and teetering on expensive heels toward the call of various midday appointments.

I -- humbled and unemployed, my brain sore from drafting too many cover letters and probing too many sides of my personality toward people-pleasing interview speak, scarred and stitched over as I reconstruct my own sense of being -- feel green. Green: inexperienced, simple, slightly ill... but also: fresh, budding, full of life.

10.28.2015

Top 10 Autumn Munchies


Well, it's just about time to go grocery shopping again, so I'm cheating and turning my list into a post.

Likely due to evolutionary hibernation habits, every time autumn comes back around my appetite swings back into action. More often than not, I want carbs and more carbs, but I try to keep things in balance with some good fruit and veg too.

Here's what's at the top of my munching list this season:

1) Dark Chocolate
     Chocolate is pretty much a year-round thing for me, but there's something that makes me extra choco-cheery around fall. (Probably an anticipatory childhood holdover from the sugar-rush trick-or-treating brought each year...) I've started keeping a bar of 85% dark chocolate around the house to appease my seasonal sugar cravings, savoring just a square or two at a time. Looking forward to this little treat gives me a reason to avoid less satisfying sugar-bombs throughout the day -- though I can't say I always adhere to that reason!

2) Cider
    Yesterday I found a coffee shop here in New York which offers hot cider by the (plentiful) cup for about $3. As someone who's never quite developed a palette for straight coffee, this was a delightful alternative pick-me-up. If you really want to up your cider game, buy yourself some spices and get your wassail on. It sounds fancy, but it's easy to prepare, and it makes a classy addition to any holiday get-together.

3) Candy Corn
     Does this really need justification? I'll tell you one thing: I've learned not to let myself buy candy corn anytime beyond the month of October (and even then I usually limit myself to one bag.) Once those flood gates are open, it's a slippery slope toward year-round addiction. I'm also that person that loves candy corn in rice krispy treats or popcorn balls. Give me those tri-toned crack pockets in any form -- I can't resist 'em.

4) ABC Juice
    Apples, Beets, and Carrots are all at their best this season, and it's a great excuse to juice them for all they're worth. If you have your own juicer, combine 1 large apple with 1/4 beet and 1 large carrot. You might add a 1/2 inch of ginger if you want some extra kick! If you, like me, have precious little counter space and/or no money to put toward such a contraption, try sticking these items in the blender, then pushing them through a mesh strainer to bring out the juice. The extra pulpy bits might be a great addition to...

5) Quickbreads
     There's really nothing else I crave more this time of year than fresh-baked bread (of any kind!) J has been diligently baking a weekly whole wheat loaf for our sandwiches and toast, and it always surpasses the store-bought stuff to a laughable extent. I'm a dessert fanatic, so my baking exploits gravitate more toward quickbreads -- the stuff that basically tastes like cake. Pumpkin, carrot, and spice breads are fall classics, but I also like to mix things up with chocolate avocado-banana or zucchini walnut! For more texture, top your breads with roasted pumpkins or sunflower seeds. Mmmm....

6) Wild Rice and/or Lentils
     Stick these in a crockpot with lots of yummy veggies + stock and fuhgeddaboutit.

7) Sweet Potatoes
     You probably think your mom has the best Thanksgiving recipe for these bad boys, but the truth is, mine does.

8) Chai
    If you have not discovered the wonder that is the chai tea latte, I implore you to go to your local coffee shop right now, settle in with a book, and sip away. If you care anything for spice, I have no doubt you'll love it. Once you've attuned your palette, experiment at home to find the right blend of sugar and spice -- or make things cheap n' easy by purchasing a carton of Oregon Chai. Then -- when you're ready, young grasshopper -- find a restaurant like Taste of India in Seattle, order the bottomless cup, and prepare to shorten your life expectancy one whole-milky swig at a time.
 
9) Apples
     Another food that doesn't really need an introduction, autumn is obviously the best time to cook, can, or eat this fruit straight. A long-time subscriber to the PBnJ, I like to take slice extra-crispy apples up thin and put them directly into my sandwich in place of jam. It's a perfect complement to those days when you wish you were just back in 3rd grade, listening to your teacher read while you colored the afternoon away.

10) Pumpkin
    I couldn't very well end the list without addressing the squash that instigates sheer mania every September. While I've certainly fallen victim to the pumpkin love (Pumpkin Ravioli? Pumpkin Spice Salted Caramels! Pumpkin Pop Tarts?! Trader Joes, what are you trying to do to me??!), this year a friend served me straight-up roasted sugar pumpkin with tahini, and I remembered why this vegetable is so incredible in the first place. I even spent the next day munching on the roasted seeds. Do yourself a favor this year and skip the processed stuff for the real thing!

10.23.2015

Neurotic Thoughts I've Had


Have you ever wanted to get inside someone else's head? If only to assuage concerns about your own bizarre thoughts and tendencies? While no one's requested access into mine lately, I'm going to share some personal neuroticisms with you anyway. Mostly because I have no heartfelt words of wisdom for you today, and partly because I love making lists.

Thought #1 (eating a snack): I really do love making lists. I wish I could have a job as a list maker. Then I'd be able to list my lists as a great big list through my listserv and enlist list-lackeys for my guest list at parties. Lovely.

Thought #2 (in bed): What if this building caught on fire, and I couldn't get my window open? Or what if I could get it open, but the little latch on the bars outside didn't work? Could I fit through those bars? There's no way I could fit through those bars. Could I open this other window and shimmy down a tree? That tree's so far away! Maybe I could Spiderman leap onto it. Why is there this unspoken feeling that if you were to jump into a leafy tree it would cushion your fall? Branches are rough, solid extensions of wood. If you hit one with enough force, you'd straight up break something; if you miss one, you're flying, no, falling through the air toward certain death. In the morning, I will definitely check that window.

Thought #3 (after failing to coerce the sunbathing cat out of the bathroom): Is it, like, a really indecent thing to pee in front of a cat? I mean, dogs indulge us with their bodily functions on a regular basis, but cats usually keep it to themselves -- pending on how well-concealed their litterbox is, of course. I could just pick her up, but she looks so comfy there on the bathmat... I'll just... Don't mind me... There we go. (...) Why are you looking at me? (...) Cat, stop. (...) This is definitely never happening again.

Thought #4 (on examining a Trader Joe's pumpkin pop-tart): I wonder how many apparently cancerous things I have put into my body since I was born and which of them will end up being the death of me.

Thought #5 (staring into closet): Hey, Purple Pinstripe Blouse... what do you think you're doing in front of Tank Blouse? You're a completely different style and weight than him. You belong next to Chambray here. Get back in line. And while we're at it, LBDs, stop crowding Princess Silk. I know we had to make some adjustments with all the men's shirts that landed here last week, but really there's no need to divert from the method. Really, now, who's responsible for this?

Thought #6 (while doing yoga): In all seriousness, which am I going to regret more: not wearing gorgeous shoes while I still had the legs for them or giving myself really bad bunions?

Thought #7 (watching Children of the Corn): What if my single greatest acting achievement is something on par with Children of the Corn?

Thought #8 (before bed): (creates calendar appointment) (sets travel time) (sets reminder alarm) (sets second reminder alarm) (closes app) (opens app, just to double check it saved) (sets phone volume on high) (closes phone) (plugs phone into wall) (opens phone) (opens email) (double checks appointment time on email) (closes phone) .... Did I set my alarm?


Here's hoping your October isn't half as scary as what's going on inside my brain.

10.19.2015

The Last of the Really Great Grown-Ups


I recently read an article in the New York Times examining how America's definition of adulthood has changed and diminished over the course of history. The author examines several manifestations of this, mostly under the umbrella of the ongoing fall of the patriarchy.

While I'm told I have the face of a high school sophomore, I've been something of a curmudgeon-in-the-making for as long as I can remember. At 7-years-old I was completely obsessed with Elvis, and I refused to accept my friends' avowals that The Spice Girls or N*SYNC were half as worthy of my attention. After Elvis came The Beatles, and after them came anything and everything from the 1980s. It seemed I was forever chasing some other generation's pop culture.

In recent years I've learned to give the artists of my own generation more of a chance, but it hasn't changed the fact that I'm terrible at "the bar scene," and I have a strange enchantment with the sort of activities regularly embraced after retirement: knitting, taking long walks (and sits) in the park, going to the library, and happily holing up on the weekend with a newspaper crossword puzzle and a bowl of soft caramels for company. I'm not single, but if I was I'm pretty sure I'd be terrible at dating. I've long since mourned the loss of partner dancing that involved more than rocking back and forth and shaking your most charming asset. I have little patience for people who lack basic social graces. And last (but certainly not least), I'm continually flabbergasted at the kinds of clothing which recent generations have deemed appropriate to wear to a) work, b) the theatre, and c) any other social occasion worthy of their time.

As I write this, it is my late grandmother's birthday. Today she would have been 83. Though she relaxed her generational expectations with the best of them, she still never set foot outside the house (even to Safeway!) without her makeup, nylon stockings, and a head of expertly pin-curled hair. Perhaps it was the patriarchy that enforced these standards from the start, but I like to think that later in life she had enough spirit to resist them if she'd wanted. It was never about status -- in my life, I never saw her shop beyond the realms of JC Penny -- it was about putting her best foot (and face and hair) forward for those she respected, which was most people. She cared about how she was perceived because she cared about those perceiving her.

I think we have much to learn from the generations before us -- and (forgive me, Mom and Dad) particularly any generation before the Baby Boomers, who single-handedly introduced t-shirts, festival culture, and the word "dude" into daily life. While there's no denying the strides that more recent generations have made in other aspects of life (civil rights, environment, and technology come immediately to mind), I do think bringing greater awareness to our manners, posture, clothing, and conversation could only serve to ensure respect toward our fellow human beings.

For my part, here are the general rules of adulthood I try to adhere to:

1) Be realistic about your finances. Learn to budget and live within your means. Learn to support yourself independently.

2) Embrace candles. Adults always seem to know when and wear to place these, and it always makes a difference. (This applies to all kinds of decor, actually.)

3) Learn how to tidy your living space on a regular basis. We've all experienced the roommate with no concept of cleanliness, and nothing screams "I STILL NEED A MOTHER" quite like the scent of sour milk in abandon cereal bowls.

4) Practice the art of thank-you writing. An email is great, but a letter is better. Everyone likes to receive mail.

5) Dress for you, but dress as the most presentable version of yourself. If you like t-shirts, you don't need to don a suit. Just consider swapping your nostalgic cereal logo tee for a tailored henley when the situation calls.

6) Take responsibility for your actions. I'm the queen of creative excuses, so this is probably the hardest for me. Apologizing and admitting you were in the wrong is not only a sign of maturity, but of humility. And, let's face it, we could all use a little more of that.

10.16.2015

Make New Friends, Keep the Old


One of the more exciting occurrences since I made the move to New York has been the opportunity to reconnect with old friends. And by "old" I mean high school old -- people I met in Spokane. There's certainly an irony in having to move across the country to find the people I grew up with, but I guess all roads lead back to NYC.

I've noticed a funny phenomenon when it comes to considering old friendships, and I don't think I'm alone in thinking it: Rather than accepting that we simply fell out of touch, I always assume something went wrong. I make up all kinds of excuses why I ought not to "bother" people who, for one reason or another, fell out of my day-to-day life.

They've probably become a different person, I reason, or they'll expect me to be the same person, and they'll be disappointed with who I've become. 

I probably did something to offend them that made them stop contacting me on purpose. I shouldn't rock the boat.

Maybe there was some reason we never got along in the first place, and it came out in the wash already, and that fact has been lost in the tricky fog of friendship nostalgia.

Friendship Nostalgia: a longing for "the way we were;" the desire to return to a specific moment in time with a friend. Don't we all share a little of this?

Like most people, I'm not perfect. I have lost friends on purpose (and if you're reading this right now; no, it probably wasn't you!), and friends have probably lost me on purpose. In my younger years I wasn't very good at apologizing or expressing my own feelings of anger and hurt. I had two younger brothers who were always ready to punch it out, then forgive and forget without ceremony. There was an unspoken understanding that no offense would last through the morning, and for a while I applied that principle to my interaction with all friends.

Of course I ran into problems right away. I still remember a girl in elementary school who, in the middle of a dollhouse disagreement, serenaded me with a song about how to get along and talk about our feelings. I think she made it up. To date I can't think of a time I felt more uncomfortable around someone my own age. I actually wanted the floorboards to open and swallow me up.

On another occasion -- and this was in high school, mind you -- a good friend was irritating me at lunch. Some primal mode of sibling battle kicked in, and I struck her across the arm. What I thought was a light smack, like you might give a puppy when it pawed at a child's face, made my opponent reel back with an astonished "Owwww!" and I immediately felt embarrassed. Clearly this was not the way to solve post-pubescent problems. I'm lucky that this friend had a sense of humor and brought it up when I was too mortified to confront the issue. It gave me the chance to apologize like a rational human being, and today we're able to look back on the situation and laugh.

This is all to say I'm not pulling these excuses out of thin air. I've made mistakes, and because I am a perfectionist, I'm sure that every "straw" is the last when it comes to friendship disputes. But them I'm forced to question whether this sort of anxiety is universal... and something we're all just not talking about. This hearkens back to an earlier post on recognizing fear. When we own what we're afraid of and choose to face it, there's no reason we can't bear our souls to those we once related to and see if there isn't still friendship to be fostered there.

Curiously enough, the people who I have the pleasure to reconnect with in New York share a striking personality trait: self-assurance and the intrinsic ability to imbue it in others. Maybe this is less surprising than it seems; after all, it takes a certain kind of person to move far away from home and start their lives in an enormous city that regularly dashes dreams like bugs against its skyscrapers. But as someone who's lived under the tyranny of the infamous "Seattle freeze" for the past six years, it's tremendous to discover people -- not just one, but a whole collection of them! -- who are not only interested in what you want out of life, but will also go out of the way to help you realize it.

In a way, these are the people I've been looking for my whole life -- and how funny that they've been in my life all along. Somewhere along the way, we just lost one another's addresses.

I'm not ruling out the fact that reunion itself is a form of nostalgia. There's a certain excitement in suddenly being able to reference memories with someone who doesn't need the Cliffnotes version of your past. Still, whether we make a point to meet regularly or we lose one another once again in the throes of reality, I will never forget the people who came out of the woodwork this first month to make me feel at home.

If you have a chance to rekindle a once-cherished friendship, don't let anxiety get the better of you. Don't feel too cool for reaching out to someone who liked you even when you were a lesser version of yourself. Don't act like you've outgrown them (unless, of course, your therapist tells you you have.) You may be surprised how easily things fall back into place. Chances are they will remember your better qualities -- the ones that brought you together in the first place -- and be generous in reminding you of them. They will assure you that you'll be okay, because you've really been okay all along.

10.14.2015

First Impressions of New York City


It's been nearly three weeks (wow!) since my arrival, and I'm slowly beginning to put together the pieces of what makes New York, erm, New York.

I could state the obvious here: most places are crowded, cockroaches exist but recede in the light, cabs are not an economic form of regular transportation, and just about everything you can imagine is more expensive.

But I wanted to think outside the box a little. So, without further adieu, here are the top five random things I've noticed as a newcomer to NYC:

(1) When you walk down Madison Avenue, you are almost guaranteed to see most beautiful man and/or woman you have ever seen. Five. Times. Over.

This could be like a special charm for single people. Ye will take yeself to the crosspoint of Madison and five-and-fifty... Ye will turn on yer heels to face the building of the sky, and when ye turn back forward, by the light of the midday sun, ye will see a most beautiful being emerge from the door-with-four-faces. But beware! These creatures are of this earth. They sport expensive shoes and carry designer pens in their leather satchels....

Then again, maybe everyone just looks better in a suit.

(2) The best time to go to Trader Joe's (the one on 73rd, at least) is on Friday at 1:30pm.

For those of you responsible people with day jobs, I, your thoughtfully unemployed friend, have solved the burning mystery: When are you guaranteed to satisfy your pumpkin-product craving of choice without a 20-40 minute checkout delay?

The answer is, conveniently enough, right after your workday lunch break. This of course is when everyone else has returned from their workday lunch break as well, and the stores have settled to host a much smaller dose of NY citizens -- the self-employed, the curmudgeonly old folk, and the still-figuring-out-the-job-thing-ers, like myself.

You're welcome for not really solving your problem at all.

(3) The majority of people here are helpful, encouraging, and pleasant conversationalists (at heart.)

Like most people from the west coast, I was living under the blanket assumption that our citizens possessed the best personality in all of America. What's not to love about a laid-back, easy-going hippie/hipster who keeps to himself? Tolerating some mild passive aggression every once in a while isn't the worst thing in the world, right?

But the more time I spend here, the more certain I am that we west coasters -- Seattleites in particular -- could really stand to learn a thing or two from our east coast brethren. NY locals may bypass the courtesy of excusing themselves when they bump into you (they're going places, man!) They may hustle you along when you spend too much time pondering exactly what bagel schmear you'd like (is there really a wrong choice here??) They will most likely set you straight when you ask something completely preposterous ("Is there a cheap place to get brunch around here?") But if you ask for help -- or hell, even if you're just standing around looking like you need it -- sooner or later someone will offer it.

In my first week here, one man gave me a lead on a permanent apartment, two employees offered their names for reference on job applications, and three Upper East Siders gave me unsolicited advice on where to find breakfast. These were all strangers who had no vested interest in whether or not I got to where I was going. They were just good people. And a surprising amount of them exist here if you stop and look around.

(4) The more time you spend in midtown, the more you feel entitled to the life of a well-paid lawyer.

I've decided that until I've worked out a budget and gotten my first paycheck, I'm staying as far away from the shopping smorgasbord that is 5th Avenue, Soho, and the like as is humanly possibly.

Though admittedly I've always been a window shopping enthusiast, it's rare I'll actually step inside a store with the intention of buying something -- unless of course I actually need it. When the stuff of dreams leaves the window, however, and enters the world of reality in someone else's bag, you suddenly begin to foster dangerous ideas: I could buy that too.

And usually, no you can't. Not if you want to afford rent next month. Not if want to steer clear of Credit Card Debtors Anonymous. But the perfumed people of Madison Avenue have already peppered you with their siren song "You Too Deserve A Life of Luxury" and sunk their perfectly manicured claws into your small-town heart. Suddenly you're fascinated with what kind of shoes everyone is wearing and which firm they work for. You're daydreaming about starting off your mornings in uptown bakeries while your boyfriend (read: sugar daddy) does time in his fancy suit on Wall Street.

Then, out of nowhere, you're struck with a pang of hunger, and you remember you have a stomach that needs to eat. And just like Chanel shoes, boxed risotto does not grown on trees.

(5) It's not a concrete prison.

One of my utmost fears about leaving Washington state was where I'd get my nature fix. The largest city I'd spent significant amount of time in before New York was London, which sprawls even further than Seattle and whose green space accounts for nearly half the city. I'm not exactly a "great outdoors" kind of gal, but could I really settle for Central Park?

As any new city dweller should, I started exploring. On the way to the library I ran into Bryant Park and its beautiful ring of London planes, which are nearly as tall as the building itself. In a book I discovered a map of miniature gardens dotted throughout the city. A dear friend took me to the base of the George Washington bridge, from which we spent an entire afternoon walking the length of the river -- and didn't even get to midtown.

Best of all, I've started to view the concrete passages and the towering buildings, the metro tunnels and brick corridors as beautiful in their own right. It isn't leafy, but it offers plenty of space to explore. Sort of like spelunking... with more lights.

10.12.2015

On Fear


When I was seven years old, I taped a National Geographic poster of a jaguar to my bedroom wall. I can't remember if I asked for it directly or not, but somewhere between my dad's perusal of the catalog and its path to the the recycling bin, the giant jungle cat portrait fell into my care.

It was the first "pet" I ever had. I don't think I named it. If I had, odds are it would have been "Sam," because that's what I named everything at the time.*

For reasons I'll never quite be able to explain, I eventually began to talk to it. Not out loud; it wasn't like interacting with an imaginary friend, it was more like I'd unearthed some version of God. While I'd never been to church and I'd never been taught to pray, I figured if other people had nightly chats with a magical person then I had every right to an occasional conference of my own.

"Jaguar," I'd say, gazing into his predacious eyes, "Jaguar, today I told a lie. I told Mom that I didn't stick gum behind my dresser. I told her my little brother did it."

"Jaguar, please don't let burglars come through my window tonight and take me away. And if they do, please let me remember to take Ali Cat with me. Thanks."

"Jaguar, if you know Santa, please tell him I'd like a bed for my doll. I promise I've been good all year except for the gum thing.... Please don't tell Santa about the gum thing."

Of course my feline companion never answered back. He merely stared back at me from his side of the room. Still, beneath his nightly scrutiny I felt oddly comforted.

When my family moved across town at the end of second grade, I packed up my seraphic tri-fold and slipped it in a folder for safe transport. Unfortunately, it remained there for the next 17 years -- I never found a suitable place to hang it on my wall. And without the visual reminder, the conversations stopped.

Waist-deep in the brambles of puberty, I discovered a new way to cope with my fears. I pushed and lodged them deeper into the bowels of my... well, bowels. Down there, they cast strange spells across my intestines, agitating my insides with anxious flutterings. I learned to live with that too. I learned the age-old art of denial.

Fast-forward to this summer. I'm clearing out old paperwork from my room to prepare for the move to New York. I find an old binder with folders in it. I find the folder which still holds the poster. I unfold it to find the jaguar staring back at me, and I'm struck with the same impulse to confess my apprehensions. How long will it take to find a job? What if I feel lonely? What if the city rats eat me alive? What if I don't make it?

And then a funny thing happened: As soon as I started asking these questions, my mind gave me answers. I am resourceful; I know I will find a way to get a job before I need a job. I am amiable; I have every right to call on friends when I need them. I can choose to live by my own definition of success. Most importantly, NYC subway rats are not the underfed demons of 1984.

When was the last time you told someone you were afraid? When did you last admit it to yourself? Why do we waste energy dispensing alternative qualifiers for how we're feeling -- angry, sad, frustrated, "fine" -- when we know it all boils down to that four letter f-word?

Maybe because we can't recognize fear anymore. Maybe because you, like me, stopped giving yourself the space, the permission, to examine it.

In the interest of storage, I chose to recycle my jaguar poster. But in return I'm making a better effort to identify my own fears. I've started thinking of them as ghosts waiting to be exorcised into reality, to be looked square in the face and ushered earthward so that they might rest in peace.

This blog post is my first step. While I mused on how to move Inspirsession forward, two fears hit me at once: (1) that departing from the subject of style would mean failing on my journey toward clarifying a sense of fashion identity and (2) that by continuing to blog exclusively about fashion I'd miss opportunities to explore other important subject matter. So, I found a way to face these fears and turn them into fuel. I've decided my posts will still feature / be inspired by what I wear day to day, but their written content may explore other topics beyond personal style. I've chosen to work in watercolor to satisfy my long-held fascination with color.

If you feel strongly about any feature of Inspirsession, or there's a particular aspect of the blog that keeps you interested and inspired, please leave your comments and ideas below. As always, this is a work in progress. And, of course, I invite you to share your own tips for living fearlessly!

*A short list of "everything" being stray cats, story characters, paper dolls, and one perfectly-shaped apple I'd saved from a trip to Greenbluff Orchards.


10.03.2015

Autumn Playlist 2015

Another season, another playlist woven from the Medusa-threads that are my elusive music tastes.

It's been a long time since I've posted here, and it's by no-intention-but-every-fault of my own. I greatly missed Inspirsession during my time in Europe (though One Hundred Words shaped up to be far more successful than I'd anticipated) and I looked forward to hitting the ground running upon return to "real life." Unfortunately real life in Spokane resembled nothing like real life in Seattle, and without a road map to my own future it was tricky to create one for the blog. I'm still exploring what's ahead for this space, especially now that I've landed at the doorstep of opportunity in Artistic Candyland (read: N-Y-C.)


This playlist owes a lot to some individuals that I was fortunate enough to reconnect with during my time at home. Billy Joel is long-time family favorite (so sue me), and when my younger brother surprised me with a "Vienna" piano/vocal tribute upon my return to the states I just about turned cartwheels. My other brother appropriately introduced me to "Sister Song" which, in case you were looking for contenders, probably wins the guaranteed-to-make-your-entire-funeral-party-cry award.

Watching Gilmore Girls with my mom reawakened my love for The La's guitar-laden ode. My very-hip best friend floored me when she declared "Steal My Girl" was a "total banger" and has thus given me full excuse to declare One Direction an official guilty pop pleasure. And of course there's no getting through a Spokane summer without The Beach Boys. I have a several layers of memories ensuring I never forget that.

The substantially hipper artists on this list (Sjowgren, Cheers Elephant, Rayland Baxter, Catey Shaw, Summer Fiction, and Tina Dico) are all thanks to Songza's new artist playlists. Big thumbs up to them for expanding my music taste beyond 1995.

I have no excuses to offer for the Sara Barielles hit except that I attended a hell of a lot of weddings this summer.

Happy Autumn, everybody! It's no secret this is my favorite season and I intend to soak up every minute of my first one in this big, beautiful city. What are you listening to this season? Let me know in the comments!

  

4.08.2015

Spring Playlist 2015



I said I was taking a break from Inspirsession during my travels through Europe, but as I'm still hoovering up inspiration everywhere, it's hard to resist the occasional update. At the very least, I couldn't resist cataloging a spring playlist for this year.

The majority of these selections are tunes that kept popping into my head during my work in the Irish countryside. When you're whitewashing walls and whacking weeds, some good music can really keep you going -- even if it's only in your head!

A few track notes:

Bob Dylan is admittedly an artist I've spent a lot of years ignoring. This had much to do with the fact he practically "belonged" to a select group of students in my high school who I didn't always see eye to eye with. As I've grown up, I've realized that the prejudices I formed about those people weren't really accurate -- and neither was my distaste for Dylan. So I guess I'm making up for that now.

Ireland has clearly made a place for itself in my brain with the obvious choices of An Dochas (Spokane! Whoo!) and Mark Knopfler's fabulous instrumental "Going Home" (check out the bagpipe version of this song as well -- pretty good stuff.) I've also become quite fond of their local John Creedon Radio Show, on which I heard the brand new track "Starling" and discovered the absurd "634-5789" in the space of one afternoon. Fabulous.

Cat Stevens. I have taken to binge-watching his live performances on YouTube as of late, and I can't get enough of them. Especially the fabulous head movement going on in this one. We can't all be Cat Stevens, but we can certainly strive for peace and follow our moonshadows and listen to the winds of our souls.

You can give the full playlist a listen here.

3.10.2015

Winter 2015 Capsule Wrap-Up

Well, folks... it always happens this way. I see road paved with free time ahead of me, I promise myself I'll make the most of it, and instead I revert to some version of my pre-Seattle (read: high school) self -- spending the day listening to music and digging through memories in my room. Room paleontology. There are certainly worse activities, I suppose.

W2015 19: 70s Chic

Anyway, the time has come to wrap up my Winter Capsule Wardrobe venturOn Thousand Wordser several weeks of culling, packing, and stuffing clothes into various boxes and bags (only to later unpack and find new places to store them) I'm more resolved than ever to strive for a minimal wardrobe... and I've also been awakened to the drawbacks of the particular capsule process I chose to adopt.

First off: 37 pieces of clothing is a lot. Like, way more than you'd think. On the upside, it definitely kept my butterfly mind from getting bored. On the downside, having almost 40 clothes per season (less the crossover pieces) means having well over 100 pieces in your possession, easily. While that's still not much by the average, overloaded, American closet standard, it's way more than I can keep track of while out shopping for things I "need." And it's hardly compatible with my humble New York City apartment dreams.

W2015 20: Sweet Dreams

Secondly, this: Perhaps I baby my clothes (or maybe I just need to take a good, hard look at my hygiene standards...), but between 37 items and my fondness for Woolite detergent, my winter wardrobe is still in great condition. While I consider that a triumph in some regards, it rather defeats my favorite part of the capsule process: renewal. When everything still looks pristine, replacements hardly seem called for. Lesson learned: if you want the option to revamp your wardrobe season to season without feeling guilty for ditching still-wearable clothing, you need to buy less and wear more. You also need to slip a fat cocoon around that butterfly mind of yours.

W2015 21: Pom Pom


Like my last capsule reflection, I figured it would be useful to evaluate which pieces served me best and which I should've left out. Here are the results this time around:

    W2015 Winner of Most-Favored & Versatile Piece: Brown Ankle Boots (Lucky Brand) & Green Field Coat (Old Navy)
         It's a toss up between these two. These are just my style and I can't believe I waited so long to get them into my life! Comfy, utilitarian, but somehow sweet. Yep, sounds a bit like me!

    W2015 Loser of the same category: Wide-Leg Pinstriped Pants
         I'm not sure what I was thinking here, to be honest. I've had these pants for years, and I'd kept them around for the sole reason I thought I "ought to." (Everybody "needs" a pair of black work pants, right?) With the 70s coming back into style full-force, I dug them out of my back drawer, figuring I'd finally be able to make something of them. Nope. This girl doesn't need (or want) a pair of black work pants.

W2015 22: To Infinity And Beyond

Finally, an announcement: For the next three months I'm going to be adventuring across Europe with a backpack of clothes and two pairs of shoes.  I have been honing my wardrobe for the past few weeks, to bring it down to the bare necessities, and I can't to put it to the test! At the very least, it will be an excellent minimalist trial run. I don't plan to update Inspirsession regularly during this time, but I do invite you to follow my travel writing at One Thousand Words. Until then, inspire and obsess on, and have a lovely spring!

2.25.2015

W2015 16, 17, & 18: Field Parka, Three Ways

Hello, all! Packing up my apartment this weekend took more time and energy than anticipated, so I've fallen rather behind on prepping my posts. To make up for it, I'm including multiple outfits in this one -- all about field coats. Since I've received some questions about brands and costs lately, I'm including that information, but I'll spare you (and myself) from additional commentary.

I hope everyone has a fabulous final week of February! To those on the east coast: My heart goes out to you. To those on the west coast: Has spring actually sprung??

F2015: 16 - Field Coat A
Coat: Old Navy ($42, on sale)
Blouse: Romy ($15?, on sale)
Scarf: unknown ($10, thrifted)
Shoes: unknown ($15, thrifted)
Bracelet: unknown (gift)

W2015 17: Field Coat B
Coat: Old Navy ($42, on sale)
Dress: Sans Souchi, gift
Earrings: Lucky ($25)
Ring: souvenir from Cordes, France ($15?)
Shoes: Josef Siebel ($60, on sale)
Bag: Fossil ($35, thrifted)
Leggings: Old Navy ($12)

W2015 18: Field Coat C

Coat: Old Navy ($42, on sale)
Sweater: Banana Republic ($40, on sale)
Skinny Jeans: J-Brand ($123, on sale)
Ring: Macy's (gift)
Boots: Lucky Brand ($39, on Ebay)
Lipstick: Revlon "Bordeaux" ($8)

2.20.2015

W2015 15: Northern Comfort

W2015 15: Northern Comfort

Inspiration Image Source

To say this adorable picture of Mother-Nature's-Son Macca "inspired" my outfit in the first place would be a bit of stretch, but I think the two do compliment each other quite nicely.

President's Day weekend brought a spell of glorious sunshine to Seattle. At times, temperatures were in the high 50s (!!), but you could still feel that chilly winter bite while walking in the shade. I'm sure Northern Europe has very little to do sunshine and February springtime, but I was nevertheless in the mood for fair isle knits, work boots, and cup upon cup of breakfast-time tea.

Inspirsesson has yet to hear some important news: This March I'll be hopping a plane to the United Kingdom, then working in rural Northern Ireland for a few weeks (and that's only the first stop!) Needless to say, this last month has been a whirlwind of travel-planning, furniture-selling, and fretting over how to pack a sensible suitcase. Outfits like this one are going to be choice for the travel days I'm not doing grunge work: layered, warm, chic, walkable, and comfortable (LWCWC?)

At this point, I have yet to decide what to do with Inspirsession during my travels. More than likely I will take a brief hiatus to focus on travel writing. Between now and then, expect an early wrap of my winter capsule wardrobe... and perhaps a peep into my suitcase?

What do you like to wear traveling? Have you ever packed a suitcase for a very long adventure? Most importantly, do you believe hiking boots can be made stylish??


2.17.2015

W2015 14: Aquarius Blues, or A Few of My Favorite Things

W2015 14: Aquarius Blues

Inspiration Image Source

The minute I saw this inspiration photo, I knew I wanted to save it for my birthday outfit inspiration. The moon necklace, the cascading hair, the far-off eyes, the blue dress... it immediately reminded me of all things Aquarius!

I've always had a great love for all things vintage and unique (and often both at once.) For my birthday this year, I wanted to bust out all my favorite individualist pieces from my winter capsule. It's just my good fortune that they all happened to coordinate!

First up: this cobalt silk shirtdress. I found this baby at a thrift store in college, and I admit I was hesitant at first. I wasn't fully convinced blue was my color, and I worried the silk might be finicky. When I put it on, though, the fit was so perfect that color and maintenance concerns fell right away. Have you ever experienced this? That Cinderella moment when something just feels made for you? Sometimes it can cloud judgement, but in this case I was glad I trusted my instincts. In all its simplicity, it's still one of the most flattering garments I own.*

Next, these shoes. I love just about any oxford, but an oxford heel adds just the right amount of vintage sass. I found this 30s throwback pair at another thrift store in good old Spokane, Washington some 4 or 5 years ago. Once again, it was love at first sight.

When you're rocking a dress and shoes in a style that's older than your mom, it's wise to inject a healthy dose of trendy/modern to balance things out. That's why I went for these punky plaid tights, rather than a simple solid or nylon stocking. Their color harmony with the shoes kept them from looking clownish, but they still measured up to the oomph of the dress.

Have you ever tried pairing your favorite pieces all at once? Try it and see what you learn about yourself!

*It should be pointed out that the actual dress is a sleek a-line cut, not the baggy mess that is its representation photo above.


2.13.2015

W2015 13: Rorelai

W2015 13: Rorelai

Inspiration Image Source

Sooner or later it was bound to happen. Like the rest of the Netflix community, my productivity has fallen prey to two coffee-guzzling brunette beauties living their lives out across my screen. I've even started finding flannel and baseball hats oddly attractive. That's right -- I've started watching Gilmore Girls.

And after nearly a season's worth of episodes, I still can't tell you who I dig more, Rory or Lorelai. So I decided to take inspiration from an amalgamation of their separate personalities: Rorelai. In other words, I took all my favorite aspects of Rory's style and combined them with my favorites of Lorelai's. Like, if I had the opportunity to raid both the Gilmore Girls' respective closets, this would be the resulting outfit.

From the Rory side of things, we have a clean-cut a-line skirt, plaid scarf, and a classic collared blouse. Lorelai's edgy contributions include the Chelsea bootie heels, chunky silver jewelry, and a leather jacket. I'm just loving how it all combined!

How would you wear Rorelai?


2.11.2015

W2015 12: Februbaby

W2015 12: Februbaby

Inspiration Image Source

Is it me, or is there something vaguely Harry Potter-esque about this outfit? It's striking a real Prisoner of Askaban chord in me, and I can only think it has to do with that clock-like zodiac dial I've chosen as an inspiration image. Hmm.

With February now in full swing, my zany Aquarian spirit is turning cartwheels, waiting for the time to celebrate her special day. What does me being an Aquarius have to do with this outfit? Well, for one thing, it explains how exercise leggings ended up alongside a leather crossbody purse: We water-bearers are all about such unexpected pairings. This comes from an inherent compulsion to invent and, above all, to be original. Unique charm necklaces, like this one from Lucky, perfectly capture that sense of individualism. I find myself playing with the charms when I'm contemplating how to better organize my butterfly mind, when I'm futzing about with technology, or when I'm having a mid-afternoon daydream -- which is most mid-afternoons, if I'm being honest here.

People ask why astrology interests me, if I acknowledge it has little to do with actual science. I can only say I've always been more fascinated by mysteries and dreams than realities.

And who wouldn't want to feel connected to the stars?

2.09.2015

W2015 11: Boy Meets Girl

W2015 11: Boy Meets Girl

Inspiration Image Source

As we discussed last Thursday, discovering your signature look takes lots of experimentation and trial-and-error practice. I've entertained a variety of girly-girl personalities, but in the end I always wind up back in jackets, jeans, and boots. There's just no denying I'm a tomboy at heart.

And so long as we're being tomboys, let's be teddy boys while we're at it. Quick History Lesson: The teddy boys were a subculture of 1950s Britain defined by their unique sense of style (which borrowed a great deal from Edwardian fashion) and rebellious attitudes. They might be likened to America's "greasers," of this same time. 

My interest in this particular look stems partially from my Beatles obsession; John Lennon was a well-known exhibitor of the teddy boy style in his youth. It also appeals to my sense of practicality. Most teddy boys (and girls) came from working class families, and were destined for factory or dock life by their mid-teens. Their clothes reflect this lifestyle, but they add the Edwardian whimsey for the sake of subversiveness.

I love that.

A little trick I love when you're going full tomboy: spritz a floral or vanilla perfume on your wrists and hair. It's surprising and (IMHO) dreadfully sexy.

2.05.2015

W2015 10: How to Discover Your Inner Audrey

W2015 9: Classique

Inspiration Image Source

I'm consistently amazed just how little it takes to create something classic. There's really something to be said for the "less is more" approach, and I think Audrey Hepburn stands as a brilliant example of it. Extraordinarily self-aware, yet ever humble, she embraced and honored her beauty with simple, elegant acoutrements.

So how do you own your style, instead of letting style own you? I think there are three main principles behind a signature style like Audrey's:

1) Proportion, proportion, proportion. Proportion is something I've only come to name recently, but in some way or another I was always conscious of it. It's the hurdle we face when we try on that trendy over-sized sweater in the dressing room -- the one that hits at the widest part of our thighs and makes us think, "Why does this seem to work for everyone but me?"
   As a unique woman (or man), you have your own unique body proportions. The necklines, silhouettes, heel heights, and jean cuts that work for your best friend may not work for you too. Contrary to what magazines would have you believe, there is no perfect pigeonhole (or fruit shape) into which your body will fit. My friend and I are both hourglass-shaped, but where her curves were love a shift dress, I lack the lovely lady lumps to make them look anything but dumpy. And dumpy just ain't my style.
   The only way to master proportion is through trial and error. Take your time in the dressing room. Observe what makes you feel uncomfortable and ask why. Ignore trends, and go with your gut.

2) The art of confidence. Nothing will make your style soar like good posture, eye contact, a genuine smile, and a positive personality. I was recently introduced to a woman whose work and beauty I'd always admired. In a single conversation, she managed to insult a mutual acquaintance, disparage someone else's romantic felicity, and complain about the shape of her own face. I quickly lost sight of why I esteemed her in the first place.

3) Practice your signature (look). Remember when you were eleven and destined for fabulousity and you actually practiced signing your name? (Please don't tell me I'm the only one who did this...) Fashion requires the same practice. In his book Acting on Film, Michael Caine describes the process by which he became, well, Michael Caine:

         I was a Cockney boy and obviously didn't fit anybody's idea of what an actor was supposed to be, so I decided to put together elements that added up to a memorable package. I got myself seen around the "in" spots, wearing glasses and smoking a cigar. I became known as "that guy who wears glasses and smokes a cigar." ... It was the truth, but I had consciously assembled that truth so nobody could miss it. 

    The moral of the story? Decide who it is you want to be -- what style you want to project -- and put it into practice. Sooner or later, myth will become reality.