Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Road Ahead

I find it really interesting how ideas take form; how they start as a little seed, they brew, gestate, get packed away, pop up again, and then, sometimes, are born.

About a year ago my ex-boyfriend and I went out to dinner at one of our favorite Manhattan restaurants, BackForty.  The future lay ahead of me like a terrifying/wonderful blank canvas. I'd just quit my job and made the commitment to try to live a life more authentic. Jacob asked me what I wanted to do next, and I started day dreaming out loud about a dream I'd had for a while: to buy a vintage trailer and travel across America. I turned the paper menu over, and scribbled a little canned ham trailer with me as a stick figure, smiling ear to ear. It was an silly idea that would never happen in a million years.

A year earlier in England, I'd picked up a cook book called The Wild Gourmets, written by a couple who traveled across England, hunting, camping in their VW bus, and cooking amazing gourmet meals. It was the sort of thing that I dream about when NY felt dirty, smelly and covered in asphalt.

I pinned the sketch to my inspiration board to be forgotten.

This month I decided it was finally time to pack up my home, and say goodbye to my life in NY.  The sketch is still pinned to my wall, calling to me with absurdity, but also a little bit of 'Why the hell not!?' When in my life time and I going to be untied down, with no rent, mortgage or real responsibilities? Why not take my sweet ass time to get to my destination? Why not take the long road? Why not see what America looks like on the ground? Why not get inspired by the people I meet? Why not travel to see all my friends across America, cooking them yummy meals out of the retro kitchen, drinking wine and watching the sun set from our deck chairs?

Sunday, March 10, 2013


My mum came for an impromptu visit to Brooklyn this weekend. We were riding the subway home after a day of relaxed city wandering, when mum said out of the blue, 'You like making things, don't you?'

Well, yes, I suppose I do.

I realized a couple weeks ago that I cook when I'm sad. and that I also cook when I'm happy. If I'm feeling anything, the best remedy is to make something. It's what I do.

This morning, I was reading this article by Graham Hill, about Living with Less, A Lot Less, it started me thinking on a conundrum a lot of natural makers have; our environmental impact. We are the people inventing shit, and then putting it out into the world. It brings us pleasure and joy to create something new. It satiates an itch. But then what happens to all that stuff?

I used to work for a very big US manufacturer and I would literally have nightmares about all the stuff we produced. The million units that would get dropped last minute because of some mistake. Knowing full well were it would end up eventually made me feel very sad and guilty.

The dilemma for those of us who love making things, who want it to be their job, is how to do it without adding one more thing to the environmental pile of stuff.  I'm trying to make better things. Things that are made to last. It might be one more thing for the pile, but hopefully it will take a lot longer to get there, and you'll be able to compost it at the end.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


By the end of my tenure in corporate fashion, I would approach each oncoming season with dread. Not that I didn't still love inventing things (as my friend, Katie sweetly put it), but that I was bracing myself for the rounds of bullshit that came with each new season.

If that statement sounds jaded, that's because it is. I became deeply jaded, to the point that I really didn't even want to talk to myself at times. All the passion that I'd come to my career with at 21 had been slowly wrung out of me. When I went shopping, all I could see looking a the clothes was the stress, heartache and anxiety that I imaged was their back story. How had something so joyful and silly as fashion given me a case of PTSD? How had I let that happen to something that was once a passion?

I probably shouldn't admit this publicly, because it surely means no HR department will hire me in the future, but I say it because it seems to be something echoed among much of my peer group- not just in fashion, but in other creative fields. As a youngn', we opt for a career that rewards in creativity, (and not so much in money), but by our late 30's we are just spent. We've just seen to much.

Which is why this week I have to say Hallelujah. I'm preparing to head out to Minnesota tomorrow to design Fall '13. This is my third collection for Bryr, and to be honest I can't wait. I am filled with nervous butterflies about what it will be. Excited and nervous like a 16 year old before her first date. I have found my joy again, and I feel so blessed to be given a second chance to follow this passion.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Revolution in a little wrapper

WWII Army issued condoms
It's easy to think history is a linear progression towards a natural outcome, but it really isn't. That can be said in our personal lives and as well a globally for politics. We can have sudden moments of huge transformation that nobody ever would have expected. Situations and inventions that change everything for ever.

I'm reading this book right now called Vagina, The new biography, by Naomi Wolf. It's a riveting read, and I would definitely recommend it not only to other women, but also for men out there who want to know what's going on downtown.

Much has been said about the role of the Pill, and how it revolutionized our society and brought about massive changes to the 20th century. But, reading Wolf's book, I came to understand that the little-talked about underdog, the lowly condom. The changes that came about between 1880 and 1930 are pretty staggering. I know we imagine that we are living in a time of huge change of i-phones and social media, but really that that really pales in comparison to the turn of the 19th century. In one life-time, normal women went from wearing whale bone corsets and having 'hysterical fits' if they talked about anything beyond the weather, to working in factories and standing on the front-lines for suffrage.  Pretty amazing really.

As someone completely not qualified to talk about this, it seems to me that the invention of rubber and then latex had something to do with this transformation.

People always say that war-time inventions are what propel history forward. By the second world war, every soldier was given latex condoms (German soldiers were issued rubber ones during WW1!) Imagine that! Going from a society where sex was only sanctioned within marriage, to one where an entire generation was given the tool for protected sex! No wonder by the 1920's women were dancing the charleston and having a grand old time.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


There's something about this time of year, with the barren trees and cold winds, that naturally lends itself to contemplation of mortality. Sci-fi plot twists not withstanding, we are all going to die.

"You are older at this moment than you’ve ever been before, and it’s the youngest you’re ever going to get."

You have the option to look at this statement as glass is half full, or glass is half empty. I turned 38 this year. I've realized that most of my life plans have been focused on the under-forty mark. That I'm not really prepared for what comes next. This might just be me being short-sighted, but I have an inckling that it also has to do with how our culture prizes certain market-friendly age groups.

But the thing is, if I'm to live to my grandfathers age (99!), I'm not even half-way there yet.

In my thinking about aging, I've come across a funny taboo in conversation. It makes people uncomfortable to talk about women aging. It makes them bristle to admit that it's not an equal proccess. They squirm and conversationally side-step the issue that there is a big difference between a women at 40 and a man at 40. That his social power is on the upswing, while her's is on the decline.

I keep being told that age is a state of mind. But if that were honestly true, would there be a
291.9 billion dollar beauty industry hell bent on making us stay young forever (or at least look that way)? To get back to sci-fi plot twists, I've been wondering about what kind of social revolution we would experience if women were to get full reproductive freedom, not just to stop pregnancy but to control it. Would we finally reach an equality of the sexes?

There's a few really interesting theories about why women live so long after menopause, when it seems to fly against the laws of natural selection. I personally love the idea of the power of the grandma- that she's defending her genetic lineage. (Just watch most grandmas, and that you'll see it rings true). But what if women women's bodies were like most other mammals (Elephants have babies in their 60's!!!), and we could safely, successfully keep popping out babies til we were old and gray.

It would give a new meaning to silver fox.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Throw-away culture

I live in a very kid-friendly, upper-middle-class neighborhood in Brooklyn. I'm always struck on garbage day how many perfectly good things are out on the street, especially kids stuff.  Now, I know that it's illegal to re-sell carseats, but when I see kids toys and books out there I wonder what the hell is going on.  In a time when nothing non-organic passes the lips of kids, where recycling is almost religion, why aren't we re-using more? Why aren't we passing things on to our friends, family or goodwill? Why are we throwing more plastic crap into the land-fill?

When i was a kid all the toys and clothes made the rounds of the neighborhood. You had to watch as your out-grown favorite party dress was handed off to your neighbor down the road. (And god-forbid you had a tantrum about it, because then you'd never get another one) Toys were yours, but you were expected to share.

I'm not a parent yet, but I think we hold some responsibility here. I think your child isn't going to appreciate something really nice if they get is always the best. They are going to think they deserve it, and not understand that there are some things you have to work for. As a parent, you shouldn't feel guilty about giving your kids second-hand stuff, you should feel proud that you're doing the right thing ecologically and ethically. That you are helping to create a person who values things and isn't part of the throw-away culture.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Blood and Salt

For me, salt is a serious business. I grew up in Essex, where they've been harvesting salt from the marshes for about 1000 years. I'm so evangelical about it, that I've been known to corner friends at dinner and have them blind-taste-test regular table salt against Maldon Salt. They dip their finger into the crusty white flakes, place it on the tongue, and their eyes widen. This is what salt should taste like.

It's hard not to eat it straight out of the box.

So, the other night I was home watching this super nerdy British history series on Netflx about the history of the British monarchy. I was really getting into it, learning about Saxons, Vikings invasions and all that good stuff. They got to about 991 AD, when apparently there was this incredibly bloody battle between the Saxons and the invading Viking Danes called the Battle of Maldon. The crusty old presenter is talking about all this blood being spilled in the causeway between the marshes, and I can't help but wonder... 1000 years later, are we tasting their blood?

It's probably not at all possible, but I honesty love the idea of this. That sprinkled over my soup today are DNA particles of my viking ancestors. Because, whether or not it's true, it is true. We are all part dinosaur, part asteroid, part star, part giant sea turtle. Nothing is made from nothing.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Running up that road

I'm a crap runner. Honestly. I've done 2 triathlons, and finished both with the over-60's. I am S-L-O-W. Training for the events, I discovered a few things about myself, the least of which is that I can be a whiny little brat sometimes. Also, don't drink coffee before going for a long run. Seriously.

Yesterday I was running along the magnificent new park that they are building along the Brooklyn waterfont, and it occurred to me that there are some things about running that are really true for life;

1. Relax, it ain't a race.
2. If you get tired, slow down but don't stop. 
3. Why not take the scenic route?
4. It doesn't really matter how slow you are (however cheesy it sounds) it truly is all about the journey.
5. Everything's better with a good sound track.
6. The beginning always sucks, but half-way through you're going to be loving it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Walk about

After reading this article in the Atlantic, I can't help but be struck by how little our American culture supports the desire to let go of our lives and explore the spiritual journey. It's so easy to see our western culture as 'normal'.  But really, it's just a construction of what we've all agreed 'normal' should look like, how normal should behave, what normal values should be. Go to work, have a family, be a good citizen.

This week there are 10 million individuals at Kumbh Mela, washing in the spiritual waters.  To these people, this is normal. These individuals are called Sadhu and Sadhivi;

"The Sanskrit terms sādhu ("good man") and sādhvī ("good woman") refer to renouncers who have chosen to live a life apart from or on the edges of society in order to focus on their own spiritual practice."

How can it be that there are hardly any structures to support walking away from it all in our culture? We have glimpses of it, a weekend in the Nevada dessert here, a trip yoga retreat there.  There are a few who dedicate themselves to it seriously, but for most it's more entertainment than enlightenment. I think it's something that could enrich everyone's experience.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Enjoy yourself. It's later than you think.

Last night I went to see a few friends play in a band at The Cake Shop. The Mixer matched some poetry readings with couple bands. I was sitting at the bar alone, drinking read wine and eaves dropping on the girls next to me. They were talking loudly in vocal fry and I was picking up words like Sarah Lawrence and Right?

I was feeling judgemental.

My friends showed up, looking harried and stressed, wondering where amongst the sea of co-ed poets they were supposed to play. The sound guy hadn't been seen.

We went downstairs, and I found myself a comfortable seat, with a view of the stage. The first poet started and I strained to listen (Sound-guy: still MIA). By this time, I'm two merlots in, and feeling a bit more comfortable in my surroundings. The poets poeted in their usual cadence that's lets us all know it's poetry. Then slowly, about 3 poems in, it dawned to me that this is the last time you get to do this.

However good or bad the poetry is. However cheap the red wine is. However awkward you feel going to a bar on your own. This is the last time you get to do this, so enjoy.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The January Blahs

Argghhh.... I've got the January Blahs. The I-feel-gross-achy-fat blahs. The I-don't-know-what-the-fuck-I'm-doing blahs.  I should go for a run. I should do my taxes. I should make a plan for 2013. Instead I seem to be holed up in my apartment eating vegi chilli for the third day in a row while Billie snores loudly next to me. Blah.

In addition to her other talents, my sister is an excellent artist. Last year, she did this blog called doodle every day. Through it, she explored these little creatures she's been drawing for a while.  Milla's really good at capturing those inexplicable body/mind/relating to others discomfort feelings we all experience but don't often talk about. Her little creatures are so visceral and honest and sad, and that makes me happy. Happy to have that human feeling expressed by someone else, to prove that we are all more same than different. Even in our dark, moody places, we recognize each other.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Why the hell not?

It's been a really long time since I wrote, but this morning on the second day of 2013, I thought I would read over the entire thing and take stock of 2012. Sitting on the top of Bernal Hill yesterday, my sister-in-law asked me if 2012 had been a good year. Honestly, it might have been one of the best years of my life, but also one of the hardest.

My brother and sister-in-law have a really nice tradition. Every January 1st, they climb up to the top of Bernal Heights hill. They bring along a list of goals they wrote last Jan 1st and take inventory. Then, they write goals for the next year. Very practical and sensible, just like the two of them.

I'm not good with goals. I have a tendancy to break them and then feel bad. Instead, I like guidelines. Last year, I decided during a drunken new years party I decided that my 2012 mantra would be 'Let it be what it is'. At the time, I had no idea how my life was about to dramatically change and how that mantra would actually get me through the whole thing in one piece.

I was sitting there yesterday on the top of that hill, trying to come up with a zen-like mantra, a new guide for whatever life throws at me for 2013, when Margie piped up with her 2013 mantra. They had gone on a trip to Turkey about 5 years ago, and their guide was prone to saying 'Why not!?', and she'd decided to adopt it for herself this year.

"Why not!?"face your nay-saying, flinching mind squarely in the eye? "Why not!?" say yes to life and embrace the possibilities? "Why not!?" act a little more youthful and irresponsible than you think you should? "Why not!?" travel across America in a vintage Shasta trailer?

"Why the hell not!?", my new 2013 mantra. Let's see where it takes me.