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Current Obsessions: March

March 3, 2020
skillshare kansas city ballet nespresso susanna kearsley

Currently Reading: The Winter Sea

I recently discovered Susanna Kearsley’s books, and I’ve been moving through them at record speed since. As with the rest of her books I’ve read so far, I couldn’t put The Winter Sea down. A beautiful story flipping between modern-day and early 18th-century Scotland, it transported me across oceans and back in time (and quickly boosted Scotland to the top of my travel bucket list). I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a good love story, but this one didn’t feel cheesy at all, and the writing itself paints a stunning portrait of the story and setting.

Currently Creating: If Walls Could Talk newsletter

Ok, so this one is slightly cheating (but if you don’t promote your own projects, who’s going to, right?). If you hadn’t guessed by the above recommendation, I’m a bit of a history nerd. Since I don’t have school anymore, I needed an excuse to dive into centuries past — so voilà, a new project. Essentially, If Walls Could Talk blends my wanderlust, obsession with Pinterest, and inner history nerd. Each week(ish), I dig into the history behind a cool place or building and post the story on social media and via newsletter. (Hint, hint: Follow @javajournalist on Instagram and Twitter and sign up for the newsletter here).

Currently Watching: the Kansas City ballet

As a kid, I was obsessed with the cartoon movie The Swan Princess. Until recently, I wasn’t aware that this was actually based on the classic Tchaikovsky ballet Swan Lake — or for a more likely reference, the movie Black Swan. Anyway, I recently saw the Kansas City Ballet‘s performance of Swan Lake, and it was incredible. Though this particular show is over, I highly recommend checking out the KC Ballet if you’re in the area — I make it a point to see nearly all their shows, and they’re always amazing. It kind of makes me wish I hadn’t quit ballet in third grade …

Currently Sipping: Nespresso espresso

This one should be more like: item I can’t survive without. At one point, I spent a rather mortifying amount of money on lattes (which also speaks to my coffee addiction, but that’s another story). I’ve since upgraded my home espresso machine to the Nespresso Evoluo, which creates a surprisingly delicious espresso for a home maker. It’s also ridiculously easy — pop a pod in, press start, and you have espresso in a few seconds — which suits my lazy self perfectly. Mine came with a milk frother, so I can even make my own lattes at home. Not exactly the gorgeous latte art of the pros, but it saves me a fortune in coffeeshop runs.

Currently Learning: Creative Transformation with Skillshare

If you want to learn a new skill, chances are Skillshare has a class on it. I recently signed up for a monthlong free trial (kind of cheating, I know) and tried to cram as many classes in as I could. All the ones I tried were interesting, but I especially enjoyed Mari Andrew’s “Creative Transformation: 9 Exercises to Draw, Write, and Discover Your Future.” Sounds a bit woo-woo, but I promise it’s not. Even if you’re not trying to launch a creative career, the lessons were enlightening and inspiring, sparking the type of introspection that I think everyone needs.

Musings/ Wanderings

A New Project

February 23, 2020

Hey, I have a new baby (as in creative project — geez)!

Are you a history nerd? A traveler? A lover of wandering curious places? Perfect — you’ll fit right in. I’m launching a new project — If Walls Could Talk is a weekly(ish) newsletter/posting/project exploring incredible places around the world and the stories behind them. The posts will go up weekly (ok, when I manage that) on Twitter, IG, and via newsletter. Follow me on Instagram/Twitter and sign up for the newsletter here for more (you know you want to)!

slains castle scotland

(Psst… here’s a sneak peek at the first posting location. Quite a beaut, isn’t she?)

 

Musings

Current Obsessions: January

January 18, 2020
Obsessions January

Currently reading: Aimée Leduc books

I’m a sucker for a good mystery. Add to that the fact that these novels are set in Paris, and I’m sold. I came across this series thanks to one of my aforementioned favorite podcasts, and I’m now officially hooked. With a blend of history and high-stakes drama (all amidst the magic of the City of Lights, of course), these books following a plucky female detective are always a can’t-put-down pick.

 

Currently wearing: Unique Vintage Flapper Capelet

What are the holidays without a bit of glitter? I bought this sparkly little capelet to top off my holiday outfit, and now I’m a little bit obsessed. Art Deco flair and gold glitz — what’s not to love?

 

Currently watching: Anne with an E

Anyone else remember Anne of Green Gables with nostalgia? (If not, what have you been doing?) This Netflix remake strays from the books a bit, I have to admit, but it’s so good that I really don’t care. The characters are colorful and charming, the scenery is breathtaking, and there’s a compelling mixture of sentimentality, drama, and, humor. The third and final season was just released, and I’m not at all ashamed to admit I binge-watched it in record time. Definitely a must-watch, even if you’re (somehow) not already an Anne of Green Gables fan.

 

Currently sipping: Hot cocoa

What really needs to be said about this one? Coffee will always have my heart, but this winter I’ve been getting into a steaming mug of cocoa when I’m looking for a chocolate fix. I even made my own mix over the holidays, and Santa brought a decadent Christopher Elbow tin for my stocking (thanks, Santa). Bring on the chilly winter weather — I’m prepared.

 

Currently baking: Gingerbread Sandwich Cookies with Eggnog Buttercream

In the search for a holiday-flavored treat to bake for gifts, I might have gone a bit overboard (is that possible?). In any case, these soft and chewy gingerbread cookies with rich eggnog frosting ticked all the boxes. I may or may not have eaten some of the cookie dough myself.

Musings/ Travel/ Wanderings

Wandering the Doors of Paris

December 5, 2019
Paris doors

I have a confession: I have a bit of an obsession with doors. Not your average everyday door necessarily, but colorful doors, intricate doors, eccentric doors. Have you ever noticed how many different types of doors there are out there? (No? Just me?) And it just so happens that Paris is particularly up on its door game. There’s a vast array of colors. There are intricate designs and incredible art. There are knockers in every design imaginable (Paris also has — pardon my French — great knockers). Some are ancient and a little worn, some are polished and shiny new, some are amazing Art Nouveau works of art — you get the picture. As a result, I became that crazy tourist stopping every few steps to take a picture of yet another door. What can I say? I’m obsessed.

 

I don’t actually know the stories of these Paris doors, which in a way maybe makes it more fascinating. How old is the door? What lies behind it? Who chose that lion or hand door knocker, and why? I’ve heard enough histories of specific doors and buildings in France to know that every flourish has a history and a meaning.

 

The one I do have some context for is the stunning Art Nouveau creation at 29 Avenue Rapp (first image, third row, first from left). Built in 1901 and designed by Jules Lavirotte, this intricate doorway tells an erotic tale of Adam and Eve, including peacocks, bulls, reptiles, and insects symbolizing sin (not to mention several other erotic motifs). It’s a gorgeous building teeming with symbolism that shocked viewers of the time.

 

Likely not every door in Paris packs such a metaphoric punch, but I’m positive they all have their own tales. Unfortunately, I’m no tour guide. I wish I could write an entire post about the stories behind these doors, but most remained closed to me. So we’ll just have to imagine, create histories and characters for them. All I know is, I took pictures of 39 doors in Paris, and no two looked alike, and I wandered by many more that I forced myself to keep walking and not snap a photo of.

 

If you’re wondering, “Why is she still talking about doors?” — well, I’m surprised you made it this far. If, like me, you enjoy a little quirkiness and mystery, then take a look at the collage of all my Paris door photos, enjoy the art and color, and create your own version of the stories they tell. And I’m positive they have many — it is Paris, after all.

Paris doors

Musings/ Travel

Notes on Parisian Style

November 23, 2019
Paris fashion style

Without a doubt, one of the best parts of visiting Paris — of traveling period, in my opinion — is the people-watching. I do this everywhere I go, but the Parisians are, after all, known for being a particularly stylish set. Now despite my *ahem* proclivity for shopping, I certainly wouldn’t call myself a fashion expert. But as I watched the busy Parisians clip along the streets, I picked up an idea or two about the ingredients of a chic Parisian look (or at least, the modern Parisian look, which is essentially the same thing). This isn’t to say that everyone in Paris is a fashion model — not at all. But the majority definitely have a style and flair that I couldn’t help noticing. As a dedicated people-watcher and Francophile, I had to take notes on Parisian style. As such, this isn’t so much a guide on how to dress Parisian as it is a few observations about how the Parisians of 2019 go about the city in their enviably Parisian way.

*Disclaimer: This is mostly centered on the women (sorry, guys), though I will say that Parisian men are also quite well-dressed!

 

Heels

Despite the prevalence of cobbled streets in Paris, there are (somehow) a lot of high heels clicking around the city. However, don’t imagine Sex and the City stilettos — these were more chunky heels and platforms, though still plenty high (granted, it was fall, but still). That said, I saw a lot of sensible loafers and sneakers as well, especially flat white Adidas sneakers. One thing was certain: no matter how high the heels, Parisians know how to walk. Everywhere in the city, clearly to get somewhere (and not car-to-door), often with groceries or other bags — and quickly. And I didn’t see a single person stumbling or acting as if her feet hurt.

Scarves

Scarves, scarves, and more scarves! Yes, it was getting chilly when I was there, but even on the warm days, nearly everyone was wearing a scarf. Bigger seemed to be better here — large scarves, wrapped all around the neck in a big bundle. I saw all colors and patterns, though in general I’d say the Parisians seem to favor neutrals over bright and crazy colors. A great benefit of this: all I had to do was throw a scarf around my neck, and I immediately felt more French!

Cloth Tote Bags

I’m really not exaggerating here — everyone, men and women, carried a cloth tote bag. Seriously, I started to get bag envy. I’m not sure if this is a fashion trend or part of rising eco-consciousness in France (which is definitely a legitimate trend there), but in any case, tote bags everywhere. Women usually had a purse or other bag as well, but always a cloth tote bag slung over a shoulder. This may have also been part of the reason I bought three while I was there …

Midi Skirts

Despite the dropping temperatures, midi skirts are definitely in in Paris. Usually worn with sneakers or boots, and with tights if it was cold, they were everywhere, in every style and color. Pleated and a-line seems to be the main look. I may have (literally) bought into this trend as well — did I mention there was a lot of shopping involved in this trip?

Hairstyles

This is something I’ve heard before and found to be true when I visited — French women don’t seem that into coiffed hair. I saw both a lot of messy buns and a lot of hair left loose, but barely any perfectly hairsprayed ‘dos. Up or down, hair wasn’t usually straightened or perfectly styled but more loose and natural. The French may have a reputation for effortless beauty, but in this case it seems to be true. Maybe a sign for us all to loosen up a little?

The Teen Uniform

Maybe no one else cares about this, but I found it amusing that the teen girls of Paris had a very distinct uniform. I made the mistake of hitting some vintage shops on a Wednesday afternoon (French students have Wednesday afternoons off school), and I felt like I was trapped in a chattering mob of clones. This (unofficial) uniform is very particular: straight-leg, ankle-length jeans or leggings, Adidas sneakers, and a big ‘80s- or ‘90s-style jacket. Ok, maybe the clone reference is a bit dramatic, but I swear the uniform is a thing! In fact, ‘90s style seemed to be big in general, especially in the thrift shops I popped into. The youth predicting the big style trends of tomorrow?

Well, there you have it — certainly not an expert analysis, but straight from the streets of Paris in any case. Whether you buy into the hype about French beauty and fashion or not, people-watching is practically a national pastime there, and you can’t deny the Parisians provide plenty of fodder. I know I picked up plenty of ideas, at least. Anyone want to go shopping?

Musings

Current Obsessions: September

September 5, 2019
September obsessions musings Kansas City

Is it really September already? Then why is it still 95 degrees? Anyway, weather complaints aside, I’m actually quite ready for a new month and season. As we kick off September, here are a few things taking up possibly-unhealthy amounts of my days/thoughts!

 

Currently Baking: Mocha protein bars

In general, I’m not really a protein-packing, workout-fuel sort of person. But I bought a container of protein powder for a (Pinterest-sourced, of course) recipe — which, as you know if you’ve ever bought protein powder, come only in Hulk-worthy sizes. So as I was wondering what to do with my vat of protein powder and tragically out of chocolate in my apartment, I came across this recipe. Anything with mocha immediately catches my eye, and I have to admit I’m now hooked. It basically tastes exactly like mocha brownie batter, and it’s ridiculously easy to make. I have trouble getting it to set into actual bars, but as I have no qualms eating brownie batter, that totally works for me.

Currently Coveting: SWISSGEAR suitcase

Is it odd that I’m shopaholic-lusting over a suitcase? Maybe, but I’ve been looking for a suitcase that mimics a vintage steamer trunk (but doesn’t require actually lugging around a heavy trunk) for ages. Most seem to be $500-1000 (yes, seriously), and this one is $150 and available at Target, so I’m basically sold. Not that I need a new suitcase. But oh Target, you’re killing me!

Currently Munching: Mud Pie Bakery blueberry crumble bars

Chances are, I’ve mentioned Mud Pie on here before (once, twice, a million times). It’s an adorable coffeeshop in a bright yellow house on quirky 39th street, and I’m unabashedly obsessed. All their food is delicious, but I recently tried their gluten-free blueberry crumble bars, and I’m now addicted. Perfectly crumbly and sweet, these berry bars hit the spot for breakfast, dessert, a snack — you name it. (And you’d never guess they’re vegan and gluten-free.) It doesn’t hurt that you can hang out in Mud Pie’s adorable living room as you munch, either.

Currently Reading: The City of Brass

If you’ve caught any of the million Harry Potter references around here, you might have guessed that I’m a bit of a fantasy fan. With magic, djinn (genies), and history, The City of Brass is right up my alley. It’s a bit like Aladdin or Arabian Nightsfor grown-ups. Admittedly, it’s taking me a while to get through this one, but mostly because I keep pausing to take notes in the margins (yes, I’m a nerd).

Currently Wandering: Kansas City murals

It turns out Kansas City’s street art game is pretty darn awesome! This has been on my bucket list for ages, and my friend Emily and I recently hit the streets (and electric scooters) to check out the best murals around downtown KC. Rest assured, a full post on this is coming soon — once I sort through the million pictures I took. For now, keep an eye out for a burst of vibrant paint if you’re wandering around Kansas City (which I highly recommend).

Currently Listening: The Earful Tower podcast

Ok, this is slightly cheating, because I’ve been obsessed with this for a while now. But I recently got a shout-out on the podcast, so let me relish it a bit! Anything Paris-related immediately gets a spot on my radar (in case you missed the Eiffel Tower reference), and this podcast has some great tips and insight into both Paris behind the scenes and the Parisian expat community. Basically, I’m considering it crucial life research. Plus, the host has a charming Australian accent and a penchant for lovably corny jokes — how can you go wrong?

 

 

Musings/ Travel

Wandering Solo: 6 Key Tips for Traveling Alone

July 24, 2019
Bird’s eye view of old Prague

The sky was nestling into velvety sapphire, the sun slipping behind rolling hills, and the red tile roofs stretched out like a doll village below. The bell tower was silent and empty around me.

Being alone gets a bad rap sometimes. Indisputably, we all need those close, two-peas-in-a-pod friends. But going solo can be an amazingly enlightening and strengthening experience. I remember a time when I would skip an event I really wanted to check out if I couldn’t find a wingman (or wingwoman). The idea of venturing around Eastern Europe alone initially seemed at best a pipe dream, at worst just plain stupid. Yet it was also a fleeting chance: recently graduated, “real life” waiting on the horizon — when else would I be able to tackle my bucket list head-on, on my own terms? As I booked a flight to Berlin, for once I didn’t allow any overanalyzing or second-guessing. Unsurprisingly, it was an incredible three weeks. It was also a series of ups and downs, but taking the plunge and doing it on my own left me with a few insights.

You’re tougher than you think.

The minute you’re lugging a suitcase alone across a cavernous Hungarian train station, or faced with a dinner menu that might as well be written in astrophysics equations, traveling solo begins to seem like a questionable idea. There’s no one to follow, no one else to bravely ask a stranger for help, no one to chuckle ruefully with over your hopeless sense of direction. But you figure it out. You stumble a bit, bruise your pride, waste some time, but you get where you’re trying to go, find something edible to order, and often stumble across something incredible in the meantime. And when you do, a delicious satisfaction arises in knowing you had the guts and smarts to figure it out on your own.

You will get lonely (and that’s ok).

As much as I loved being on my own, there were moments when something reminded me of home or a friend, and I suddenly felt a million miles away, stranded in Timbuktu. No matter how many awesome people you meet or amazing places you visit, at some point a familiar face would be a welcome sight. But feeling lonely doesn’t mean you’re any less self-sufficient or strong. It’s all about finding the things that make you happy, not being afraid to enjoy them, and knowing when to put FaceTime to good use.

It’s the unexpected moments that mean the most.

I’m a planner. And traveling alone, it seemed like a good idea to be prepared. But some days, like my first in Prague, I just picked a direction and started walking. Here’s the thing about Prague: all the streets resemble the twisting cobblestone paths found in fairy tales. One minute you’re passing a tourist-packed bakery, and the next you’re in a misty forest scaling steep stone and dirt steps (or does that only happen to me?). You somehow end up at a hilltop observation tower, and then all of Prague is magically laid out below you. With no one to plan with, it’s easier to simply wander (and get lost) by your own whim, and there’s something sweet about not having to share that discovery moment.

The best encounters are the random ones.

Random encounters occur, well, randomly (shocker), whether you’re alone or with a friend. But when there’s no one with you to puzzle over nonsensical train schedules or exclaim at stunning views, you’re more likely to strike up a conversation with whoever is nearby, however random that might be. I probably would have whispered to my companion over the doodads in a Prague antiques shop instead of chatting with the banged-up shopkeeper about the perils of biking home from the pub (take his bandaged arm as a lesson, folks). Or missed bashing the Hungarian train system with two British guys as we sat in the luggage compartment on a train with fewer seats than passengers. Obviously this calls for common sense, but it’s also an opportunity to meet some of the most interesting people in the world (literally).

It’s about finding the place that clicks.

For each city I visited, there was that neighborhood or café where everything slid into place and I felt like I belonged, like that was my place. From the funky hipster markets of Berlin’s Kreuzberg to the vibrantly graffitied, café-lined Jewish quarter of Budapest, I only had to set foot there to feel more content. That discovery of the spot where I feel more like a local than a tourist is one of the best parts of traveling in my book, and wandering the city streets on my own left my way open to find it.

It’s ok to be selfish sometimes.

Let’s be real here: part of the reason I wanted to travel alone is so I could go wherever and do whatever I wanted. Maybe that’s a bit selfish and inflexible. But we have a right to follow our own hearts and guts sometimes, to do something completely our own way. To do something just because we want to. Pure and simple. There’s plenty of time for obligations and compromises. I wouldn’t have had the same experience, discovered the same wonders, had the same insights about myself, if I had been traveling with someone else. It’s like that double chocolate cookie you know you want — we all deserve a little self-indulgence every once in a while, right?