Current Obsession: Evoke the Spirit

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One of the first stops I made on my recent trip to Sayulita, Mexico (travel guide coming soon) was to Evoke the Spirit: a light-filled, eclectic boutique filled with traditional Mexican crafts, home goods, and jewelry, all designed with a sophisticated and modern spirit. Having found their gorgeous yarn-painted skulls randomly on Instagram, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one!

Once I stepped foot in the tiny shop, I never wanted to leave. I felt right at home and immediately started gathering items to turn my own apartment into an exact replica. The stark white-washed walls of the space created the perfect backdrop for all of the brightly colored Mexican blankets, tapestries, cow skulls and macrame wall hangings.

The sales associates were absolutely lovely and were so excited to show me their current collection of yarn-painted skulls that I had come in search of. They even revealed a “secret stash” of larger, long horn skulls that hid behind a gauzy curtain. There were so many stunning options I didn’t know how to choose just one! It took me over an hour to decide on “sweet sunset” a porcelain skull decorated with white, grey, pink and gold yarn in a traditional Huichol design.

While strolling through the village later on that day, I stumbled upon Evoke’s smaller outpost where artisans were in the process of making these beautiful skulls and I got to take a closer look! To make these yarn paintings the artist spreads beeswax on a real cow skull (or a porcelain version), sketches out a design and fills it out by carefully pressing brightly colored yarns into the wax. I was amazed by the intricate yarn work and the true craftsmanship of the pieces they were making. It was then that I realized I was taking home a true work of traditional Mexican art, not just a decorative artifact!

This tiny shop in the middle of a small surfing village truly did evoke the spirit of the local, colorful and bohemian culture, and I was so so happy to be able to take a small reminder of that contagious spirit back home with me.

The many colorful rows of yarn-painted skulls was an Instagram dream.

Even the bright blue floors were stunning!

I wanted all of their vibrantly colored blankets, but settled for a small beautiful rug, which fit more realistically in my carry on :)

A peek at the “secret stash” of larger skulls!

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The store was designed with such casual elegance, I never wanted to leave…

I couldn’t resist snapping a selfie while surrounded by such beautiful things.

If I didn’t have a weight limit on my luggage, I would have taken home a set of their handmade pottery.

How cute is the sales associate who helped me pick out my new yarn-painted skull?! This one they call “sweet sunset” found a new home above my bed!

I even got a chance to witness the traditional Huichol art of yarn-painting in person! I was amazed by the skill of these artisans and the attention to detail that goes into these magnificent art pieces. Can you believe it takes over 40 hours to make one of these skulls?!

Even the stacks of brightly colored yarns were picture perfect.

Now after acquiring a decorative skull for my home, I am 100% addicted. I can’t wait to come back to Sayulita, even just for the opportunity to add to my yarn-painting collection!

American Girl In Paris

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Last week I went to Paris for the first time and fell madly in love. It was pure magic from the moment I stepped off of the plane.

Prior to my spontaneous trip to the city of lights; however, I gently panicked over what to wear. The weather was a brisk 54 degrees (quite chilly for this Southern California girl) and I knew I’d need to pack layers.

Not wanting to break the bank, I opted for affordable basics: a t-shirt from Old Navy and a hat and booties from the Gap. When it came to denim I turned to old faithful: a distressed pair of Frame Denim jeans which I cuffed to show a bit of ankle. I’d been jonesing for an over-sized coat and found a reasonably priced option on Shopbop (please ignore the fact that my coat is wrinkled from being shoved in my carry on bag). For the accessories I opted for a few of my staple pieces: Club Master Ray-Bans, Hermes enamel bracelets and my cross-body Rebecca Minkoff. All-in-all the look was a pinch of Annie Hall and perfect for exploring Paris.

Show me your autumn looks on Twitter using #videndae.

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Outfit details: Hat, Coat, T-Shirt, Sunglasses, Purse, Jeans, Shoes, Thin Enamel Bracelet (similar), Thick Enamel Bracelet, String Bracelet, Nailpolish: Essie Ballet Slippers

 

In Bruges

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Known as the “Venice of the north,” Bruges is an über-clean, idyllic Belgian village.  Its landscape is stitched together with a network of canals that are crossed by cobblestone bridges, where swans and families of ducks peacefully coexist.  The waterfront-facing architecture is a mix of modern renovation and richly-colored stone homes with lacy, stepped-roof facades in the traditional Flemish style.  Bruges is an easy 3hr train ride from London, so a weekend escape here is simple and requires little planning.  The only worry will be how to lose the kilo or two you’ll gain from eating all the delicious moules frites, crisp Belgian crafted beers, waffles, chocolate and cheese! Read on for our Videndae guide to Bruges.

Stay:

The townhouse Ter Dwignen is technically a boutique hotel, but felt like a B&B.   The rooms were cozy and clean, and you cannot beat the freshly-squeezed orange juice with your morning breakfast!  The owners and staff are jovial and brimming with local knowledge.

Visit/Do:

The city is extremely dense and walkable so stay on foot for meandering through the cobblestoned streets of Bruges.   If you wish to expand your reach, travel as the locals do and ride a bicycle!  There are several purveyors, but we recommend the rental shop at the southeast end of the ‘t Zand market for the best selection of Lombardi bikes. While you’re there don’t forget to roll through the north end of the ‘t Zand Food Market and sample the local cheese.

On a crisp sunny day, motivated by good spirits and a sense of adventure (or “if you are in a good mood,” as our B&B proprietor put it) it is easy to bike the 25 minute ride northwest from Bruges to the town of Damme.  The route follows a canal that is lined with linden trees and is paved with a special path that safely segregates bikes from car traffic.   Along the way you will pass a sweet red windmill, and you are able to visit the interior to see the process of grinding down different grains into powder.   Once you arrive in Damme having worked up a nice appetite, there are a plethora of options for lunch.

Although to some a Canal Boat Tour might sound ultra touristic, you’d be missing out if you didn’t take the chance to observe Bruges from the perspective of the canals.  No need to pre-book – just seek out one of the kiosks vending tickets along the waterways.

On the hunt for a Sunday evening scene we found a buzzy live-music bistro called ‘t Zwart Huis.  The blues band was top notch, the room was packed, the food & beer was excellent, and we were thrilled to discover a fireplace roaring in the back.

Despite its small size, Bruges rivals any major European city for shopping.  There are plenty of boutiques and recognizable brands up and down the main arteries heading south west from the central Market Square. Along Geldmuntstraat (which becomes Noordzandstraat), look for the shop called L’Heroine which stocks a variety of independent labels.

Eat/Drink:

Here’s the main event!  Bruges is a foodie’s haven.  If you so choose, you can research and book a table for your meal in advance, but there really is no need to.  As you stroll along it is easy to stumble across good-quality restaurants, cafés, bistros, bars, chocolate shops, waffle stands, you name it!  Here is a selection of notable watering holes and eateries that we found while wandering: Bistro Maurice‘t TerrastjeDe Garret’ Bruges Beertje.

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Trip Notes:

Stay: Ter Dwignen

Visit/Do: Rent bikes, ‘t Zand Food MarketCanal Boat Tour, Ride to Damme, shopping at L’Heroine, live music at ‘t Zwart Huis

Eat: Bistro Maurice‘t TerrastjeDe Garret’ Bruges Beertje

Paris Encore, Like a Local

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In my book, the three greatest cities on earth are New York, Paris, and London – in that order.  So far in my lifetime I have had the privilege to call two of them home, and this past week I decided to explore what life would be like as a Parisienne.

I followed my gut instinct and packed for a solo retreat.  I rented a small apartment through AirBnB (the best accommodations for experiencing any place like a local, if you ask me) in a bohemian, village-y neighborhood called Batignolles.  A comfortable distance from the buzzing city center, this enclave allowed me to experience total peace and quiet.  I spent my mornings making coffee, moving through my yoga practice and watching the street stir to wakefulness below.  On walks through the neighborhood I’d peruse the many wine shops, tea salons, boutiques, epiceries and boulangeries.  I enjoyed leisurely lunches at corner cafés washed down with un pichet de vin and a single espresso to finish.  I spent hours on a gray Saturday wandering the Siene during a photography class, taking photos, discussing f-stops (and life), and slipping into a café for chocolate chaud when we could no longer feel our fingers from the cold air.  I spent precious time with an old friend who I hadn’t seen for 15 years, and held her baby boy as we both smiled and told stories.  One sunny afternoon in le Marais I strolled with a chic girlfriend of mine who now lives in Paris; as we walked and lunched we reminisced about our previous fast life we shared in New York and our transition to slower, more thoughtful living here in Europe.  A few nights when it rained, I stayed indoors and cooked myself a bistro-style dinner or a roast chicken while listening to music and the backdrop of rain on metal rooftops.  It was wonderfully restorative, and I’m convinced I experienced an authentic taste of Parisian life. I feel the strong pull of this city and I cannot wait to return.

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Trip Notes

Eat:
Glou
La P’tit Mercerie
Bacco
Le Drapeau de la Fidélité
Les Puces des Batignolles

Do:
Palais de Tokyo
Le Marais & Palais des Archives
Merci
Localers (multiple offerings)

Paper Parasols

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Our day began well before sunrise.  We slipped into a longboat and cut a path through the dark fog of Inle Lake.  I shivered and pulled a blanket to my chin to protect against the chilled air as we passed quiet fisherman casting their conical nets into the dark water.  They seemed to nod good morning as they bobbed in our wake.  From the jetty we began our three-hour drive further north to a town called Pindaya.  We were in the Shan state of Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma.

That late morning we passed through the frenetic market in Nyaung-Shwe, explored caves decorated with hundreds of statues of the Buddha, and walked many rows of a local farmer’s crop of green tea (though it was far too early for harvest).  By midday the sun was high and unforgiving, flushing our cheeks and drying the earth to a fine orange dust.  On the drive back to the lake we stopped to take shade at a family-run workshop that crafted paper parasols.  Each element was created by hand – from the paper made from the fibers of the mulberry tree, to the bamboo handle, the pawl and the frame.  Artisans painted decorations on the surface of the freshly-constructed umbrellas and left them to dry.  The entire manufacturing process totaled several days.  What better souvenir than these beautiful Burmese parasols? Perhaps the images that remain vivid in my memory…

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Three Winter Escapes

Can you believe it’s February already?  If you’re anything like me, the holidays feel like they were a lifetime ago, the winter is long, and we are in need of a vacation.   We’ve dreamed up three long-weekend escapes for you to add to your book of travel!

 

For the Intermediate Skier / Expert Aprés-Skier

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GO: Whistler, Canada

STAY: Adara Hotel, a boutique accommodation at the center of the Whistler ski village.  Enjoy the comforts of an Alpine lodge with the urban appeal of a modern loft apartment starting from $117 per night.  Rent a car – Whistler village is approximately a 2 hour drive from Vancouver International Airport (YVR).

DO: Ski Whistler and Blackcomb, take a refresher lesson with a local expert, enjoy excellent meals, fireside chats, and relax with plenty of aprés-skiing.

 

For the Sun Worshipper

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GO: Tulum, Mexico

STAY: Coqui Coqui Tulum.  A place inspired by tropical aromas and built by a couple of super chic perfumers, Coqui Coqui combines rusticity & relaxation with great style.  Resort is also eco-friendly and run partly with solar power.  Rent a car and drive the 1.5 hours south from Cancun (CUN).  Rooms starting from $240.

DO: Rest on the beach, visit nearby ancient town of Valladolid, spend a day at the UNESCO World Heritage site Sian Ka’an Biosphere reserve, go cave diving in the nearby cenotes, add a new perfume to your collection.

 

For the Adventurer

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GO: The island of Vieques, Puerto Rico (a territory of the U.S.A.)

STAY: The W Hotel Vieques. While this is a large, name-brand resort, the details give it a unique feel.  Once a military base for the US Navy’s training exercises, Vieques island is now a nature reserve and is largely under-developed. Fly into San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU) then take a small jumper plane over to the island (VQS).

DO: Stay up late on a moonless night and boat to the middle of the bioluminescent bay.  Here, millions of micro-organisms illuminate fish and stingray as they glide through the water in a ghostly, sparkling display of nature.   Rent an open-air jeep and explore the hidden beaches and local food stands.  Take up yoga.

Friday Link Love from Helsinki

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Happy Friday from Finland!   I’m in Helsinki taking a two-day yoga workshop with the “teacher of teachers,” Aadil Palkhivala.  Aadil himself is a towering figure, a scientific and scholarly man who holds degrees in law, mathematics and physics, a skilled student of the late B.K.S. Iyengar, a gifted yoga teacher, and (perhaps most notably) he is always smiling wildly.  Aadil’s book Fire of Love is a collection of essays on topics like integrity, respect, and finding your life’s purpose.  It moved me so thoroughly I have read it twice and gifted it four times.  This is my second opportunity to study with Aadil, and I am especially grateful to be continuing my yoga education with high-quality people in such a beautiful setting. For a magical touch, we have a fresh dusting of snow on the ground.

Finland is also dear to my heart because my family is part Finnish. My maternal great-grandmother, Lula Malonen, was born in Finland. My Grandmary tells many lovely stories about her mother who was a champion ice skater in her day! I am so excited to be on a miniature trip to a land of my heritage.  Steve arrives in a few hours and together we’ll explore Helsinki. I promise to take pictures and share them with you in a later post.  How about you – what will you get up to this weekend? I hope you have a wonderful few days ahead, and keep reading for my selection of links from around the web.

1.  Valero Doval’s haunted house collages put me in the Halloween spirit.

2.  I’m dying to visit this innovative space in SoHo.

3.  I want Mimi Thorisson’s lifestyle, but I will settle for this instead.

4.  Turns out “nature in the city is essential to maintain people’s sanity,” and that’s why public parks are full of squirrels.

5.  The lead singer from Edward Sharpe has a solo career, and I have his song on repeat.

6.  I am crazy for these Zara edits, especially by Garance Doré and Carlotta Oddi!

7.  How to estimate when people will arrive at your party.

8.  You still have a few hours left to enter one this fantastic Minted giveaway!

9.  Why connecting to public wifi can be dangerous.

Leaf Peeping

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My family has a long-standing tradition of driving up north in the fall to admire the changing leaves. Jenna has affectionately named it “leaf peeping,” which I adore.  We grew up in Michigan, where in October the normally bland stretch of I-75 from Bay City to Mackinaw transforms into the most breathtaking path.  The roadway is lined with forests aflame in gold, orange, red and burgundy leaves set against a backdrop of pines.  This weekend last year, Steve and I met my parents in the Leelanau Peninsula and spent a weekend leaf peeping, apple picking, and wine tasting.  Here is a visual tour.  Will you do some leaf-peeping this fall?

 

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Trip Notes

Tandem Ciders / Tasting Room / website

Christmas Cove / Heirloom Apple Orchard / website

Bryce Estate / Vineyard & Winery / website

Black Star Farms / Farm Produce & Winery / website

Old Mission Peninsula / Beach & Lighthouse / website

Two Lads / Winery / website

Modern Farmhouse / Bed and Breakfast / website

Trattoria Stella / Restaurant / website

Chateau Chantal / Bed and Breakfast & Winery / website

Layover in Paris

Layover in Paris!

I regularly fly to Paris for work, and through the years I’ve become well acquainted with this magnificent city of light.  I generally must keep a tight work schedule packed with meetings and events, but I always build in time at the end to explore new areas and visit my old favorites.  Here are my personal highlights for how to spend a few hours in Paris.

When I only have a bit of down time, I will high tail it to the Le Marais in the 3rd + 4th arrondissements (Rive Droite) and soak in this neighborhood’s artsy, relaxed vibe.  Once an aristocratic district and the location of one of the main Jewish communities, this area is packed with important architecture, the best boutiques, and hip cafés + restaurants.

Le Shopping:  No trip to Paris is complete without a few hours’ spent in Merci, a gorgeous multi-level store that brings together fashion, design, housewares, and a cafe.  While Merci is a commercial enterprise, I appreciate that some proceeds go toward funding an endowment to pay for educational projects and development in south-west Madagascar.

Merci
111 Boulevard Beaumarchais
75003 Paris

The iconic cherry-red car parked outside the entrance of Merci.

The iconic cherry-red car parked outside the entrance of Merci.

View from inside Merci.

View from inside Merci.

À Manger:  If after shopping you are looking for a place to grab a cappuccino and a bite to eat, linger at Merci for their in-house library-style cafe.  For a lunch on-the-go, Le Marais is home to one of the world’s best falafel stands, L’as du Fallafel (who has won endorsements from the NYT)! If it’s nearly cocktail hour, consider my new find Le Mary Celeste. Never one to turn down a margarita, I ordered the El Curado with mezcal, lime, a kick of pimento and a smokey sel gris rim.  Amaze.

Le Mary Celeste
1 Rue Commines
75003 Paris

L’as du Falafel
32-34 Rue des Rosiers
75004 Paris

Inventive cocktails at Le Mary Celeste.

Inventive cocktails at Le Mary Celeste.

Cafe at Merci.

Cafe at Merci.

Au Repos: One must retreat into nature to clear the head every now and then.  Without leaving Le Marais, I head to Place des Vosges, a beautiful small park inside a 17th-century square lined with grand houses from the reign of Henri IV.

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75004 Paris

Brooke and I together inside Place de Vosges.

Brooke and I together inside Place de Vosges.

L’Architecture: For a bit of culture, just keep your eyes peeled because Le Marais is a historic district chock full of architectural masterpieces.  For something a bit more iconic, walk south from Le Marais toward the Seine, and stop along the Voie Georges Pompidou near the Pont Marie for a postcard-worthy view of  Cathédrale Notre-Dame.   I discovered this secret spot on my last trip to Paris in July; this perch is tourist-free.  If you have time, cross over to Île Saint-Louis, a very tiny island in the middle of the Seine where you can stroll the sweetest cobblestone streets. You’ll feel unmistakably in Paris.

Île Saint-Louis
75004 Paris

 Cathédrale Notre-Dame
6 Paris Notre-Dame Place, Jean-Paul II
75004 Paris

Walking Le Marais south toward the Seine.

Walking Le Marais south toward the Seine.

Street scenes in Le Marais.

Street scenes in Le Marais.

Architectural gems abound.

Architectural gems abound.

Interior Design Inspiration: Budapest

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I flew last night from Budapest to London, the final leg of a nine-day exploration of Eastern Europe.  As I slid into the airplane seat my body went slack but my mind began recounting all the details it absorbed over the past week.  I thought about the brilliant gold bursts of light that radiated from statues and cathedrals in Vienna; the red umbrellas that bobbed along the goth bridges in Prague; the dried peppers and burnt-orange paprika we cooked with in Budapest. I imagined the deep leafy greens of parks and rivers, cerulean blue porcelain wares, and the gray-black cobblestone streets.

The last accomodation we chose was in Budapest, a beautifully restored 1920s villa I found via AirBnB.  I fell in love with the interior décor and location, which was nestled at the foot of Gellért Hill on the greener and quieter Buda side of the Danube.  Upon check-in, our warm host Kriszta excitedly took me from room to room explaining the ins and outs of the home.  It was evident that she and her husband Gyula had poured intense effort, time, and thoughtfulness into the space.

Looking back through my photographs I realized that the aesthetics of this incredible villa wove together all of the colors and character I recalled along the trip.   I am looking forward to bringing some of these design ideas back with me to London; they are the best (and most unexpected) souvenirs I could have hoped for.

Here is a visual tour…

The living room, complete with deco ceilings, hand-painted mural, and french windows that open to a tiled terrace.

Blue and white teacup, and piano.

Blue and white teacup, and piano.

LIving room, left side with piano.

LIving room, left side with piano and contrasting yet complimentary green wallpaper.

The sunny tiled terrace, accessible through the living room's French doors, is perfect perch for morning coffee.

The sunny tiled terrace, just off the living room, is a perfect perch for morning coffee.

Master bedroom; cherry-blossom branch wallpaper, silk duvet, and period lighting.

Master bedroom; cherry-blossom branch wallpaper, silk duvet, and period lighting. See how the blossoms are reflected again in the oil painting? And the gold frame…

Master bath with claw-foot tub, orb lighting, and golden accents.

Master bath with claw-foot tub, orb lighting, and golden accents. Actual thermal baths are a highlight in Budapest.

Moi in the master bath.

Moi in the master bath.

The second bedroom.

The second bedroom and leafed wallpaper.

Late morning light and sounds of birds singing.

Late morning light and sounds of birds singing.

Entranceway to the kitchen; master bedroom is accessible through the etched-glass paneled doors.

Hungarian-tiled entranceway to the kitchen; master bedroom is accessible through the etched-glass paneled doors. The orb lights are divine.

The comfortable, cottage-feeling kitchen.  Note the left wall's white and metal-foil swan wallpaper.

The comfortable, cottage-feeling kitchen. Note the left wall’s white and metal-foil swan wallpaper.

Standing in the kitchen looking back toward the entrance.  Love the diamond portal detail in the door.

Standing in the kitchen looking back toward the entrance. Love the diamond portal window detail in the door.

Approaching the villa.

Approaching the villa.

The gate.

The gate.

Stairway to Gellert Hill park.