Sorry for the radio silence on the ole blog here. Seems like I say that a lot during the year, but it's always a good thing when you aren't blogging because you're living and enjoying your life, right? : ) Also, I've noticed this blog is turning into a Travel Blog of sorts! I'm hoping that is a good thing for you guys.. I'm definitely not complaining. Honestly, I'm quite shocked at the traveling we've been able to do this summer. When summer began, we didn't have much planned! And earlier in the year we had booked a trip to NYC to celebrate my Mother's retirement with my sister - and I kind of forgot about it! Then we went on a last minute planned trip to Savannah and Charleston and Vancouver happened by a stroke of luck!
So I feel very very lucky indeed. I realize it's a luxury to get to travel these days, and I don't take it for granted one bit. (and also the fact that Ethan has built up so many miles with work - that definitely helps with the travel expenses!) I've stored up all of these wonderful memories and the miles I've clocked, in my heart and I'll be riding on those highs for the rest of the year while things finally slow down a little bit.
We returned from NYC last Sunday. That's my cute Mom up there and sister Shelly below! My Mom retired at the end of the school year in spring. She was a 3rd grade teacher and boy, was it time! Teachers have THE hardest job in the world.. and that's an understatement. I'm personally glad she's "out" of the business. Teaching is not what it used to be. So much stress! We've never actually taken a trip just us girls, and it was SO great! We're planning on doing a Girls Weekend every other year or so because it was such a great time bonding just the three of us.
Here we are in Times Square. I've never been much of a Times Square fan... once you get past the spectacle of it all, it can feel a bit much. But I have to admit, I haven't been to NYC in many years, and going to Times Square, especially during the day was again pretty awe inspiring. You can feel the excitement in the air. We went to TKTS and got half price tickets for Chicago. I've been to Chicago over 10 years ago and I knew it would be a show my sister and Mom would probably enjoy, so we settled on that one. It was kind of fun because Paige Davis of Trading Spaces fame was Roxy Hart... remember her?
The little pic to the right below is right before the show.
At the show...
The next morning, we went to Alice's Tea Cup, Chapter Two. My sister had heard it was a great place to get brunch, so we went! It was really great and very cute. I loved the Alice in Wonderland decor and paintings on the walls. What was really crazy is that Damien Echols was there with friends (and I think his wife Lorrie). If you are unfamiliar with the West Memphis Three and their case, you can read more here. My Mom and Shelly actually recognized him, no doubt after living in Memphis for many, many years, they'd heard about the case sporadically over the past two decades. More on that later though.
After brunch, we road the subway to Brooklyn to go to the Brooklyn Flea (which was AWESOME.. I hadn't been in years and was worried that the prices would really be jacked up, but I felt like everything was reasonable!) The selection was a great mix of vintage and handmade. I really loved it. Definitely worth a visit! A couple of favorite vendors: Huntress Home and Winter Water Factory.
After the flea market, we walked the Brooklyn Bridge which NEVER gets old! It was a gorgeous day with perfect weather. We heard on the news that the weekend we went was possibly the most perfect of the year weather-wise in NYC... we got very lucky! It was warm, but not miserably hot, always with a nice breeze.
After the bridge, we did some shopping not too far from our hotel (the Times Square area) and SOHO. Below is this VERY cool and uniquely curated store called Kiosk with items featured from all over the world. It was set up like a gallery, but they had everything in stock to purchase. I took lots of photos in the shop and I'll share those in a separate post. The shop below with the bear head mannequins was called Pinkyotto. SUCH a cute store with great dresses. We also shopped at the store next door called Lollipop. As with any shop in SOHO, everything is pretty expensive, but my sister and I each found a dress at Lollipop at 50% off. Not bad!
After we shopped, we went to Little Italy for dinner. Everyone was outside eating because the weather was so nice. Nothing beats the energy in Little Italy. So fun!
Our last day, we decided to stay fairly close to the hotel (we were EXHAUSTED from all of the walking we did the previous two days!) and did some shopping on 5th ave. We went to this wild store with gorgeous window displays. I really love those mod style dresses in the window. Of course everything was out of our price range, but it was fun browsing. The displays and decor in all the shops are worth seeing in themselves.
We walked to Bryant Park and hit up Kinokuniya Bookstore (I've been once and had to go again!) We didn't have a lot of time because my sister had to make her flight, but I managed to buy the two needle felting books and magazine pictured below, bottom left. I'll share more of those sometime soon. Oh man, nothing makes me geek out more than a Japanese book store! AAAAH!!!
Beautiful Bryant Park. I can imagine if you live locally, Bryant Park is such a great escape from the chaos of the city...
And the always awe-inspiring Grand Central Station...
We also did the Top of the Rock tour... the view was worth the hype (but not the price of 27 bucks! yikes!) That said, I'm glad we did it. It was a perfect way to end the trip.
Please note the gorgeous patterns and artwork that I used in this post, designed by my talented friend Liz Tamanaha of paislee press. I also used the same elements in a photo book I made at Blurb of this trip. Digital patterned papers are a great way to jazz up a photo book (get started on those holiday gifts!). We have some pretty gorgeous paper packs at Kitschy Digitals!
- I'm hoping to organize all of my travel posts into some city quides soon (Stateside and International) for easier access. Look out for that this year.
(warning: deep, serious thoughts ahead if you want to look the other way! This blog doesn't go this way very often, so don't get too worried ;)
Before our NYC trip, I was going through some real personal lows - just feeling emotionally spent and empty. I took a hard look at WHAT was making me feel this way and I realized that it was a lot of internet STUFF that was bringing me down. I think I go through these "spells" every few months where I realize I'm not living with intention.. not accounting for every single minute of my day. Making every second COUNT.
(As my husband's favorite podcast-er and comedian Adam Carolla says "If it doesn't make you happy or make you money, then why do it?" Wise words! ; )
Looking at other people's lives on Instagram, or coveting that something or another on a design blog, not making every moment count, and rather, letting them slip away in an unhealthy way. I think we all do this in one way or another, and you have to reach your very lows to realize it's happening again. I really needed the NYC trip, to get away with people that matter the most in my life - instead of focusing on people that I hardly know, that live miles and miles away: on the internet. Isn't it weird how we do that? And it mostly comes out of boredom - what do I do when I have five minutes of down time? I pick up my phone and start scrolling Instagram!
But not anymore.
After the trip, I made a conscious effort to start connecting with the tangible people in my "real" life, local people. Friends we've known since college. Parents of the kids our children play with. People that have nothing to do with this "design bubble" I live in online. People that go to real jobs every day. They are doing things that really affect other people in such profound ways, be it teaching children, working with people with mental disabilities, making a difference in our school systems, volunteering their time in our community.
I truly believe that we folks that "make things pretty" are important too, don't get me wrong... but I want to connect with people outside of that realm. I crave conversation about important things (or even unimportant things!) that have nothing to do with materialism. As much as I love design and collecting things and looking at beautiful things - it just sucks the life out of me at times.
I want to engage people that could give a rats-ass how nice my house looks, what vintage furniture I have and what thrift score I picked up this weekend. I feel like I've gotten that "fix" with friends online, that have the same interests. And I have my online friends that are tried and true, and I'll value their friendship even despite those things we have in common.
But I'm craving more.
Some changes I've made right from the start? I've started reading more. And when I say "more" I mean, AT ALL. I've never been a reader. I mentioned on Instagram that I tend to craft and make things when I have any down time. As much as I value the gift of making things, I need more than that. I want to broaden my horizons. I want to expand my brain! I got lots of book recs on Instagram (yes, ironically!) and I started with The Sun Also Rises on my husband's recommendation. He's a big Hemingway fan. I finished it on my NYC flight and really loved it. His style of writing is very simple, the story was sad, but still beautiful - I especially loved all of the traveling the characters do - it reminded me of mine and Ethan's trek across Europe many, many years ago.
The second book I got was Life After Death by Damien Echols. As I mentioned, we saw him at a restaurant in NYC and it got me thinking about the case. West Memphis is actually in Arkansas and just across the bridge/border of Tennessee. I lived in a Memphis suburb through my high school years, but the rest of my family have lived there for over two decades. I don't remember much about the case personally since I was there a shorter time, but it happened before I graduated high school, and no doubt was all over the news since we were in such close proximity to the area. It is a fascinating but gut-wrenching story.
When we saw Echols, I remembered the documentary about the case that was produced by Peter Jackson, released last year, called West of Memphis. So when we got home from NYC, I immediately watched it on Amazon Instant. Then I ordered Life After Death and read that in a day! THEN I watched two of the three documentaries that came before West of Memphis, the Paradise Lost trilogy (I'm waiting to watch the last of the three when it arrives on Netflix). I also just bought Devil's Knot that documents the case in fine detail.
I pretty much spent most of last week obsessed with this case, to say the least.
Despite being disgusted and aghast at what went down with the murders and the case (I had a couple of sleepless nights with nightmares for sure), what most had an affect on me is Echol's book Life After Death. I truly believe that there are no coinciences in life, and hearing his story came at an obvious point in my life where I was feeling kind of lost. Knowing the suffering this man endured for 18 years, for something he very well didn't do - well, needless to say, it makes you appreciate your life. And it makes you realize that only YOU have the power to make every second of every day COUNT. It came to me so powerfully this week and I've never felt more grateful for life and the opportunities before me - but it's up to ME to make them happen.
Life doesn't "happen" to you: YOU have control over the direction your life will take.
Even being put on Death Row for something he didn't do, Echols made EVERY MOMENT COUNT in that prison. He survived because he put his mind to it - simple as that. (Thank God all three men were released in 2011, but they still haven't put the real killer(s) behind bars.)
I'm determined to make every second count. And more than anything, look beyond myself and stretch that "give" muscle that doesn't get enough of a work out. To not always be looking at myself and what *I* need, but what someone else might need.
I'm working on it.
I highly recommend reading Life After Death. I warn you that if you plan on diving into the case, the movies are quite graphic and disturbing. But I think it's always a good idea to know what's going on in your country. The very, very scary things that are happening in our justice system. (I've been at fault myself to have that "out of sight, out of mind" way of thinking and I'm working on changing that, too).
We can make a difference by knowing these things. And every small attempt to make things right is worth it. Every person that stands up for those that are wrongfully persecuted makes a difference. It was certainly the case with Damien Echols. And I find that incredibly inspiring.
I'd love to hear any book recs you might have! David Sedaris is next on my list, as well as The Great Gatsby (I read it in high school but don't remember much). I'm open to nonfiction and fiction! Anything really!