Monday, October 31, 2011

An Interview for Prêt à Voyager's Boarding Pass

Today I'm happy to be joining the ranks on Prêt à Voyager's Boarding Pass series. Anne Ditmeyer interviews an incredible variety of creatives, writers, and travelers so I was thrilled when she asked me to participate. Go check out the interview for my thoughts on traveling, where I've been, my recommendations, and loads of photos I never got to share with you all.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cuddle Weather

I was really looking forward to brunch at the latin-fusion spot Yuca Bar this morning and even though no one else (except A.) could join me, I was planning to head down there anyway. Until I woke up and saw the blanket of snow that was - and still is - falling outside. A. didn't even get up until past noon so that plan was scrapped.

Disappointed and stubborn as I am, I decided to go outside anyway, on principle. This silly snow isn't going to keep me cooped up in the house all day, nuh uh! So I put on my sneakers, grabbed an umbrella and went out into the slush and wind. Three blocks later, my sneakers were soaked, my toes frozen, and I was cursing my decision to brave the elements. I ducked into Starbucks for a cup of caramel apple spice and thaw myself back to life.

"You know, this is the perfect weather to just stay in bed and cuddle," A. said before I explained some nonsense about being stir crazy and not wanting to nap and bum around all day. Don't you just hate it when men turn out to have a point, leave you to your devices, and then wait until you realize they were probably right?


Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Treats and Recipes

Can you believe Halloween is back again? Worse yet, can you believe it's supposed to snow in NYC tomorrow?! Twenty-nine years of it and it never gets any easier.

Anywho, so are you guys dressing up for Halloween? I haven't been able to decide what to be or where to go (though considering Steve Jobs' passing, this 2008 iPod dancing silhouette costume came to mind) so as of now I've got nothing. But that doesn't mean I can't celebrate in other ways. Below, some Halloween-inspired treats for a sweet weekend. Enjoy yours!

Halloween cupcakes in a jar.
Cute and creepy versus spooky and playful treats.
Orange Jack-o-Lanterns with sorbet.
Apple cider cups.
Wicked witch cupcakes.
Pumpkin spice latte.
Chocolate spiderweb cake in a jar.
Candy creatures and Frankenstein marshmallow pops.
Candy corn cheesecake mousse. Even though I'm not a fan of candy corn, cheesecake, or mousse. Are you?


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Have You Been Showing Up for Yourself?

A few months ago, a good friend and former co-worker of mine said something that's stuck with me since and that I still have trouble implementing into my life. "You've got to show up for yourself. You show up to do these other people's work, why not show up for you?"

Well surprise, surprise my attendance has been poor as of late. It's surprising how much energy goes into fulfilling other people's demands and how powerful the pull to vegetate afterwards is.

In my attempts to reform and focus on MY wants if only for tonight, I've walked over to Starbucks to get some writing done. (Is it just me or is their soundtrack the best music to work to undistracted?) On Monday, I checked out Wix Lounge, a free workspace near Union Square where other cubicle-less people go to avoid the solitary life that is freelancing. There's plenty of table space, seating, couches, free WiFi, and a kitchen area so you can play office even when you're only working for yourself. At the end of the work day, the group holds events and networking opportunities to get to know your workspace mates...or you can be antisocial like me and jet out of there whenever you're done. (Find other workspaces, cafés, and WiFi hotspots in NYC on

Because I need structure in order to function, I scheduled in Pow Wow sessions Monday and Wednesday evenings that *fingers crossed* will force me to leave the apartment and make progress in other areas of my life. The ones that should always be first and foremost. I've also started using little tools to improve my productivity:

1. I started creating task lists on Gmail or Google Calendar (they sync) instead of on pieces of paper, notebooks, phone, sticky notes, brain, etc. to keep them all in one location that can't be misplaced.

2. All events, invites, and appointments go onto Google Calendar, which syncs up with my Android cell phone.

3. To continue the Google takeover, I've started using Chrome as my default web browser to take advantage of their applications (new email pop-up messages, view web calendar while offline, Bitly app which shortens URLs and posts onto your Twitter account without leaving the web know, important stuff). I haven't missed Firefox or Safari since I made the switch.

4. I draft email and text message replies from my phone while I'm on the subway so I can send them off as soon as I'm above ground.

5. With I can glance at all my finances, accounts, and transactions from one page.

I'm hoping these little changes help because good gravy, I can't believe it's almost November and I still have all these plans I wanted to get off the ground before my 30th rolls around in January. Homegirl really needs to get her mind right and quick. If only it weren't so easy to just settle for things as they are. And if only that little voice would stop nagging me to move my ass.

So what have you guys been up to these days? Anything remotely productive on the YOU front?


Friday, October 21, 2011

Happy Friday!

Are you guys doing anything good this weekend? A. came to my place today craving peanut butter cookies so we ran out for supplies to bake some. We used this recipe, but added a few tweaks including some mentioned in the recipe's comments like more flour, chocolate, and vanilla extract. But holy jeebus, instead of 24 cookies we ended up with 64! Thank goodness they turned out yummy.

I also have a little belated goody for you all. We finally made our Europe photos public! ('Bout damn time, huh?) So click on to see all that we saw and loved in Berlin, Prague, Munich, Paris, Barcelona, Cannes, Florence, and Rome! And I hope you all have a wonderfully sweet weekend, my little monkeybutts.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

When Exes Come Back to Town

When 2009 rolled around and we still hadn't seen each other since that awful August day, I figured the possibility of Mr. First and I ever getting back together was pretty much gone. As time marched on, I slowly realized that I was falling out of love myself and that the long distance that tormented us during the relationship was actually a blessing once we'd broken up. Without the worry of running into him on the train, at the park, or anywhere in all of New York City, I was able to relax, let go, and eventually move on.

But I'm a girl so I'll admit that over the years I've wondered what it'd be like if we ever did see each other again. Would it be awkward or would I realize that I'm completely over it? Would he have someone else holding his hand? Would I look hotter than The Other Chick and would he secretly think, "I've made a mistake!" (Oh, you know you secretly wish that, too.) Do we have to act like we never happened all those years ago? I mean what do you say to someone who unwrapped all your secrets, who saw and heard your everything before becoming a stranger? A sheepish "Um, hi?"

Last week, and more than three years after I saw him last, I had the chance to see the ex again. A small group of grad school friends decided to gather in the city for dinner and drinks - Mr. First included. A part of me was curious as to what the encounter would be like, I wanted answers to all those questions even if it meant stirring up feelings that need not be stirred. But even though I closed that chapter, in the end I just didn't want to be reminded that I was ever there. Deep down I knew that it'd probably do more harm than good to see him again and that I'm still not ready to be his friend.

The evening came and went and I didn't feel like I needed to be there. Perhaps it would've been nice to see him again, to chat face-to-face rather than the random message out of the blue that we send from time to time. I guess at the end of the day, I just didn't feel it was worth the risk. I fell in too deep and did too much climbing to willingly put myself in a situation I'm not yet ready for.

"Happy birthday," I texted a few days later. "Hope 28 is a good one."
"Many thanks! You were missed on Friday night."
"Yeah, ended up being on the fence about it and then decided to do something else..."

And so it goes. We can continue this friendliness at an arm's length, but not much closer. Maybe after three more years I'll feel differently. Maybe then we can laugh about it all and I can be his friend no matter who's hanging off his arm and no matter what any of us looks like. That's if we're even still relevant to each other at that point.

So tell me, have you ever run into an ex? What was it like? And are you still friends with any of your exes?


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What Wines Do You Like to Drink?

Confession: I'm completely clueless when it comes to picking wine. I could stare at a wine menu forever, pretending to know merlot from cabernet, only to end up saying "oh, I'll have what he just ordered" when my turn comes around. So I've taken to jotting down the names of ones I've tasted and enjoyed. My favorite so far are two German Reisling wines, Dr. Loosen Reisling "Dr. L" and Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Spatlese. Both are light, sweet, and affordable (I buy both from here). Plus, I gravitate towards chilled white wines rather than heavy reds. (P.S. Does red wine make anyone else so sleepy?)

But I'd love to grow my weak list so tell me: which wines are you loving these days? Do you have one you turn to again and again? Or are you just as clueless as I am?

For you wine lovers:

The secret's out with this tote bag.
How to make wine glass charms.
A metro wine map of France.
A traveler's wine tote.
A classy little wine journal.
How to drink wine on a budget.
Wine experts' recommendations for cheap drinking.
What wine pairs with cereal?


Monday, October 17, 2011

A Chat With: Jen Ramos of Made by Girl

I first had the pleasure of talking to Jennifer Ramos back in 2008 during my fact-checking days at Latina Magazine. The designer behind Made By Girl was being featured in our Cool Jobs column and I took the opportunity to reach out and ask her my own questions about starting a stationery business. She was just as sweet and willing to answer my questions now as she was all those years ago.

Hi Jen, it's so nice to talk shop with you again! It's great to see how you've grown your Made By Girl greeting card and print line and all the press you've received over the last few years. You've even added a whole new business line to your name. Are you still developing your card collection or are you focusing more on the original artwork that you've started selling this year? 

I'm actually doing a bit of both. However, Made By Girl is my main business and so I've been thinking of expanding the store and bringing in other items into the shop besides prints and cards.

Speaking of expanding, congrats on the success of Cocoa and Hearts! What made you decide to launch a separate business for your paintings? 

Thank you! I've been so blessed that Cocoa and Hearts has done so well! I guess I could have easily launched paintings on Made By Girl, but it just made more sense to create an entirely new site.
How has this experience differed from Made by Girl? Was it easier or harder this time around? And what feelings do painting and creating invoke in you?

It was definitely easier this time around. With Made By Girl, I now had customers to introduce my paintings to. Whereas when I first started MBG, no one had ever heard of me before so it was a bit of a challenge. But it didn't stop me from trying, I just kept at it. Painting tends to evoke a feeling of tranquility for me and it helps me relax. I really enjoy it.

I have to admit I don't always understand abstract art and usually just go with what's visually pleasing to me. That said, I wish the artists would explain their thought process behind their work to let the rest of us in on the story. Could you just share what message you try to convey through your pieces?

There isn't a meaning or explanation when I paint. I just paint how I feel that day and if I feel like crap for some reason, the paintings will also look like crap. So, I usually try to paint when I'm feeling good! My paintings are mostly about color and how they can accentuate or brighten a space. It's as simple as that.

Your blog, filled with interior design and stylish finds, is also incredibly popular. I mean 11,700 followers on Google Friend Connect alone is impressive! How did you create and maintain such a strong following? 

When I started back in 2006, I only knew of a handful of good design blogs and they all knew each other. I was the newbie trying to break in and get my name out there but no one was listening. It took me almost a year until people took notice. I think I've managed to maintain a following because of the surprise aspect and variety in content. I always make sure I provide good clear photographs and interesting posts, which I really think my readers appreciate.

What can we expect from your two shops in the future? We'd love to know what projects do you have in the works! 

With Cocoa and Hearts I'm hoping to keep launching more paintings, especially larger ones, maybe even some mixed media. Then with Made by Girl , new site design, new art, framing availability and possibly even adding products by other designers!

Images:, and

Friday, October 14, 2011

Where We Stayed During our European Travels

It's long overdue, but A. has written this round-up of all the places we slept in during our backpacking trip through Germany, the Czech Republic, France, Spain, and Italy. Some were wonderful splurges and others were cheap as hell, but they all gave us some interesting stories to tell. I was just excited to check out different hotels, get over my fear of staying in a stranger's home, and see what it'd be like to sleep during an overnight train ride into Paris. I'll chime in with some thoughts and answer any questions in the comments section.

In order to keep the trip costs down during our 23-day European vacation, we tried a variety of different lodgings. We tested out a couple Airbnb offerings, stayed in some cheap hotels, went totally budget with shared rooms in hostels and treated ourselves to a couple nice stays along the way. Here is a brief rundown of everywhere we stayed:

Hüttenpalast Hotel, Berlin, Germany

I wasn’t sure how to explain what this hotel was. On my Facebook status, I described it as treehouse + trailer park + warehouse + tea party. While this hotel had regular rooms, Dorkys wanted to try their more exotic offerings. The experience was a lot like indoor camping; a very large eccentrically decorated room contained a variety of vintage trailers and wooden cabins. We slept in one of the cabins that was just large enough to fit a double bed. The bathroom was shared.

Pros: Clean, quirky, friendly, the bar a couple doors down was a cool locals joint
Cons: Everyone can hear the noise you make, no airflow, it was slightly removed from the tourist part of town (this would be a pro if I were on this trip by myself)
Cost: $75 per night

Hobrechtstrasse 66; 49-030/3730-5806;

Michelberger Hotel, Berlin, Germany

We stayed in a room that wasn’t much larger than the one we had at Hüttenpalast, but at least this one had a shower, toilet, and sink mashed in there. The shower had a window so that anyone chilling on the double bed would have a nice show. Good way to force the issue with an unsuspecting travel partner. The vibe at the hotel was very social, with the charming common areas providing great places to meet other guests. There were several clubs, attractions, and restaurants within walking distance.

Pros: Clean, cool, social, close to the action.
Cons: The pillows felt like they were only filled by three cotton balls.
Cost: $83 per night

Warschauer Strasse 39/40; 49-30/2977-8590;

Jaeger's Hostel, Munich, Germany

After stepping into this hostel, I immediately felt very old. Music was playing and the bar stools were full. Our room had two bunk beds in it. We took one while a young backpacking couple from South Africa took the other. It wasn’t such a bad stay until our roommates were replaced by two South Korean boys who decided to wash their clothes in the sink, leaving the floor of the bathroom covered in water that smelled like industrial bleach. When we tried to clean our clothes the civilized way, the hostel’s dryer simply refused to do its job and they didn’t offer us a refund. We had to finish the job at a laundromat a few blocks away. Apparently doing laundry in Europe is expensive. One euro for 10 minutes of drying? Yeow!

Pros: Close to the train station, one free shot per person upon check-in.
Cons: It’s a hostel, the wifi didn’t penetrate into the rooms.
Cost: $28 per night per person

Senefelderstrasse 3; 49-089/555-281;

Train sleeper car, Munich, Germany to Paris, France

We justified this experience as just that, an experience, but we were actually just forced into sleeping on the train because the route we originally wanted was sold out. We slept in a compartment with six bunks, three on each side, and we took the top two. I was originally looking forward to the rocking motion of the train putting me to sleep, but by about the third hour of tossing, I was over it. It was hot and uncomfortable, and the train had a few stops along the way that interrupted what little sleep was possible. Realizing that you’re inadvertently leaning against a very removable railing that is barely preventing you from falling seven feet to the floor is also poor for sleep.

Pros: It's a story I get to tell in which I came close to death, but survived.
Cons: Did you not read?

Airbnb: Yassir H., Paris, France

Our first Airbnb experience was a good one; we stayed in a lovely one-bedroom apartment in Montmartre owned by a student. He gave us the bedroom and took the couch in the living room for himself. As luck would have it, he had to leave town for a few days while we were there, so we ended up with the whole place to ourselves. This proved to be convenient when I suddenly got sick and had to stay in bed an entire day.

Pros: Cheap, toned our calves and asses with the 7-floor walk-up.
Cons: Had to share the place with the owner for a couple nights, brand new towels left red lint all over privates.
Cost: $74 per night

Rue Damrémont;

Silken Diagonal Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

We decided to treat ourselves halfway through the trip, so we splurged on this snazzy hotel. The room was large, with a glass bathroom. As a cool perk, the hotel is situated right next door to one of Barcelona’s modern landmarks, the Torre Agbar, which we quickly took to calling “the dildo.” Though, to be honest, it looks more like a vibrator. Even more useful was the hotel’s proximity to Barcelona’s nude beach, Mar Bella, which in contrast to common nude beach reputation actually has a fair amount of attractive young people.

Pros: Very stylish.
Cons: Have to travel a bit to get to the touristy stuff.
Cost: About $165 per night.

Avenida Diagonal, 205; 34-934/895-300;

Hostal Residencia Australia, Barcelona, Spain

This was a tiny 4-room hotel with a shared bathroom. In my defense, this was a last-minute booking. The proprietor, a native of Australia and Spanish guitar enthusiast, was fucking weird. He referred to the stuffed animal on the front desk as “Mr. Wombat” and, in the span of a few minutes, managed to refer to it several times as if it had its own personality and could actually tell me things if I directed my questions to it. Luckily, we only spent one night there before skipping town.

Pros: Really close to La Rambla and the Gothic quarter.
Cons: Mr. Wombat
Cost: $82 per night

Ronda de la Universitat 11; 34/933-174177;

Hotel Chanteclair, Cannes, France

The proprietor of this hotel is Danish and he decided to try something new, so he bought a shitty hotel in Cannes. To his credit, it looks like he’s been working at slowly improving it. Situated equidistant between the two notable beaches in this overpriced hive of rich people, it was a decent place to stay when you know that you’re paying a tiny fraction of what everyone else is to “enjoy” this culturally washed-out famous-because-it’s-famous former fishing village. The room was old and basic, with a shower stall and a sink, but a shared bathroom. Unfortunately, we were eaten alive by mosquitoes.

Pros: Steps from an open-air market, the stares from the rich people as they wonder how the hell you got there.
Cons: Mosquitoes! Arrrghhh!
Cost: $80 per night

12 rue Forville; 04-93/39-68-88

Hostel Archi Rossi, Florence, Italy

We expected a slightly better experience than Jaeger’s and we were right. The vibe of this place was much more sedated, despite having every inch of their corridor walls covered in writing from previous guests. If you have a thing for Korean women, stay here. While we shared our room with four others, everyone was quiet and respectful. The single best thing about this hostel was the free breakfast. I can’t tell you how much hassle it circumvents during budget travel to have your breakfast just handed to you. It just starts the day off right.

Pros: Free breakfast!
Cons: It’s still a hostel.
Cost: $35 per night per person

Via Faenza, 94r; 055/290-804;

Airbnb: Giuseppe A., Rome, Italy

We ran into our first trouble with Airbnb when we tried to check into the apartment and our host was nowhere to be found, nor did he pick up his phone. Standing out in the sweltering heat as we waited for him to show up was unpleasant, but once we got inside, it was a nice experience. My best analysis of the situation was that the host had recently moved to a new apartment and had kept his old one to rent out and make a few extra bucks. We ended up sharing the large apartment with a shy older couple from Norway.

Pros: At least checkout was easy.
Cons: No wifi, Rome sucks.
Cost: $81 per night

Via Giovanni Giolitti;

UPDATE: I've added my thoughts on each lodging in the comments below so be sure to check them out!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"That's Gay" and Hispanic Homophobia

I grew up in a fairly homophobic Latin community where each gender had its role to fulfill, men were expected to settle down with a woman, and any deviation from what God intended for us was deemed wrong. If a guy gave any indication that he was gay, whether the assumption was correct or not, he'd be labeled with the derogatory terms mariquitamaricon or pajaro, the Spanish equivalent of fairy and faggot. Sometimes these words are used as a quick insult no matter who was on the receiving end.

Men have been bullied, beaten, and driven to suicide because they sought a life whose bounds did not fit neatly within the space society carved out for them. It amazes me how, to this day still, the ignorance continues to live around me. It's okay to "not know any better," but don't continue to shun education when it's been presented to you because at that point you're choosing to perpetuate the problem.

"That's gay" is one phrase that's carelessly thrown around to cast something in a negative light or hint at someone's sexuality based on factors that have nothing to do with what truly makes someone gay. It grates my ears to hear it and even though it doesn't make me any better on the assumption front, I often judge those who, in using these words so nonchalantly, condone this mentality of hatred. Thousands of dollars paid for a college degree does not a tolerant person make. Even if the person claims to be accepting and agrees that everyone is free to do as they choose, resorting to off-handed remarks and insensitive jokes might indicate otherwise. And even if you think nothing of saying it to someone as a joke, do you know who's within ear shot that could get offended?

A trip to this year's Gay Pride Parade to celebrate New York's ruling that gay marriage is legal was met with a joking "You support that shamelessness?" A mother PDA'ing with her new girlfriend resulted in a rant that she had the devil inside her and should be ashamed for leaving a husband behind for this. And the term "that's gay" and "no homo" have ingrained themselves into the urban vernacular of younger generations. Sometimes I wonder if they even know what being gay actually means.

+ Not liking something does not make it gay. In fact, an inanimate object cannot be gay. Someone, he, she, we, I, they can be gay. That colorful sweater that you think is "fruity"? It's just a colorful knitted sweater and nothing more than a possible eyesore.

+ Dressing a certain way does not make you gay. This includes cross dressing (they can still love the opposite sex) or men who wear skirts (look up kilts).

+ Men who like to be pampered, treated by a woman, or fail to fit your stereotypical idea of a macho man are not automatically gay.

+ If a man likes anal sex with a woman or enjoys having his prostate stimulated, he is not gay.

+ Limp wrists, high pitched voices, and swivel hips do not indicate homosexuality.

+ A man showing emotion, or hugging or caring about a male friend is not gay.

When someone is gay, it simply means they are turned on by and prefer to be with their own sex. That's it. There's no set correlation between the way a person dresses, looks, or acts and their sexual preferences. Gaydar be damned, unless he tells you himself or you've had sex with him, you have no idea what he might be into. For all you know he might not even fit neatly within the homosexual category by being curious about oral sex with a man, but only if he looked like a convincing woman. Or she might be into guys, but fantasize about girls as she orgasms. Using your assumptions to categorize those around you based solely on sterotypes is not only pointless, but could keep open-minded friends from sharing their "more radical" thoughts with you.

Why promote interracial love, but not inter-gender ones? Because it's not natural, they say. Because our bodies are built to mate with the opposite sex, they explain. But what about what the mind and heart desire? Are those not natural, too? Like an inheritance passed down from parent to child, so the ignorance continues to trickle down to the next generation. What will you teach your children?

P.S. Did you know yesterday was National Coming Out Day? Learn more about the Human Rights Campaign and how to support LGBT equality, help fight hispanic homophobia with the Hispanic Federation, and give hope to LGBT youth who are experiencing bullying and taunting at school through the It Gets Better project or You can start by taking note of the words you say and the ideas you spread.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Live Now: Artful Messages of Hope, Happiness & Healing

Facing any disease can change everything in an instant. If you let it, it can consume you and lead you down dark roads, but the fight for survival can also manifest itself in beautiful ways that not only transforms your view on life, but ripples onto others' worlds as well. The Live Now project began a couple years ago after graphic designer Eric Smith was diagnosed with cancer and the ideas of death changed his perspective on how he was living his life and how he wanted things to be.

"My whole attitude towards life shifted. I prioritized and organized my life around things that really matter—relationships, love, truth, purpose and inspiration," Smith says. "At first I did feel defeated, I felt a strong separation from my spiritual and physical health - two completely different things. I had no control over my physical health, but my spiritual well being could shine bright!"

So he began to journal and illustrate these lessons into different quotes and built a website to share these ideas. Soon thousands of emails from friends around the world poured in, all wanting to help spread words of hope and positivity. The Live Now book came to life after How magazine published a post about the community project and the two groups began talking about ways to collaborate.

The result is a collection of more than 100 pages of original photos and illustrations from about 65 artists that are paired with encouraging messages. They not only serve to lift your own spirits, but can be easily detached from the book to share with someone who needs a pick-me-up. "The overall aesthetic for our book has a human, made by hand feel," Smith says. "We wanted the book to feel very easy going, humble, and simple - and felt this communicated these ideas best. Of course, the perforated edges are rad. This turned the book into a tool of spreading happiness and smiles."

To learn more about the project, news, events, and exchange ideas centered on happiness and presence, visit the Live Now community website at "Our hope is that readers get a glimpse of what happiness really is, thoughts on purpose, and overall puts a smile on your face," Smith says.


Friday, October 7, 2011

A Chat With: Minhee Cho of Paper + Cup

If you're ever at a loss for really simple but classy paper crafts to make for friends, home and party décor, or to keep the kids entertained, then you should keep a copy of "Paper + Craft" on your shelf. The craft book comes from stationery design team Truman and Minhee Cho of Paper + Cup and is full of cool ideas that you can easily tweak for a customized touch. Minhee recently took some time to talk about how she juggles growing her business, writing a book, and the family all the while satisfying her sweet tooth.

Hi, Minhee! It's so nice to have you for a chat. You and your husband, Truman, have been managing Paper + Cup for eight years now. Why did you decide to venture into the publishing business and what do you hope both long-time followers and new ones learn about your design company through "Paper + Craft"? 

We didn’t seek out to do a book but when Chronicle Books asked us to, we were super excited. While writing the book, we realized that anyone can craft and have fun doing it. We’re not super skilled but just love making things. We wanted to share with others that the process and having fun is the most important part, not getting a picture perfect piece finished.

There were quite a few things I really want to get working on, but the giant tissue paper flower is by far my fave and would look so pretty in my apartment. Are the projects in the book things you've made in the past or were most of them generated for the book?

They were a mix, some were inspired from things we made in the past for other projects or personal use or things that were inspired by past experiences. For example, the mustache drink toppers were inspired from a family holiday where we had actual fake mustaches that we wore while opening gifts.

Oh, I liked that one, too! I'll have to host another dinner party to give those away as favors. How did you manage to run Paper + Cup, write "Paper + Craft," and have a baby?

Oh my it was a crazy year! I was pregnant the entire time we were writing the book and did the photoshoot when I was nine months in. We have some help with running the day-to-day orders for P+C so that was okay, but there were many late nights and work weekends.

Now tell me a bit more about Paper + Cup. What made you decide to create a stationery/ design business? And why this name in particular?

I love old papers, letters, labels, and books. The fact that you can hold it in your hands and experience it is what makes it so special. Getting a letter in the mail versus reading the same letter in an email can give the same person a completely different experience. To be a part of that experience for someone is so special. We may never meet the person that gets our birthday card, but it makes us happy to think their day was made a little brighter.

Tru actually pushed me into starting P+C. I was at a magazine company for a while and just really did not want to be there anymore. It sounds cliché, but I've always made my own cards ever since I was little. Mainly because as a kid I never had money for a gift so my card became the gift. Then it just kept with me. We always wanted to work together and make things, not necessarily just cards. A stationery business seemed like something I could handle and we planned on growing from there.

The name is a marriage of our two loves, paper and coffee-tea-wine... It’s not an exciting story, but I loved the sound of paper cup. It seemed so simple and easy to remember. Our big dream is to have a paper store and café to go with our name.

You describe your company's design as something new with a touch of vintage. How have you kept things interesting and fresh over the last eight years? 

Sometimes it's a big challenge to keep on coming up with new ideas. Over the years I've learned that you can’t force it. If I’m not inspired with a project, I’ll stop for a bit and move on. Or do something completely different like clean the kitchen. It’s always when I’m not sitting in front of the computer that ideas come. We try to venture off and explore new neighborhoods and try new places to eat on the weekends. It’s those times that we are most productive in coming up with new designs and projects.

So what's in the works for Paper + Cup's future? 

We are venturing off to Paris to set up shop doing custom wedding projects. We’ve launched a new blog in English and French and our Paris website is coming soon so we’re super excited! We’re also starting to think about making our dream come true for a small P+C shop.

Oh Paris is incredible! I wish I were there now, but living in New York City is pretty fantastic, too. So as a fellow New Yorker, could you please share a few of your favorite spots that guests simply must experience for themselves? 

Oh, there are so many! I go to Peels for the 3 in 1 cream pie, Bisous, Ciao for macarons, Il Laboratorio del Gelato, Popbar, and Amy’s Bread in the Chelsea Market for the best vanilla cake. It’s all desserts!

Images:, book page image courtesy of Minhee Cho,,, and

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Disaster Designs Paper Plane Satchel Handbag

There are few times when a handbag will not only catch my eye, but actually leave me sighing for it hours after I've passed it by. Okay, so that's never happened before, but it did while A. and I were aimlessly walking around Barcelona's Gothic quarter. The shop's window display stopped me in my tracks, but, alas, I found my dream messenger bag too late. It was our last night in the city and the shop was closing for the day. "Do you have a website?" I asked the lady as she pulled down the gates. "No," she replied. When I asked who made the pretty brown bag in the window all she could remember was that it was a London-based designer. Wonderful. So A. took a photo to submit to the Internet gods while I took note of the tags on the products around it as the bag's own was hidden. "Paper Plane" is all I had to go off of and for the rest of our walk that evening I lamented that I'd missed my chance to get the one souvenir I would have wanted.

But because the Internet rocks, A. found the bag for me within minutes of getting online and I soon had a few shop sites that carried Disaster Designs' products and its Paper Plane line. Unfortunately, none where we were or where we were going to be so I decided to order it online. People, I even considered having it shipped to our Airbnb stay in Rome so I could have it before I left Europe, that's how much I was beasting for this thing (I didn't risk it though). Instead, I bought the satchel handbag from Bloomsbury & Co., a British shop that ships internationally, and had it delivered home. It didn't arrive until a week after I returned, but I was so happy once it was finally mine.

I love the size, the faux leather color that's already showing a bit of wear quite nicely, and the pink vintage map printed on the front (though I slightly wish it were a vintage city map rather than a topographic one). It also features what I wished my Timbuk2 messenger bag had: buckles! And the whimsical little accents - from the red luggage tag with the words "travel in style" pressed onto it, the airmail-style piping along the flap's edges, and the "Return to Sender" stitched across the front - all cater to this travel writer who still likes to pen her letters by hand.

The back is the same brown with the blue-and-white striped ribbons continuing all the way down and a tiny tag with an enveloped sealed with a loving kiss. The interior is a simple light blue fabric, which makes it easy to find things inside, with a zippered pocket and pouch. My only concern after purchasing it was whether my new 13-inch MacBook Pro would fit in it as nicely as it does in my Timbuk2 messenger bag. It's a tighter fit, but it fits nonetheless!

I'm really enjoying carrying my quirky bag around town, the fun story it comes with, and the fact that I doubt I'll ever encounter another person with it. Maybe it's for the best that the UK's Amazon site won't ship to the U.S. because all this Paper Plane cuteness would just ruin me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Apple Founder Steve Jobs Passes Away

President Obama made a good point when he said "there may be no greater tribute to Steve's success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented." I'm going through my Facebook and Twitter feeds on my Mac to see that they are now filled with his inspiring words about following your passion. So I thought I'd add my favorite to the mix.

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." -Steven Jobs

This news coupled with my breast cancer awareness coverage, a funeral, and a close friend's health concerns have left me feeling quite sad and inspired. A mind and life fully lived are such terrible things to waste. Don't deprive the world of your greatness.

UPDATE: Thursday morning's assignment: a roundup of Steve Jobs' most significant inventions. I'm a mini expert on the man now.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Who Should Pay on the First Date?

On a recent outing with Heidi and Anonymous (remember them?), we started talking about who should pay on the first date and while hearing their thoughts on the matter, I realized I don't even remember who paid when A. and I went out for the first time. Knowing me and how quickly and casually our relationship developed (he asked for my email before my number), I wouldn't put it past us to have split the first few bills and thought nothing of it.

I know it's quite romantic to be wooed, wined and dined (Lord knows I still crave it from time to time), but I don't care much about going dutch on a first date or treating the guy if I can. I definitely wouldn't knock a man if he needed me to help out. As it stands, A. does end up paying for most of our meals, but I'll pay for random things in the relationship without keeping tabs.

Back in the day, I'd squirm at the thought of some guy paying for me without letting me pay him back (in monetary form, of course). Because my father raised me on the idea that I should always fend for myself and not borrow money if I had no need to, I developed a notion that letting a guy pay for me meant that I owed him something or was, in some way, subservient. Plus, I just felt guilty about it. Why should I accompany you to a nice restaurant, eat good food, and let you pay for the whole experience when I enjoyed myself, too?

I don't even pull that trick where you reach for your wallet and pretend to search for money in the hopes that the guy will rush in and say, "Oh no! Please! Let me!" as he steals the bill away. A., always the snarky one, says he doesn't play that game. If a girl offers to pay, then by all means knock yourself out. In other words, don't get offended if a guy doesn't swoop in to save you from yourself.

I think the idea that the guy should always pay on the first date is doused in old-school, medieval mentality, but it begs the question: is chivalry - as in paying for meals, opening doors, pulling out chairs, and such - a prerequisite for a second date? Or is it enough to treat each other as equals, with respect, and aim for a good time without these hidden tests?


Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday Inspiration: Simply Fresh Designs

I'm really liking these posters from Simply Fresh Designs' Digital Subway Art Shop. Too bad the artist is currently on maternity leave to care for her little girl, but I do hope she returns soon. Motivational word art in bold colors would be fun to print off and share with friends, don't you think?