Monday, April 30, 2012

{Monday Inspiration} Design Milk Designer Desktops

If you're looking to change up your monitor's wallpaper, Design Milk has a monthly series of free designer desktops where artists illustrate a motivational quote using simple imagery and typography. The above quote by Coco Chanel, "Success is often achieved by those who don't know that failure is inevitable," is a pretty/modern one designed by Alia Ormut-Fleishman.


Friday, April 27, 2012

{Happy Friday}

Happy Friday everyone! It's been a long week so I'm ready to commit to a couple days of doing a whole lot of nothing before heading back out next week. I will only break this vegetation period for picnics in the park, baking peanut butter brownies, and finishing out this month's course of Souvenir Foto School. By the way, the above photo is a cool light fixture at the CIA Bakery Café in San Antonio. It's made out of wooden spoons!

And with that, I'll leave you with some fun links from around the web:

I want these hand-carved stamps.

For the fellow orange juice snobs.

How to break in new shoes.

If you could email 12,000 people, what would you say?

One minute with...

Anyone catch a glimpse of the shuttle as it flew over NYC?

The Barackness Monster and Jimmy Fallon slow-jam the news.

DIY pink lip balm.

Family portraits 101.

Hey, did anyone see Game of Thrones this week? What the...!!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

{Wanderlust} The People You Meet

I've just returned from five fun days of exploring San Antonio once again and taking in the city's Fiesta celebration. Whenever I go away on these group trips, the best part is clicking with other world travelers and writers, talking about countries and experiences, all the items we've crossed off our bucket list, and the places we're heading to next. For me, it'll be Alabama's Gulf Coast next week.

It's almost sad to think about how you bond over margaritas, cooking classes, and karaoke with complete strangers and share such wonderful memories for a short time only to arrive at the end of the trip and have everyone fly back to their corner of the world. I'm often left wondering if I'll ever cross paths with some of them again or if we're all just here to serve a short purpose before moving on to our next destination.

Do you make an effort to stay in touch with and meet people during your travels? I was painfully shy about talking to others during our travels through Europe, but when I flew to Thailand, I had no trouble making friends on my own. I figured I was already acting bold and no one knew me so it was the perfect time to break out of my shell a bit. Plus, everyone was so friendly it was hard to resist a genuine smile and a warm hello. That's all it takes, isn't it?

P.S. Browse through my travel tweets for a small preview (photos included!) of my trip to San Antonio.

Friday, April 20, 2012

What Do You Do With Your Ex's Stuff?

So I'd been cleaning out the house and throwing out bags of junk when I came across a photo of Mr. First and me that I'd wrapped up in one of his old T-shirts and then forgot about. I also have a small box of trinkets, letters, and other sentiments that I once tried to give back in a fit of anger, but he simply wouldn't accept because they had meant so much. They've been packed up for the past four years and even though I haven't looked through any of it in so long and the photos don't stir much up inside, I just can't bring myself to throw that bit of my past away. Is that weird?

So tell me, what do you do with your ex's stuff after the break-up? Do you return it all, chuck it, or keep it? What about jewelry? I have two pieces from Tiffany's - including a necklace I absolutely love and would never give away or sell - that have mixed in nicely with everything else in my jewelry box.

And would you ever wear or accept things that were once meant for your current partner's ex? Call me shameless, but I've been happily wearing a beautiful corset that A. bought for his ex years ago but was just too small for her. Never even thought twice about saying yes.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

{Wanderlust} Practical Tips for Traveling the World

I'm lucky enough to have really increased my travels over the last couple of years. After countless childhood summers traveling to the same Dominican village my parents grew up in, I wanted to see new sights, taste other cultures' foods, and expand my view of the world. I wanted to be surprised, push past my comfort levels, and land right in the middle of someplace I never even knew existed. So what began with a trip to France in 2002 eventually grew into Mexico, Costa Rica, and St. Lucia, a backpacking dream trip through Europe, and most recently, Thailand.

This next month promises to also bring in new adventures as I'll be taking on off a series of trips that'll take me back to San Antonio before exploring the white sand beaches along Alabama's Gulf Coast. That'll be followed by a girls' road trip to Virginia Beach to visit a good friend and the day after I arrive from that, A. and I will fly off to Los Angeles to spend time with family and meet his second nephew. It'll be madness and I might forget what city I'm waking up in, but I cannot wait to set out.

I've yet to compile my own list of the things I've learned from my travel experiences, but in the meantime, Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads shares 21 practical tips that she's gathered from her years of traveling around the world. One of my favorites is tip number 11:

"My preferred way of connecting to people is via food but regardless of your passions or interests, travelling will also open your eyes to the fact that we are all more alike than we think," Jodi writes. "Yes, there are cultural differences and traditions that differ – vastly – but the basics of human emotions and the kindness in a smile are omnipresent, and a beautiful reminder of our shared humanity...Threads of common human queries – love, food, parenting, and many more – resurface again and again. Ask questions, encourage people to ask them of you. In the end, these knots of human connection are what makes the world go round."

I know I still have to continue writing about my adventures in Thailand, but hope to squeeze some posts in during my flights this week!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

{Nesting} Anne Black Vases + Pitchers

I'm really liking the house-wares collections of Anne Black, a Denmark-based shop with handmade ceramics in very simple but pretty Scandinavian design elements. One of my favorite: the Seam Mini Vases above made of white porcelain and red silk screen details and dotted impressions. They might only stand at three to four inches high, but a small grouping of them would certainly call for attention. from $34,
And guests will fawn over these Black is Blue Pitchers. I know I would and then proceed to crave the entire hand-painted collection - especially this precious teapot. I don't even drink tea that often, but I'd create entire parties around this little pot. from $39,

Images: and

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Morning Affection

I love morning kisses and groggy affection. It's probably because my brain hasn't started going haywire yet that I can just relax more easily and tune out the distractions. A.'s usually uncomfortable with his morning breath and overall crustiness and while I agree that sometimes you just don't want to be sexy when it feels like something died in your mouth, I couldn't care less. My face will nuzzle right into his neck and I'll slowly wake him up with kisses until he responds. In the off chance that he's conscious before I am, his touch is a better wake-up call than any alarm could ever be. I'm lucky that I work from home and therefore can't truly be late to work, but the poor guy is often left rushing out the door to get to the office in time.

What about you guys? Do invisible walls come up until everyone's fresh and clean or do you go right for it before you've even fully woken up? I might not French him pre-brushing, but sharing some love first thing in the morning is a fun start to the day. Also fun: spontaneously doing the same at some ridiculous hour in the night.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

{Happy Weekend}

Even though my allergies are starting to kick in, I can't get enough of this wonderful weather. Perfect time to head to Central Park or sit at an outdoor cafe and quietly judge all the people passing by. By the way, did everyone and their moms procreate over the winter?? Looks like baby strollers are in style this season.

Order the best arugula and apple salad here and delicious huevos rancheros here.

A meditation tip.


A time-lapse food tour through Melbourne.

A harmonica player's shining moment.

Dyed paper towels.

How to plan a business launch.

Free arrow Photoshop brushes and photo templates.

Balloon bowls.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Caine's Arcade

Caine Monroy is a sweet little nine-year-old boy in East Los Angeles who built an entire arcade out of cardboard boxes in his dad's used auto parts store and waited for people to come and play. The heart and thought he put into this thing is just incredible so watch this touching film about Caine's Arcade and the best day of his life and prepare to smile and tear up like I did.

P.S. Thanks to people's generosity, a scholarship fund set up by the film's creator Nirvan Mullick now has more than $100,000 to go towards Caine's future.

{Wanderlust} Obscura Day

Obscura Day, happening on Saturday, April 28th, is a "global celebration of curiosity and wonder" and a push to explore the world around you through walks, behind-the-scenes tours of unusual spots, and workshops. Check out what adventures will be available in your hometown, suggest or organize your own event, and keep popping in from now until then as new ones make the list. Three New York City expeditions that intrigued me: a street art photography workshop, a macabre scavenger hunt at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a rooftop camp-out in Brooklyn that would be perfect for us wilderness-wary urbanites! (via Neatorama)


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

{Nesting} House Industries Typographic Flour Sack Towels

I just gave my mom about 10 hand towels that I had collected over the years and never used so really there's no reason why I should be sitting here, looking at House Industries' typographic flour sack towels, and wondering if I couldn't get just a couple more. $30 for 3,

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What Were Your First Kisses Like?

For some reason I really feel like dishing right now so why don't we chat about our first kisses? Were they passionate and intense or did you make-out with a couple wet fishes? I'd love to know! Mine have ranged from spur-of-the-moment intense to soft and sweet with a few awkward moments in between. Let's see...

My very first kiss was a rather out-of-character move out in San Diego. During a trip to an Irish pub with two friends, two Marines struck up a conversation with us and after learning that the other two were already married, one, named Justin, started flirting with me. Despite having a big nose (sorry, it's true though), he was cute and before long we were making out right at the bar. Yeah, we were one of those disgusting people you can't stop judging when you go out drinking. Soon, the five of us were laughing and running through the rain, me on Justin's back with his jacket over my head, to continue hanging out at the other Marine's apartment.

While it was wild and daring for me to make out with someone I didn't even know, the novelty eventually wore off and I just wanted this man off my face. My friend's attempt to act as a buffer when he finally got up for a drink and some oxygen were thwarted when he came back and lodged himself right next to me. Eventually the two men fell asleep to a DVD of old SNL episodes (*yawn*) and the three of us quietly snuck out of the house in the middle of the night, leaving no note or digits, hailed a cab, and went home never to see or hear from them again.

The Lawyer was the first guy I dated and after replaying our month-and-a-half-long stint again in my head, I don't see how we could have ever worked for much longer. He clearly knew what he wanted while I was still extremely timid and cautious around men. Our first attempt at a kiss came after a night of watching endless cartoons on TV. We both sat on the couch, my head resting on his shoulder, when I noticed that he kept looking at me instead of the television. "What?" I asked suspiciously.

"I'm thinking about kissing you," he said with a smirk.

I smiled and looked away because inside the alarms were going off! "Holy crap! What do I do?! What do I do?! Ugh, why did he even warn me??"

Before I knew it, he was that it gave me too much time to think about the cheesiness of it all and how nervous I was. So at the very last second, I turned away. That's right, I gave him the cheek and promptly got up to go hide in the kitchen.

"Oooh!" he flinched. "Rejected!"

Luckily, he was a good sport, we had a nice laugh about it, and a few days later, while I sat on his apartment floor listening to Luis Miguel and translating Spanish ballad lyrics for him, he surprised me mid-sentence and gently stole his kiss. I immediately felt my face flush and buried my face in his chest.
You remember that episode of Sex and the City when Charlotte dated Brad the Bad Kisser and didn't know if she should keep dating him? That's exactly what I was asking my girls after sharing my first kiss with Mr. First. It was so awkward that after we finally took our friendship there, I pretty much rolled over and went right to sleep! (I was visiting him at school for the weekend.) But you know what the funny thing was? Months later, after the kisses became way better, he admitted that he didn't think I was that good that night either! I guess it took us both some time to learn what we each liked.

Now I'm not lying when I say my first kiss with A. has been the best one yet, but you should know that I nearly sabotaged the whole thing, too. I met him shortly after deciding that I needed more time before dating again. I'd broken up with Mr. First nearly two years before, but the wind was still knocked out of me and the thought of going through it all over again with someone new just wasn't appealing to me. So when I met this boy and quickly found myself getting caught up in talking to him, thinking about him, and then actually making plans to visit him, my knee-jerk reaction was to put the brakes on the whole thing. I was scared that I'd start to fall for him.

"I want to hang out and keep this a casual/friend type of thing, but the pressure/expectation to possibly do something I'm not yet comfortable with was a bit too much for me," I wrote. I didn't want him getting any ideas especially after the flirtatious banter we'd been enjoying since we met. After all, I was just being a tease right?

Well turned out I had already been sucked in. I showed up at his apartment that Saturday night and spent six hours having a great time and just wishing that he'd lean in and kiss me. But the man never made a single move!

"Ugh, I totally turned him off," I thought on my way home, wanting to kick myself. "He probably doesn't like me anymore because of that stupid email."

The next day, I told him what I'd wished for and he said we were on the same page then because he was just being a gentleman and didn't want to freak me out. But then the next time I swung by his place do you know that he made me wait until he watched a season finale of Dexter before doing anything else? "Very important!" he said. So there I sat pretending to be super focused on finishing up my Christmas ornaments and drinking my glass of Champagne when we both knew full well what was coming. Shortly after the episode was over, he said he'd forgotten to do something the other night, came over to me, and kissed me 'til the room spun around. It don't know if it was the intensity or the bubbly that did it that night, but two years later, A. can still make the room spin with a kiss.

Images: and

Eric Cahan Sky Series + Murray Fredericks Salt Series

I have a thing for photos of the sky so stumbling upon Eric Cahan's Sky Series this morning was such a beautiful surprise. The project captures sunrises or sunsets at various points throughout the world for a gorgeous color study on light and space. Can you believe how varied and deeply saturated the sky can become? It's as if the sky completely gives its entire being into whichever outfit it decides to wear at that moment.
Cahan's work also brought to mind Murray Fredericks' project on the vast nothingness surrounding Lake Eyre. The Australian photographer spent seven years photographing the featureless surface of the typically dry salt pan in the Australian Outbacks, which was later turned into a documentary titled Salt. In many of his scenes, land and sky would almost merge as one were it not for the thin horizon line signifying the end of one and the beginning of the other.

Images: and

Monday, April 9, 2012

How Long Does Make-Up Keep?

Since we're on the topic of spring cleaning, decluttering, and makeup tips, I thought I'd remind you to give your makeup collection a once over. As much as we love to hold on to them 'til the last drop, that stuff expires and you don't want to brush on a nice layer of germies on your beautiful face. To keep makeup from going bad quicker, store them in cool, dry locations, which means away from the bathroom, and pay attention to the Period After Opening icon. It's a small opened jar with a number followed by the letter "M" signifying the number of months it'll keep after being opened. Below, a general guide for expiration dates:.

Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel: three years
Facial cleanser, moisturizer: six months
Deodorant: two years
Body lotion: two to three years
Anti-aging, acne treatments: three months to a year
Concealer: one year
Foundation: two years
Powder: two years
Blush: one year
Powder eyeshadow: two years
Cream eyeshadow: six months
Liquid eyeliner, mascara: three months
Eye/lip pencil: two to five years
Lipstick, lip gloss: two to three years
Hairstyling products: three to five years
Nail polish: one year
Perfume: two years

Plus, you should clean your makeup brushes regularly to avoid spreading bacteria onto your products. Here's how to clean your brushes, which you should do at least once a month, and seven ways to make your own brush cleaner.


Ombré Stain Nails

I'm terrible at getting my nails done. I rarely treat myself to a manicure and then don't have the patience to do them myself ("I have to sit still for how long??"), but after catching a glimpse of The Beauty Department's tutorial for an ombré stain mani, I'm eager to try it out. Mine will probably come out looking like a hot mess the first few times, but they're so pretty for spring, it's worth a try don't you think?

P.S. A gold leaf manicure.


{Monday Inspiration} Julian Bialowas' 365q + 52mmnts

From 2010 to 2011, Canadian photographer and graphic designer Julian Bialowas posted a breathtaking photo with an inspirational quote every day on his site 365q.
This year, he's taken on a new project: 52mmnts. There he shares a weekly task to motivate, inspire, get you thinking about how to enrich your life, and then share your story with others. The mini goals are really manageable, too. The photo below is captioned with "Show us how you chose to simplify your life this week: Unplug, Unclutter, Donate Unneeded goods, etc." The tip is from weeks ago, but lately I've been doing a lot of spring cleaning and throwing away. Magazines, paperwork, and clothes that have never been and will never be worn are all going out!
How are you decluttering your life these days?

P.S. Julian is also the co-creator of 16Hours magazine, which I shared with you here.

Images: Julian Bialowas on,, and

Friday, April 6, 2012

I'm Okay, You're Okay, But Sometimes We're Not Okay

I used to like having people think and tell us that A. and I are some kind of super couple and I still do sometimes, but whenever we had things to work through in the relationship, it felt more like projecting a façade than anything close to genuine. It felt like pressure! When we'd hang out with others and they'd ask how we were, I'd quickly pipe in with "We're fine!!" I'd be too embarrassed and self-conscious to admit that things had been rocky between us, as if releasing that information would create an anvil over our heads. Plus, I didn't want anyone predicting our doom when they could never understand the full story of us.

Lately, it's been such a relief to just be real with my close friends and admit that yeah, we care about one another, but damn is it hard sometimes. It feels even better when the other person replies with, "I know! It takes so much work!" It helps me realize that no matter how happy and easy breezy a couple may seem in public, you don't see the time and energy they could be putting into overcoming their issues at home. And I think knowing that there's still love, respect, and understanding even in the face of rough obstacles is more admirable than presenting the idea that everything was, is, and always will be perfect.

Image: Francesca Crippa on

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

{Nesting} A Country Home

During my visit with Neema, I kept taking in all the details and trinkets in her mother's country home. They'd only just moved in six months prior and the house was still full of its previous tenant's possessions, drinking glasses, vintage suitcases, and old National Geographics, but they've managed to integrated his beloved treasures with their own items quite nicely. Although Neema said she's not a fan of the old wood paneling that covers nearly every inch of their home, I think it adds so much coziness to the house - especially in the kitchen.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Kina Grannis, "Together"

One of the nicest things about doing work at Starbucks (or other coffee shops for that matter) is the opportunity to discover new artists while you're in there. A few weeks ago I Shazamed two songs that turned out to be by the same artist: "Together" and a cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" both sung by Kina Grannis. Her voice, accompanied by her guitar playing, is just so light and pure I could easily fall asleep to her songs - and I truly mean that as a compliment.

  Kina Grannis - Together

P.S. It took 288,000 jelly beans and nearly two years to create her stop-motion music video for "In Your Arms."

Monday, April 2, 2012

{Monday Inspiration} Make It Happen

Busy week again! Not only am I on deadline for a story and brainstorming for another feature article, but I'm also coordinating a few possible press trips for the month, thinking about my first assignment for Souvenir Foto School, and helping A. with a collaborative project. But it won't all be work: lunch with a friend, meeting a dear blogger for the first time, and a weekend game night will round out the hectic (and hopefully productive) week. Here's to making it all happen!