So, we went to NYC

‘The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere elsewhere have to be, in some sense, kidding.”
– John Updike

Since we had previous travel plans (understandably) disrupted, we decided to go to New York instead–theoretically in honor of my 30th birthday, but in fact mostly because I just really, really wanted to visit my best friend and surrogate older sister. It was a three day jaunt that was over too soon, but was very much needed.

X lives in the Upper East Side with two hilarious cats that provided the majority of our at-home entertainment (I now want a cat in spite of a mild allergy) and generously provided our base of operations. The goal was to see the “real” New York as both Jeff and I had only ever seen the moderately touristy bits and what fun is that?

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In fact, the only moderately touristy thing we did was the Met, due largely to our shared love of museums. Everything else was wandering the city with a native guide, a girls’ day whilst Jeff met up with an old university flatmate, dinner with a good friend and her husband, an unholy binge of a Sephora excursion, second hand shopping, and more food.

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My favorite girl in front of one of my favorite paintings.

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It’s hard to be away from friends and family. On our recent trip to Utah a friend asked what I missed most about the States and without any hesitation my response was, “My people. Friends.” Growing up as we did, I think my family and I are used to the notion of kin being distant and, while not being easy, it’s certainly manageable. I don’t feel particularly distant from them or their affection, which sounds odd but by which I mean I feel very secure in those relationships. I have a harder time with the fact that my best friends live in massively different time zones and small things like phone calls require pretty significant coordination. My friendships really feed me and keep me balanced–shout out to Katarina who gave me one of the most useful external party insights to my character I’ve ever received recently–and while I have close, close friends here in London, I miss the girls with whom I literally came of age. Over and over again.

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I also forgot what unrelenting sunlight felt like, as a side note. New York was blazing!

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Reader, I ate it. What, you ask? Everything.

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The benefit of having a local guide is that you get a first hand introduction to the best eats. Apparently Midtown Bagels East is something of an institution which I can enthusiastically endorse as a reputation earned. According to X, the queue at the weekend is ridiculous. We, savvy tourists that we were, went on a weekday.

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She also has the best recommendations for the weird and wacky shops for planning your next gallery wall.

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One of my favorite excursions was to the justly famous Bite Lip Lab where we were able to make custom lipsticks. A pair of self-proclaimed lippy fanatics, this was closer to a pilgrimage, really. Pricey. Worth it. Expect a full post on this in its own right.

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To be honest, before this trip, I didn’t really “get” New York. I have never romanticized it the way a lot of people do (hell, I didn’t even romanticize London so much as I just knew in my bones it was where I wanted to live), and I’ve always rather thought it was overhyped. Well, I still might not love it as much as London, but I finally get some of the appeal. It’s fast, it’s awake, and it’s almost a minor world in its own right in terms of what you can see and do. I have no idea if we’ll get to “try it out” someday as a home or a regular haunt, but I’m far more open to the idea now.

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X lives close to Central Park (her life is a trial, truly) and we took full advantage–prior to it being overrun by Pokemon Go enthusiasts. The view was…not bad.

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We ended our visit in Brooklyn at the pizza joint reputed to be Beyonce’s favorite. It’s like she’s known me for 17 years, or something.

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Pretty sure we’ll be back.

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Weekend Links

“No man needs a vacation so much as the man who has just had one.”
― Elbert Hubbard

Hi ducklings, sorry for the radio silence but we’ve been on much needed holiday in the states visiting Jeff’s family. It was a holiday without major agenda aside from playing games with family, shopping, and eating (so much eating…). And thus we are now home and back on both diets and general austerity.

Here are your links, share anything you found interesting in the comments!

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The background and history of a photo that will likely turn out to be an icon.

In spite of the recent political chaos and turmoil, Larry remains on duty.

Turkey, Bangladesh, Paris…Nice

Cosmic perspective in short story form.

Obviously, the Fug Girls are doing the lord’s work with this retrospective.

A look into Beyonce’s Formation tour wardrobe, about which I know you will be just as fascinated as I was, right?!

To the moon!

And who volunteers to come thrift shopping with me for one of these?

Wonder Woman trailer, this is not a drill!

30 Things I’ve Learned in 30 Years

“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.”
― Robert Frost

Be kind.

But…be your own first line of defense. If something is bad for you–a person, a habit, a situation, too much sugar–learn to say “no…”

Because “no” is a complete sentence.

It’s fine not to have a five year plan.

It’s okay to ask for help.

Mistakes do not a failed project, career, or life make. Messing up is inevitable and a lot less soul-destroying than anxiety often makes it appear.

It’s really nice to be liked, but not everyone is going to like you. That’s okay. Find the ones who do like you that you like back and hang out regularly.

Likewise, figure out whose good opinion truly matters to you and whose doesn’t. Prioritize accordingly.

Style matters and it’s occasionally okay to focus on the superficial. Make up is fun!

I am allowed to change my mind about desires and goals. So are other people for that matter.

Working hard is not the same thing as working smart and the former is a straight, fast shot to burnout if sustained too long…

Meaning that vacations are important. Take them. Don’t be such an puritanically-descended American. 

Ambition is not unattractive in people in general and women in particular. People who think it is have their own issues to work through.

No one is required to justify their emotions to me, nor I to anyone else. Emotions are real and true to the person experiencing them and just because I cannot see what someone else is going through, that doesn’t unmake its reality to that person.

Fear, intimidation, or lack of experience are inadequate reasons to avoid trying new things.

Being appreciated is not the same thing as being valued.

Stereotypes are useless; I like Louboutins and medieval history. Everyone else is just as fractal.

There is no “one right way” to do anything and people who claim there is generally have a lot of secondary agendas. The job, expectations, family set up, priorities, or working style of another person will not work for me and mine. If I want to demand respect and space for how I choose to live, I must in turn give the exact same courtesy to absolutely everyone else. Like unto stereotypes, judgement of how other people choose to make it work is pretty useless.

Intentions matter vitally. Where harm is not intended but caused, be generous whenever possible (again remembering rule 2).

I am not required to suck up unpleasant circumstances or experiences, particularly where there is no eventual benefit to be had.

Some circumstances require speaking up, others shutting up.

Anger is a tool to power you to and through an action, it should not be a permanent state. If it is, it’s time to change something big in your life.

In most situations, the worst thing that can happen is that someone will tell me, “No.” This, while not usually welcome, is far from the end of the world, and is also insufficient reason to give up.

Never, ever cede your will, or conscience to another person or group. Ever.

Self care is not selfish.

Relationships, whether personal or professional, are the most important things at the end of the day. Ensure the ones that matter and bring you the most value and joy are cultivated.

It’s easy to want, it’s harder but more important to establish needs.

Opportunities are not a blink-and-you’ve-missed-it phenomenon, they show up constantly. It’s learning to identify them and which ones to take that’s the challenge.

Anyone or anything that asks you to make yourself smaller, quieter, or more convenient to them does not have your best interest at heart.

And finally, my motto, life is not an either/or kind of situation. One path now does not preclude other paths later.

 

 

 

Everything Old is New Again

“There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, ‘Do trousers matter?'”
“The mood will pass, sir.”
― P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters

This gentleman is a fabulous steampunk Cossack pirate, and I buy clothes from him.

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I do not buy too many new clothing items these days. Exceptions are things like work clothes; I am in the process of building a small arsenal of work dresses and investing in high quality tailoring with the aim of building a capsule work wardrobe. But other than that, I have not bought new clothes in a long time and have instead bought things almost entirely vintage or second hand. There are a few reasons for this.

First, I’ve mentioned before what an impact reading this book made on me. Even though it was now several years ago, it has had a lasting effect on my shopping habits. More stuff, cheaply made is not good for anyone. Not the planet, not the below-minimally-paid garment workers of the world, not me. Too much bad stuff is suffocating society and the clothing industry is a major culprit.

You might not think it to watch my social media feed, but my closet has actually gotten significantly smaller over recent years as I’ve winnowed out cheap clothes and bought fewer but better pieces. Learning to be more intentional about my spending habits has been one of the primary mental shifts I experienced transitioning out of university, into work, then into freelancing, and finally into my current role. Even though what I buy is now more expensive per capita, I’m getting significantly more wears out of each item, replace them less frequently, and buy better quality in the first instance. More money but less shopping overall, and a surprising amount of money saved as a result.

Second, I love vintage clothing. Not the head-to-toe look that only someone like the incomparable Dita Von Teese can pull off, but individual, well made, well cared for pieces that will never go out of style. It’s how I bought an excellent British tweed jacket, for instance, that I will probably own for the rest of my life.

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But shopping vintage or second hand also has a secondary benefit to overall quality: you are much, much less likely to see someone on the street wearing the same thing as you. In a society where fast, cheap fashion is everywhere and the same handful of retailers provide a huge majority of clothing to the general population, wearing something different can set you apart. It can also help you find amazingly fun items that really speak to your personality or sense of fun. The Cossack pirate sold me a vintage kimono that functioned as menswear in its original form, but now is my “opera coat” or going out jacket. Occasionally, on the advice of the Great and Good Caitlin, I flip it inside out to show off the hand painted panel. Why not?

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I did not buy this leopard print fur jacket, but that’s strictly due to reasons of poverty.

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I tried to be a good little Londoner and wear mostly black for a long time (and still occasionally do go monochrome for convenience and/or laziness), but eventually gave up. I love color and personality in my clothes too much and always need a punch of something on my person. Second hand or vintage shopping allows me to hunt for things like this that would cost me my firstborn child or a kidney to buy new. And because I no longer buy clothing on a whim; rather I spend time hunting for things that I really want, that really fit, and that I genuinely love. I spent a year trying to find a Sukajan jacket with a fun design (this one is actually reversible–two jackets for the price of one!) that actually fit me before finally forking out any money for one.

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The third reason to not buy new clothes ties to my second. Because my industry is so image conscious, the clothing that people wear telegraphs messages constantly. The best sales agents I have ever seen can take one look at a man and accurately estimate his income based on his watch or shoes. They can make a pretty decent guess about a woman’s industry and even educational background by her accessories. It’s scary how much people can tell at a glance of you.

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When I say I’ve been investing in a work wardrobe, I mean it literally. Some brands or items or even stylistic looks carry a certain cache that I in turn want to tap into when presenting to external companies or meeting with clients. I want to be in control of the messages my appearance puts out about me or whoever I happen to representing at the time. “Power bag” or “power heels” aren’t buzzwords, I have been treated very and noticeably differently based on which shoes I have chosen to wear to client or investor meetings. It may sound frivolous, but it’s anything but. Buying secondhand allows me to spend less on items of clothing that would otherwise be utterly beyond my price range, but are very real tools in my trade. Living in a city like London where fashion flows constantly, pre-owned doesn’t even necessarily mean used! Last winter I snagged a gorgeous Miu Miu coat in a beautiful wool (incredibly warm) with an embellished collar and spiked belt (again, why not!) that still had the tags of its original purchase on it.

Having bought clothing almost exclusively second hand for years now, I don’t really see myself going back to buying new except in a handful of instances. Not only are the perks of saving money and finding wholly unique items too good to give up, I genuinely enjoy the hunt for bargains or stellar finds. It makes getting dressed more fun and gives me a story to tell with nearly everything I put on. I’ll take it over cheap fast fashion any day.

Beyonslay

You might have seen this interaction elsewhere…

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But in case my reaction wasn’t clear, I had very clear and distinct feelings about the opportunity to see the Formation tour. Call it a partial anniversary present, but the boy came through. Please don’t expect any decent writing about this experience, best summed up as a “spiritual” one, this is basically just a photodump of and semi-prayer to the gorgeousness that is Our Lady Bey.

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One of us was more excited about this than the other…but he can get down to “Single Ladies” and “Diva” with the best of them, never fear.

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Flawless. Both a song and a statement of fact.

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Very much part and parcel of the experience, all the bow downs for her much and rightly lauded dance team who earn every inch of their physiques. Their choreography and execution is the textbook definition of “on point.”  I’ve loved Beyonce for a long time and her reputation is one of a consummate professional and performer, but this was the first time I’d seen her live and therefore my first opportunity to evaluate that rep. It stands up.

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Getting in formation, obviously.

From her set pieces, to singing, to choreography, to filmography, to her lighting and filming, the whole set up was a production meant to be seen by everyone in the stadium no matter where you were seated or standing. Of course she must have some of the best event support and design in the industry, but the level of coordination and preparation it must take to develop the concept, execute it, and move it around the world with hours or days between shows makes even my organizational-geek brain melt a bit. Also, I suddenly feel that my closet is insufficiently sequined and studded…

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I believe this following statement to be true.

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The whole show was great fun, but the finale was a powerhouse set of anthems that left me hoarse; I regret nothing.

To summarize: the Queen still reigns.

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Weekend Links

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
– Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Hi darlings, another weekend, another batch of links to help combat Sunday Night Blues. Blog posts about Beyonce, New York City, and lipstick coming this week, plus some thoughts on body modification, unintentional five-year planning, and second hand shopping coming to a blog near you. I’m trying to flex my writing and creative muscles again after far too long a hiatus. Here are your links, let’s talk about creative droughts and social reform in the comments.

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First and foremost, the US news has been horrible this week. Just awful. The violence against black lives, the angry retaliation, the desperate, desperate need to build trust between communities fractured by decades and centuries of confrontation and animosity… Get involved. Volunteer with organizations that speak to you. For gods sake vote. Speak up. The only thing that is going to make a difference in changing an entire culture is by intentional action. Meanwhile, this piece on one of the shootings, is required reading.

Notable #girlgang moments from June, rounded up for your reading pleasure.

This tumblr find of the week highlights the glory and the crazy of the online make up fandom. Mostly the crazy. And bad spelling.

And speaking of makeup… (You have dive more into the digitized collection here.)

There’s always a story.

Great piece from Monkey See on the ridiculous standards of women in the public eye to be both ethereally and unnatural beautiful, and still seem approachable and (if you’re a heterosexual male, generally speaking) sexually attainable.

Tips on faking it till you make it.

I made these (ridiculously easy) “tacos” this week and the recipe gets the seal of approval.

Weekend Links

“Who I am on stage is very, very different to who I am in real life.”
-Beyonce

A lovely weekend capped with a Beyonce concert. Kittens, I am content will the world and all her denizens and not even the Sunday night blues can get me down.

Meanwhile I’m being a good little blogger and uploading/editing photos from all our recent escapades so my long-standing blog hiatus (or, shameful kitten neglect, depending on your point of view) will soon be over. Here are your links, tell me what you got up to this weekend!

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Bow. Down.

Dying.

Love them or hate them, they are good at marketing.

Who’s coming with me?!

No,YOU’RE crying.

The Toast has shut its doors (poor one out for the gal homies), but man did it go out with a bang.

And speaking of milestones, The Devil Wears Prada turned 10 this week. That’s all.

I loved this tribute to Bill Cunningham.

Preordering this

An interesting piece on how the “brand” of Britain might be affectd by leaving the EU–the focus is on the fashion industry, but I think it has implications across multiple industries.

And finally, both Jeff and I have been doing some very conscious “investment” shopping for both our wardrobes of late and I found this post on the always reliably hilarious Man Repeller a useful way to think about the trade offs we all must make in allocating our spend. I too have been a member of the mental trickery club in the past; we all have.