Tag: Friends

Emails With Friends: The Waiting Game

“I love how we are both so very quick to over-analyze silence. As if [agent’s] lack of check in email = so many rejections that she threw herself off the empire state building rather than even look at my email address again.”
“Wagner should have written some kind of opera about our writing emotional cycles.”
“DISSOLVE THE WORLD IN ASHES, I HAVE RECEIVED NO CALLS.”
“[sent gif below]”
“I am sipping red wine”
– Katarina and C.

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Confess: What’s Your Guilty Pleasure?

“I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you enjoy something, you just enjoy it. No sense feeling guilty about it.”
― Cristina Moracho

Tell truths, minions, what is your guilty spending pleasure? Some friends I know always buy fresh flowers for their house, one loves going to the movies and is willing to splurge on weekly theatre tickets, a colleague I once had gets a professional blowdry a couple of times a month, one friend makes it a priority to go on a nice date with her partner every week. Mine is magazines. I don’t buy them every month, but when I’m feeling the need for some beauty therapy, a Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, or Tatler will do the trick.

On the flip side, what’s your guilty FREE pleasure? One of my brothers has managed, through birthday and holiday gifts to have a running subscription to XBox Live that he has never had to drop a dime on. One of my friends has an uncanny knack for finding left behind magazines and newspapers on the Tube that she reads instead of buying them (a trick I need to learn!), and yet another–a fitness and wellness queen–forgoes the gym to work out in London’s many parks. I give myself a manicure once a week, something I personally would never pay for, which helps me keep from picking at my nails and helps me feel more put together for the week.

What are yours? Spill!

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Crum, Barcelona

“What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.”
― A.A. Milne

On the Carrer de Parlament is a delightfully hipster sort of joint that is worth checking out. Let me introduce Crum.

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The menu is in Catalan, but they do have English versions for those of us whose European languages veer a bit more northern. True, embarrassing story about how French functions as my default language pretty much all of the time and I had to bite my tongue all week to avoid saying “bonjour” when I meant “buenos dias,” and uttered “trois” instead of “tres” to a bemused waitress at one point before finally deciding to keep my mouth shut and let my more Spanish competent compatriots do the majority of the ordering. Setting self-consciousness aside, this place does one thing and one thing only: potatoes.

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Whoops, I lie. It does potatoes and sauces; you essentially order the type of spud preparation that tickles your fancy and the sauce that you want to accompany it. There are handy suggestions but you are mostly given free reign–though the staff will voice their alternative opinions if you ask for feedback.

We pushed the boat right out and ordered one of nearly everything. Patatas bravas is a local dish of thickly chopped potatoes, roasted, and served with a spicy sauce that any tapas bar in the city worth its salt will offer…but this was an exemplary specimen. And it’s a good thing we got a bunch of things as it turned out we were more than a little hungry.

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Pardon the dreadful photo quality but I had to move fast you see, because…

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…approximately seven seconds later.

Barcelona: The Food

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”
― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

When discussing what we wanted to do on our holiday with friends in Barcelona, we narrowed it down to three major priorities: 1) eat, 2) hang out with them, and 3) precious little else. Tapas, traditional Spanish and Catalan food, seafood, random weirdness–we wanted to try as much as we possibly could.

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We were beautifully situated for local dining as we were in a residential neighborhood that had about a million bakeries and coffee shops, gastro pubs and tapas joints, and even a massive produce and meat market about two minutes away from the flat. We were spoiled, no question about it. But again, thanks to Kelsey’s boss travel prep skills, she had already mapped the gastronomic system of the city and we knew we had some spots that simply had to be hit, but we also knew where playing it by ear would most likely pay off in a fantastically good meal.

Welcome to Barcelona Food Week on SDS!

Carrer de Blai

This is a street full of almost exclusively tapas restaurants where a mini food culture or trend seems to have originated. All the food is bite sized and served on slices of bread, held together with a skewer. You can eat as much or as little as you want as you pay based on unit and your skewers are tallied at the end of your meal–prices can be indicated by different colored sticks–and you can either call it a night…or head to the next joint to see what they have on offer. Guess which choice we made?

It turned out to be prescient as we also discovered a bodega specializing in empanadas and indulged in those as well.

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Barraca on the beach

We wanted paella and we wanted it in the most appropriate setting: seaside. My photo quality may be lacking, but the food was not! Traditional dishes like gazpacho and seafood, expertly done.

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Pasapalo

I wasn’t blown away by this place, in spite of a plethora of good reviews, but I was also the lone group member to not have a burger and so my review may be suspect. The ambiance and style, however, were great!

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Street food

There is so much good and cheap food in this city that it’s almost unbelievable. On every street corner we saw sellers roasting sweet potatoes and chestnuts, to be wrapped in newspaper and taken to eat on the go. And on every street there seems to be a place where you can get an excellent cut of meat grilled or roasted up for your pleasure. Meanwhile there is no end to the tapas options, and you can wander into the vast markets and come away with cones of traditional cured Spanish meats and cheeses. I repeat, handfuls of meat and cheese. Nirvana exists, kids.

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Desserts

And finally: pudding! I shan’t overdo this one expect to say that there is a traditional dessert somewhat similar to creme brulee called crema catalana, and that your life is incomplete if you have not yet partaken of it.

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Emails With Friends: Editing

” You need to change [sentence] to the past tense and change ‘principle’ to ‘principal.'”
“GAH. PRINCIPAL. I swear that twigged something in my brain but it was my last edit of the night and I needed to go to bed. Shoot me.”
“Still not as good as the fundraiser typo that shall live with me until the day I die (I fixed it, but still): ‘Volunteers are the heroes in our toolboxes!’ became ‘Volunteers are the herpes in our toolboxes!’ Brilliant.”
– Katarina and C.

Being a writer is fraught. You never know who you may accidentally kill or infect.

Friends save lives.

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Devon

“Country things are the necessary root of our life – and that remains true even of a rootless and tragically urban civilization. To live permanently away from the country is a form of slow death.”
― Esther Meynell

We bid adieu to the summer with a very lovely and generous invitation for a weekend house party in Devon on the coast.  There was minimal communications, croquet, amazing food, and wonderful company–we had a amazing time.
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The weather was very British and temperatures and sunlight varied by the hour, but we got glorious chunks of time in the sun and good enough weather for a long hike on the Saturday afternoon. Mornings were spent at the massive kitchen table or out on the terrace, after a brisk swim in the sea, we played parlour games at night.  The villages we hiked through and stayed in were beyond charming, there is no other word for them. Here, have a photo smorgasbord:

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It was exactly what we needed to round off the summer. Quintessentially British, restful, and invigorating at the same time.  I’m ready for another helping!

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Baby’s first second piercing

“Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!”
― James Oppenheim

When I was in New York over the summer, X and I got second piercings together–an extra hole in one lobe each. We decided to do it almost from the moment we started planning the trip and even picked out the piercer we wanted to use.

So much, so high school, you may be thinking. Why is this, the tiniest of body modifications worth a write up? Well, a third hole punch in my frame may be a rather dinky example of self actualization, but it’s important to me.

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Body modification was not an option growing up. LDS teachings place a high amount of reverence on the human body and care of it, which is also why there are the famous dietary restrictions Mormons are often noted for: no coffee, tea, or alcohol, and (supposedly) meat in moderation. Raised LDS, I grew up with a lot of presentation expectations around hemlines, sleeve lengths, hairstyles, tattoos (hard no), and piercings. The formal advice, though it can be enforced in some circumstances, being none for boys and one hole in each ear permissible for girls. There were a lot of rules for girls.

You can find this referenced and cited multiple times in official church literature. I went looking for a link reference for this blog post and ended up with the following, which is instructive in its own right.

I started typing in the words “women should” in the website search bar, and the auto fill in immediately supplied “stay home” on my behalf. Thoughtful of it. But there, right beneath the advice of “women should be women and not babies” (a baffling admonition), and “women should follow their husbands and he follows the counsel from god” (to which, no), is the statement, “women should only wear one pair of earrings.” It’s a bit hard to read, but it’s there, right above “women should avoid paid employment.”

 

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This direction about earrings is something I heard specifically and multiple times growing up, and I experienced dress codes enforcing the one earring rule (among other requirements) which are in place at most church activities, and at its institutions like universities. I adhered to these expectations and didn’t think too much about it. I wasn’t particularly bothered about strictures on earrings and didn’t even get around to having my ears pierced until I was 13; I believe my sister still hasn’t at 19 simply because she doesn’t care to.

But as time went on and my opinions developed, I came to see this rule as a very minor cog in a much larger and troubling context of women’s and gender issues in the church and its culture. These eventually led (through a long and complex route I won’t bore you with again) to me deciding to leave the church and renegotiate my relationship to its organisation and teachings. I’ve since felt the need to review a lot of my notions about my body and what I choose to do with it. It’s not in my nature to be impulsive about my corporeal form, a lot of the reverence I was raised with still lingers, but getting a second piercing was something I’d wanted to do for a long time–since my early 20s and then largely due to a misguided belief that it would look “rebellious.” Oh, youth.

And so, I made a decision to get another hole punched, and plotted and planned with my best friend–who has written publicly and far more eloquently than I have ever managed to about her own faith transition–to do it together. We made a girls day of it, shopped, got bespoke lipsticks, sat next to each other in the piercing studio, had a long and winding talk about faith journeys afterwards at brunch.

It’s tiny but it was a gesture that made me feel as if my body was really mine in a way it didn’t before. Not a loan from on high, not a meat house for the soul, but genuinely something that belonged to me in my own right.

Having the unexpected experience of seeing how many other gender admonitions are connected to such a trivial thing during a website search on jewelry was just reconfirmation that the issues I found so upsetting are still there. Possibly getting worse as strict concepts of bodies and purity and gender roles continue to be emphasized in the way that the organization does, and in some cases such as LGBT issues, is doubling down on.

Out of interest and fairness, I decided to check the auto fill on the site again more recently in drafting this post. The mention of earrings was not longer suggested. However there are now two references to women “hearkening” unto their husbands, one to dressing modestly with two about specific dressing standards, three references to either “staying” home or not working outside of it, and the most troubling suggestion which seems to be a variation on a statement on rape from a book by a prominent former church leader published in 1969–that it’s better to die fending off rape than live through it. I myself heard variations on this theme throughout youth and young adulthood and though I don’t believe it’s claimed as a public position anywhere in the church today, the fact that mangled versions of this idea are common enough to still being generated by algorithmic search suggestions is pretty disheartening.

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I also checked again today, out of morbid curiosity at this point. An auto fill suggestion about earrings is back–the problematic suggestion about rape survival remains.

My piercing has healed now and I don’t regret it in the slightest. In a twist of fate, the same piercing studio has now set up shop on the ground floor at Liberty and has begun singing a siren song to me to get another. I’m probably going to give in eventually.

 

Emails With Friends: Big Brother is Watching You

“I’m listening to this hilariously epic album of Icelandic folk music. My YouTube history is so fucking aleatoire.”
“My YouTube history is bonkers but it’s proof that internet algorithms work. As I type this my recommended vids include: a documentary on quantum mechanics, an outrageous makeup tutorial, PBS NewsHour, Beyonce concert videos from fans, and a record from 1958 called “Hip Harp” which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a wonder my computer hasn’t exploded.”
– Katarina and C.

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Emails With Friends: Interior Design

“We like an obscenely expensive sofa and there are a million and a half online mattress companies. Also EVERYTHING is mid-century at the moment which is getting tiring. Actually, we found an great antique store with amazingly reasonable prices. Hidden gem for sure. I don’t need a taxidermy giraffe head or French tailor’s drawers…but I want them.”
“I definitely 100% need a taxidermy giraffe’s head, but then again, the amount of taxidermy mounts I have bookmarked = many.”
“I am currently flirting with the most charming taxidermy fox I found at a random street market last Friday. To go in my perforce mid-century apartment, apparently.”
“I’m really lucky that I have several great family pieces at my disposal (bed, vanity, piano), but I’m still so impatient because I have a very strong idea of what I want and it’s like, OKAY LET’S IMMEDIATELY BUY gazelle heads and masonic thrones and 19th-c maps and ENORMOUS POTTED PALMS and also, CHINA…
[later]
“…by which I meant, like, china dishes. Not the country; clarification is probably necessary.”
“Yeah, I totally read “china” as the country, but just assumed that had to do with the colonial elements of your design ambition. Heck, I live in Britain. The country that just rolled up to everywhere else in the world and said, ‘This wall. I like it. We’ll take it.'”
-C. and Katarina

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Five Things I Loved in August

“We don’t need to have just one favorite. We keep adding favorites. Our favorite book is always the book that speaks most directly to us at a particular stage in our lives. And our lives change. We have other favorites that give us what we most need at that particular time. But we never lose the old favorites. They’re always with us. We just sort of accumulate them.”
― Lloyd Alexander

It was a whirlwind month, so I figured a little introspection wouldn’t go amiss as we head into the month of “back to school” and “seasonal wardrobe” changes. The nights are getting cool, even though the days are still deceptively hot, and all of London is working hard to soak up as much Vitamin D as possible. Winter is coming, and all that, kittens! Here’s a quick run down of the things, profound and silly alike, that made my month.

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Image via Netflix

Stranger Things. Count us among the many who inhaled the series in one go. Proud of the fact I am not (it was a late night). Would I do the same again? Instantly. Noir meets science fiction meets childhood depicted right meets 80s nostalgia. I can’t tell if I’m happy or not it got a second series as it strikes me as one of those wonderful things in real danger of being ruined by its own popularity…but I’m deciding to be optimistic. Anyone else have thoughts to share on the cult-inspired cult hit of the summer?

Shimmering Skin Perfector® Pressed

Image via Becca Cosmetics

Becca Highlighters. These gems come in liquid, cream, and powder form and each have different finishes and effects on the skin. I was always a blush girl but had a hard time getting over the idea of anything designed to make one shine, probably an overreaction to Twilight hype (or more likely just intimidation when considering how I was supposed to use such an item). Consider me converted.

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Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto (audiobook). It’s taken me a while to give audiobooks a try, which is odd given that I listen to more podcasts and spoken word media than I do music, but I am coming around. I really enjoyed this book, narrated by the author herself. Lesley Hazelton has a deep contralto voice that I found a joy to listen to at the gym, on public transport, or just doing chores around the house. I like it when authors narrate their own books; they have the most intimate knowledge of their writing, of course, and so I think can probably imbue text with their intended emotional meaning better than even talented and experience voice readers. I wonder how much gets lost in emotional translation in many audiobook cases? I’ve listened to one or two audio books in my time that sounded absolutely silly or unenjoyable in audio form but when I picked them up in text later I had a completely different reaction to them. In almost every instance, I felt that the audio reader “got it wrong” somehow. In any event, I found this book not just delightful to hear, but the topic to be handled personally, intelligently, and even humorously. To write personally about agnosticism, which is usually debated nastily or dismissively in my experience, with wit and mischief was really interesting, and I came away wholeheartedly agreeing with her that whatever one’s personal beliefs, the real danger comes from “one dimensional thinking.” In the end, what Hazelton really seems to reject, in my opinion, is not forms of belief so much as fundamentalism.

Image via Glossier

Glossier concealer. Amateur beauty junkie that I am, I tend to keep an eye on companies and launches that tickle my fancy and test them whenever I can. London is a veritable beauty mecca but there are new and interesting US based brands popping up all the time that don’t have European suppliers or don’t ship here yet. Such a heartbreaker is Glossier who I have been lusting after ever since they came out with their Phase 1. I timed an order to correspond with our visit to Utah and have been testing all the goodies I stocked up on ever since and can dub the Stretch Concealer (in shade Medium for me) an absolute winner. The UK has been roasting for the whole of this month and most complexion goods simply slide off the typical mortal woman’s face in the tube but this baby has held firm. Alas I couldn’t order the Haloscope highlighter…next stateside jaunt.

Email chains with friends. With a chunk of time in July taken up with family travel and a new job offer, my mind was a bit preoccupied. Last month the girls and I (we keep up regular and spirited correspondence, deeply grateful we live in the age of email and text because that six-weeks-delayed-gossip-and-dependent-on-mail-coaches nonsense would simply have not done at all), wrote about creative projects, Tudor history, and shopping for decor in decommissioned masonic temples. Seriously. I’m planning an upcoming trip to Spain with one, getting to hear about a potential new gentleman friend from another, catching up on freelance work with yet another. Food for the soul.

What have been your summer standouts, darlings? And more importantly, what other pop culture do I need to catch up on as a matter of priority?