Friday, August 30, 2013

How to be Well-Rested, Successful and Happy (Tell me if you know the secret!)

Happy end of August (or Fogust, as we're prone to calling it in SF)! Indian summer, I'm waiting for you!

Do you ever feel like your sense of balance is being hijacked by forces outside your control? That's been me for the past 30 days. I'm usually really good at keeping all my plates in the air but the last month has proved challenging. I'm hoping the weekend will be rejuvenating and I can get my priorities in check, starting with getting a full, uninterrupted night's sleep.

I'm a big fan of newspaper comics and I love Calvin & Hobbes. This week I ran across a graduation speech that Bill Watterson gave in the '90's, illustrated in C&H style by Gavin Aung Than of Zen Pencils. It's totally genius and a more succinct version of my previous tl;dr screed. Click here to see a full screen version. Enjoy a restful, labor-less weekend, my friends.






Friday, July 26, 2013

An Open Letter to All of Us Who Wander (Basically All of Us)

This is a letter to my brothers, both in their early twenties, as they try to find their place in the world. It's also a letter for you, whatever stage you're at, if you need it. It's what I wish someone had told me earlier, and it's what I tell myself when I feel adrift.

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To Whom It May Concern:

There are many ways to see the United States, right? You could travel by plane, train or automobile. You could walk. You could hitchhike. You could scroll though on Google Maps.

But say you did physically travel the United States, you could zigzag, you could go straight across. There is no "right" way to go. Sure, there are probably better, more efficient ways to do it, but you could, theoretically, go any way you wanted. "You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...” and all that.

As with travel, there are better ways and worse ways to navigate through life. Not all life paths are made up of straight lines that go from point A to point B. I would venture to say that most life paths are made up of wiggly, unsure lines that sometimes go in circles, around and around, until the force breaks out of orbit and kicks them onto a different path.

I know you are confronted daily with the question of what you will do with your life. You ask yourselves and others ask you. Constantly. I have been in your shoes, I am in your shoes and I can tell you this: the shoes never come off, but they get more comfortable. People will always want to know: What job are you going to take? When are you going back to school? When are you going to find a boyfriend or a girlfriend? Where are you going to live? When you finally have the things you thought you wanted, the answers to these questions, there will be other questions: When are you getting promoted? When are you getting married? And on and on. Pressure from others is an inevitable part of life.

You cannot allow yourselves to become dismantled by the questioning, by your own uncertainty. How do we ever really know what is certain in our lives? You cannot predict the future, you can only make choices in the present based on the knowledge you have and then hope for the best. The sense of the unknown that you are cultivating will provide a helpful marker later on because you will know, intimately, the uncomfortable feeling that comes with not knowing. It will act as a boundary for the future and help serve your intuition. You may understand this a different way: the first time you are in the middle of nowhere and your car runs out of gas, you may have a slight sense of panic or major confusion, but once you have that experience, you will be better prepared when it happens again in the future, because despite best intentions and careful planning, you WILL stall the car again.

I encourage you to be gentle with yourself. You are not a failure because you don't have the map of your life drawn out yet. Here's a secret: sometimes you will draw the map, sometimes others will, and sometimes things out of your control will play a part. It is what it is. 

I know you worry about success, but again, there is no straight line to that either.

by Demitri Martin via Business Insider

But still, the worry is there, however you define success. When I get down about my personal success, I like to think about Colonel Sanders. Yes, of KFC fame. By most measures, Colonel Sanders did not lead a very successful life early on. He dropped out of school when he was 12, he had an unstable family life, he bounced from job to job in 11 different fields and was eventually fired. His wife left him without telling him and divorced him. He had a son who died at a young age. 

When he was 40, he opened a roadside shack and started serving chicken. He spent nine years developing his "secret recipe." By the time he was 74, he had sold the company to investors. At that time, there were over 600 franchises in North America. There are many stories like this.

It is nice to be successful professionally, but there are many measures of success. Try not to tie all of your personal value to your job. You are a complex individual and you don't yet know the infinity of your potential. Be proud of your accomplishments, however small they are. If you are able to celebrate the little things, you will find life more rewarding and have confidence to pursue larger goals. 

Your life journey will take you take you many places and just because you are not in the place you want to be at this moment does not mean that you won't someday get there. Remember, you will continue to evolve and change. The person you are today is not who you will be tomorrow, next week or five years from now. The best is yet to come! Promise.

P.S. A little Avenue Q goes a long way. =)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Golden Birthday: Party!

As promised, it's party recap day! In the planning stages, Corinne came in with the idea that she wanted to feel like this. With Beyonce in mind, I started thinking about things being big and over the top. Gatsby-like! I have this theory that parties with small/cute/twee elements are going the way of the buffalo and that parties with over-sized/outrageous/stunning components are IN. Combined with our wacky, hot pink, zebra-carpeted space, I thought this was a good way to go.

A party isn't a party without jams, so the golden girls created a Spotify playlist as a guide for our four amazing DJs. (It's good to have kind, musical friends!) They all perform locally in San Francisco, so you should definitely try to stop in if you see any of these names: Freddie Future of Slayers Club and DuckPondJupiter Henry, and Spank Bank and Ma Yeah of The Janky Barge. (Obviously, we had to decorate the DJ table with a little gold tinsel.)


As I mentioned, the event team at Bruno's were very accommodating and open to anything we wanted. We thought it would be fun to have a golden-themed birthday cocktail, thus the "Golden Sunrise" was born. Feeling the Art Deco/Gatsby vibe, I put my Word skills to work. (DaFont.com is a godsend when the average sans serif is just not gonna do it for you.)

via Jacqueline McCawley

I told you I compromised on the confetti at the venue, but not in my small studio kitchen. I liked the idea of a runner on the bar to go along with the cocktail signs. Since I enjoy doing things the hard way, this involved spray painting butcher paper, using Mod Podge to paint a chevron pattern and then sprinkling confetti over the glue. Did I mention that the runner was about eight feet long and I had to do this in three foot increments due to the size of my kitchen table? It ended up looking cool, but I think there is an easier way to do something like this: buy gold wrapping paper and use thick strips of double sided tape, rather than glue. You're on your own with the confetti cleanup. Also, hot tip: don't ever try to spray paint in a studio. #lessonsinlivingalone


In other projects, we always love to have a photo wall at our parties and you know that I was super into this. I spent a lot of time poring over pictures of the Confetti System team at work to figure out how to make the gold wall a reality. I sketched out the plan three times before I settled on something I liked.


We started with a blank sheet of butcher paper and then I went through and drew the map on top. I made some modifications because we ended up adjusting the size. In order to figure out how much mylar/tinsel was needed, I basically calculated the square footage of the butcher paper and then did some fancy (for me) math.


For the materials, I learned the hard way last time that cutting strips of tinsel is way too time consuming and really requires perfection for the tightest look. Rather than hunt down rolls of mylar paper (which were sold out or very expensive online) I used pre-cut fringe, which was way easier. As you can see from the map, there are few different types of cuts: regular fringe, small fringe, "dino teeth" fringe and big fringe. I ended up just using the mylar curtain for the regular and small fringe. For the "dino teeth" and big fringe cuts, I picked up a few sheets of mylar at Arch Drafting Supply and did a few quick cuts with a rotary cutter. I was really stumped by how CS made some of the mylar look folded, and again, it was too much to find huge sheets of mylar to achieve the look. I ended up buying mylar cord, which, once unraveled, worked like a dream. We glued most of the mylar down using rubber cement. Highly recommended. It dries quickly and peels off if you make a mistake.


The finished product wasn't perfect, but I figured with the dark lighting in Bruno's, the color would sort itself out. (I was right!)


They say true San Franciscans always have a dress up box of costumes at the ready for any occasions. After years of parades, parties and other dress up events, we have amassed quite the collection!

via Malorie Lucich

Since the Pussycat Lounge is already so visually stimulating, we didn't really add much more to the mix. We bought some big number balloons and scattered gold ones on the floor. A TaskRabbit delivered the numbers (again, I've learned the hard way...not a fun job) and he asked who was turning 92...very funny.

via Jacqueline McCawley

Some sort of birthday dessert is a necessity at a birthday party, so Corinne baked 60 mini cupcakes. At midnight, we lit the candles and the birthday girls blew them out before we could even sing "Happy Birthday!"


Overall, it was SO fun to plan and everyone had a blast--I think! Until next time...

via Malorie Lucich

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Golden Birthday: Party Planning!

I mentioned last week that I had been busy working on another birthday party. Two of my dearest friends, Jacqueline and Corinne, happen to share the same birth date and decided they wanted to do a joint party on the 29th to celebrate their 29th (aka golden) birthday! It took a few months to plan, so while I'm happy the day came and went perfectly, it's also weird not to be thinking in gold.

Today I'm going to share a little bit of the process and then I'll show you the finished product on Friday, cool? 

Venue
The first hurdle was to find a venue. I'm always on the lookout for bars and restaurants that do space rentals, but I still did tons of research to find the perfect bar for the party. I was super happy to find out that many bars rent their private spaces for very reasonable prices. Seriously, you could rent a private space in San Francisco every weekend and have it not cost much more than a typical night out! Even better, most of the places I saw were really flexible with music, decorations and bringing in outside food. 

In the end, we decided to go with Bruno's, a two-story dance club with four different rooms, in the Mission. We reserved the Pussycat Lounge upstairs, where we had our own entrance, bouncer, bartender and barback. Over the course of the night, we had about 70 people come through, but the space was never too crowded. The event management guys were so, so nice and accommodating and basically let us do whatever we wanted! We decorated, had cupcakes and Corinne lined up four amazing friends to DJ.  Even if you aren't lucky enough to have a DJ--or four, all of the venues I spoke with had an iPod/iPhone hookup. Hello, Spotify playlist!

via Bruno's

Decorations
Obviously the Pussycat Lounge didn't need too much embellishment, but we wanted to add a personal touch. I love using Pinterest to keep organized and create "mood boards," especially when I'm party planning. It's way more visual than my typical Excel sheet and easier to show my compadres what I'm thinking. For the Golden Birthday, we created a group board so everyone could contribute and express their vision. It's fun to see how the different personalities shine through! Here's some of the major Pin-spiration:

As you know, I love love love Confetti System and I've been wanting to incorporate something Confetti System-inspired into a party for a while. A few years ago for our New Year's Eve party, I asked forced the girls to help make replica CS garlands. It was a total nightmare. It's kind of tedious and time consuming work so if you're not super into being crafty or patient, it's hell. 

Scarred by the Great CS Fallout of 2011, I haven't really tried to dig back in until now. Of course with my go big or go home attitude, I wanted to conquer this:

via Confetti System

I know, I know. But it's PRETTY!!! And it would make the perfect photo backdrop, right?

The birthday babes loved the idea of having birthday crowns ala classy Burger King. How cute are these bejeweled beauties?

via Designlovefest

We all agreed that balloons were a necessity, whether they be Geronimo-inspired, big numbers or simple gold balloons.

via La Bonne Vie

We tossed around the idea of clear balloons with gold confetti inside, but I was afraid our exuberant dancers would stomp them and it would be a confetti mess. (Cleaning up confetti...not the jam.)

via Camille Styles

We also loved the look of spread-out confetti on the tables, but again, I had to be the Debbie Downer and veto that. I loved the confetti too, so I tried to compromise. I'll show what I came up with on Friday!

I really like the idea of having "surprise guests" at a party. I advertise this at all my parties and while there are always a few people I'm surprised to see...it's not usually a planned surprise. (Yes, I know how that sounds.)

via Jay's Analysis

In keeping with the theme, I thought it would be fun to have one or all four of the "Golden Girls" show up. Unfortunately, it was a busy weekend in San Francisco so it wasn't a reality. (All the pretty drag queens were doing Pride-related stuff.) I'm definitely keeping the idea in my back pocket. One day I will make good on my lofty promise!

Stop by on Friday for the lowdown of the party!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Andy Cohen's Gold

During my hiatus, I managed to catch up on my guiltiest of guilty pleasures: Real Housewives. I can't explain my fascination . Maybe it's the rich people with bad taste and worse manners thing.   Maybe it's that despite the fact that so many real, important things are happening in the universe, these women manage to make everything about them. Maybe I just need a mindless outlet. Whatever. The point is: I'm up to date on my trash TV and as a public service, I've recapped the two current franchises and included the must-see moments of each so far, because seriously, they're too good to keep to myself. "Reality" is stranger than fiction, ya'll. With that in mind, have a good weekend!

On this season's RHOC, everyone hates Alexis, Tamra makes a new blonde bestie in Gretchen, Vickie has the most boring storyline ever, Heather is a little too sane for this crazy bunch and Lydia joins the cast with her amazing stoner mom. Seriously, can we have a show of just Lydia's mom? I want some insight into what it's like to live in the Land of the Bunnies amidst fake boobs and fake blondes. I want to know if foregoing a shopping bag negates the carbon footprint of a Mercedes. At the very least, I want an interview with the poor salesgirl who was fairydusted in her own store. What would you do if a client sprinkled fairy dust on you in the workplace? Seriously, I want your reaction.



Across the country in Crazyville, New Jersey, the Gorga-Giudice-Wakile clans still don't get along, Jacqueline's autistic son makes me bawl and Caroline tries to play mediator. It's getting a little old, Bravo. Not getting old? Teresa and Joe's grasp on life. Please die laughing while watching Joe Giudice explain to Teresa who Napoleon was:


And just because this never ceases to be hilarious, some advice from the Countess:


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Time is on my side, yes it is...

So, it's been awhile. I'm not going to lie to you and act like this was all some sort of slow blogging plan. (Good definitions here and here.) If I ever disappear, don't assume it's because I've run out of things to say. It's quite the opposite--my thoughts are too loud and I'm trying to sort them out.

You know how older people are always saying to appreciate the time you have because it just starts to go quicker the older you get? I feel like I finally understand, and seriously, I don't know how much faster I want time to pass.

I think my descent into deep reflection started about a month ago when my youngest brother, James, graduated from college. It's not hard to get sentimental and nostalgic at stuff like that. I just kept thinking that when I graduated from college the coolest thing you could do on a cell phone was send picture messages--forget going on the Internet in any useful capacity. How quickly things move forward!

A couple days later, I was lucky enough to attend the eighth issue of  Pop Up Magazine, the world's first live magazine. If you can ever score tickets to this, I would highly recommend it. I had three browsers open, refreshed a million times and happened to get in. A word to the wise: don't be too picky about seats. The Davies Symphony Hall is a great venue and you can see pretty well from wherever you sit.

This issue's theme was Song Reader, based on Beck's latest project of the same name. Beck hasn't really come across my radar since high school, so it was nice to have him resurface in my life, especially with something as awesome as the Song Reader project. Basically, it's a big book of sheet music with 20 new songs and tons of pages filled with cool art. Rather than passively listen to an mp3 or record or whatever format people are using to listen to music these days, Beck wants people to take the songs and play them for themselves. He has a website set up where people have recorded their performances. It's pretty awesome and the new music is great. Artists like Thao Nguyen and Devendra Banhart performed their version of tracks from the album, and every song had a different vibe. Something cool about Song Reader is that the music is open to interpretation, so there was a mix of electronica, folksy guitar, soul and quiet acoustic. There was even a performance by the impressive International Space Orchestra, a group made up of musically-inclined NASA scientists. My favorite was Ledisi's jazz-meets-soul take on "Do We? We Do." Here's another version I like:


Interspersed between the songs were short stories and presentations all relating to music or sound. The pieces that stood out to me were Sam Green's documentary on "the quietest place in the world"Laurel Braitman on the day she heard her dad sing along to "Unchained Melody" and realized that he was a person outside of being her father, a cool science-y talk by Meara O'Reilly on the subjectivity of sound, and a hilarious, if not a sign of the times, interview by Christian Robinson and Martina Castro with kindergartners asking about different musical topics. One kid said his favorite jazz band was The Beatles and another thought a record was "an old pizza." Hilariously/scarily, one thought Madonna was Lady Gaga. (I guess Madge has a point.)

My favorite piece, by Joe Hagan, was a reading of old fan letters to Charlie Rich, followed by recorded interviews with the letter writers forty years later. Most of the people who had written were in their teens at the time and though the years rendered their melodramatic missives hilarious, they all still loved Charlie Rich.


If you get a chance, definitely check out Song Reader. (And if you can get tickets, check out Pop Up Magazine next time!) I think the best part is that Beck has had this idea marinating since the '90's, it finally began to take shape in 2004 and was released in December of 2012. I really love that he took so much time to develop a project like this. I could go off about the insane transience we experience in our news, our music, our food, our clothes, etc. but let's dwell on the good stuff: what kind long-form art are you into? 

Stay tuned for next week. For the past month or so, I've been planning a golden birthday for two special friends. I'll share the deets with you soon. In the meantime, happy hamburgers, fireworks and America to you.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Treat Yo Mom!

I've absorbed many of my mom's good qualities, but a deep understanding of the laundry arts is not one of them. I'm close to 30 and a little embarrassed to admit that I can't tell you how many times I've brought home a shirt with an olive oil spill or had to ask her to restore a dingy white anything to its original snow white condition.

And here's the crazy thing: she offers to help me and doesn't mind doing it. If I were in her shoes, I think I'd probably roll my eyes. Mom, thanks for not rolling your eyes at me. For wanting to help. For being so selfless about it. Your ability to give of yourself so generously, without expecting anything in return is one your greatest qualities. I hope a little of that has rubbed off on me.

This weekend, cheers your mom (or that special like-a-mother person in your life) because they deserve more recognition and appreciation than we give them.


How are you celebrating this weekend? If you're doing brunch, try one of my favorite tricks: swap in tangerine juice for OJ in the mimosas. It's a tangy, pleasant surprise. She'll love it


If sweet treats are more your mom's speed, try one these lovely desserts from Caitlin Freeman, of Mondrian/Blue Bottle/MOMA fame. Although intricate, her recipes are very easy to follow and they look amazing.

Whatever you do, have a wonderful weekend!