Mix My Granola

Recently, I've had a renewed appreciation for granola. For years, I was not a fan of sweet breakfast foods, and granola always tasted too sweet for me in the morning. But, for whatever reason, I decided to give it another try a couple months ago and find that I actually enjoy it now. (They say your taste buds change every 7 years, so perhaps that explains it!)

So I was seriously excited to hear about Mix My Granola, a company that allows you to customize your own granola mix then ships it to you! It's quite easy. You pick one of the four granola bases (organic, low-fat, French vanilla, or muesli), and then personalize your mix by choosing from a wide variety of dried fruit, nuts, and "extras" like chocolate morsels or even wasabi peas!

With so many choices, it's hard to decide, but I think my ideal mix would be organic granola with almonds, dried apricots, and choco espresso beans for an added kick.

What would you pick? And, has anyone tried this before? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Photo by Dayna McIsaac via Flickr.

Pantone-Inspired Coffee Mugs

I am a total color geek. I always get really excited when Pantone releases their seasonal color forecasts, so I was totally psyched to discover these Pantone-inspired coffee mugs featured in the most recent issue of Gourmet magazine. What a cute idea! They're available for sale here.

Images via PopDeluxe.

Bottle Shock

Have you seen the film Bottle Shock? Jason and I saw it at the local indie movie theater a few months ago, and I was reminded of it today as I began to think about what to pack for my upcoming trip to Napa (more details on that later!).

Anyway, it's a really cute little film. You might call it a Chardonnay-flavored romantic comedy, with some educational wine history and breathtaking footage of Napa Valley thrown in for good measure. I swooned over the fabulous scenery. And don't you just love the whimsical poster?

Here is the description from Sundance's website (it was featured at the film fest in '08):

"It's 1976, and Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) is struggling to create the perfect chardonnay at Chateau Montelena, his vineyard in the not-yet-famous Napa Valley, where he has jeopardized everything for a dream. His son, Bo (Chris Pine), at first glance doesn't seem to have inherited his father’s love for the family business, and the two of them are often found duking it out in the backyard boxing ring, each hoping to knock some sense into the other. Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman) is a British expatriate living in Paris who owns the Academie du Vin; out of necessity, he develops an idea to educate Parisians, not on French wine, but on the new wines coming out of California. A twist of fate along a dusty road brings the floundering vintner and the struggling shop owner together, changing both their lives—and the wine industry—forever.

Director Randall Miller delicately composes Bottle Shock as a cinematic love letter to California’s wine country, where he shot the film in its sun-soaked entirety. Based on a true story, the film reveals America’s initiation into and contribution to vinification, along with the brave and enterprising artisans who love nothing more than to bottle it."

Image of film poster via AllPosters.

Image from film via IndieWire.


Ingrid Michaelson - The Chain

When I mentioned Ingrid Michaelson in my perfect day post, it reminded me of this song of hers that I've been digging. It's called "The Chain." Have a listen. Isn't it so beautiful?

The perfect day...

Nina posed this question on her wonderful blog the other day: What would your perfect day look like? Here's mine! (Oh, and I stole the massage idea from the lovely Carolyn, who blogged about her own perfect day here!)

I wake up slowly on crisp, white sheets, and allow myself to lay quietly for a few minutes before opening my eyes. Once fully awake, I open my eyes to see sunlight streaming through the windows, blanketing my apartment in a soft, warm glow.

I begin the day with a refreshing run through the park. The running trail is lined with lush green foilage and rows of bright tulips. The weather is perfect - not too cold and not too hot. As I run, I inhale the sweet scent of honeysuckle.

Back at my apartment, I light some candles and take a long, hot bubble bath, allowing myself to soak for as long as I want in the rose and chamomile-scented water.

Breakfast is a Chai tea latte and bowl of Greek yogurt drizzled with honey and topped with lots of fresh berries. Afterward, I spend a few minutes catching up on my favorite blogs and reading the New York Times Style section online.

After breakfast, I meet up with my best girlfriends and we find a funky neighborhood to explore. We browse through several wonderful antique stores, a great used bookstore, and a fabulously chic shoe boutique, where I score a perfect pair of bright red heels. We eat lunch at a quaint little French cafe, sitting outside on the terrace to enjoy the nice weather. I have a divine tomato-basil-mozzarella salad and some Tuscan bread with a wedge of creamy Brillat-Savarin cheese, and a flute of lemon-flavored sparkling water.

After lunch, I go to my artist's studio (In my perfect day, I have one!) to work on some of my drawings for awhile. As I draw, I listen to Ingrid Michaelson and Regina Spektor (two of my favorites). To satisfy my afternoon chocolate craving, I have a small mug of Ghirardhelli hot chocolate and a single pink Marc de Champagne truffle.

I leave the artist's studio and go to my yoga studio for an intense, juicy yoga practice with my favorite yoga teacher. After yoga, I get a massage here (I've had one here before and it was absolutely incredible) which concludes with some hot stone therapy.

Then it's time to head back to my apartment to get ready for dinner with the boyfriend. I take a nice, long shower, then do my hair and makeup. (I'm having a good hair day, of course.) I put on a cute black dress with the red heels I bought earlier in the day. My boyfriend has made reservations at a tiny, impossibly romantic little Italian trattoria. We sip red wine and dine on Linguine Frutti di Mare. Dessert is a chocolate-hazelnut torte and champagne.

After dinner, we spontaneously duck into a little Cuban dive bar and find ourselves among friendly strangers who teach us how to salsa! The bartender gives us free mojitos, and we dance and dance until we simply can't dance anymore. Then it's home and to bed for a peaceful night's sleep.

Your turn! What does your perfect day look like?

Photo by flirtypants via Flickr.

Fabulous Pink Pixie Dust

Miss Pixie's Furnishings & Whatnot, for the uninitiated, is a fabulous treasure trove of antique and vintage furnishings. When it moved from my neighborhood to its new location on 14th Street, I was a little bit crushed. One of my favorite things to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon was to browse through all of the wonderful knickknacks at Miss Pixie's, filling my mind's eye with all kinds of visual inspiration, then spend an hour or two daydreaming (about the chic, impeccably decorated pied a terre I'll have in Paris someday) over a chai latte at the nearby coffeeshop.

With an eye for the feminine, the ornate, and the fabulous, Miss Pixie's pink-painted walls house a whimsical - yet, well-edited - collection of furniture, kitchenware, art, and all sorts of other knickknacks. The vibe is sort of Anthropologie shabby chic, with some Charlotte York and French Country thrown in. On my first trip, I found a sweet little mustard-yellow end table, with an even sweeter price tag in the double digits. Last New Year's Eve, upon realizing that I had no champagne flutes, I headed over to Miss Pixie's and scored a vintage set of four for $12. Browsing the neatly displayed collection feels pleasantly like wandering around your most stylish friend's apartment, whose furnishings just happen to be for sale. Plates of chocolate chip cookies add to the coziness factor, as does a sales staff who remembers faces and names.

Thankfully, Miss Pixie's is still relatively nearby. I think I'm long overdue for an artist's date there. If you live in the area or you're planning a visit to DC, I definitely encourage you to check it out! I promise you won't be disappointed!

Images via Miss Pixie's.


Just me and the mat

Tonight I went to a mixed Level 1/Level 2 yoga class for the first time. I was expecting that it would be a combination of 1 and 2 students, but soon after class began, it became clear that it was mostly 2 students, and some even more advanced than that. Immediately, my inner critic piped up. Just who do you think you are, trying to do yoga with all these experienced yogis? and You're such an imposter! As we moved into the first vinyasa, I felt a small twinge of panic rising in my chest, and briefly considered faking illness and leaving.

But I didn't. I stayed. I stayed in the class and I stayed with my breath. I stayed with the negative thoughts I was having, acknowledging the thoughts, but granting them neither credibility nor resistance. As I continued to breathe and work through the poses, it occurred to me that I was consciously detaching my thoughts from my reality, a concept that my favorite yoga teacher often discusses in the opening or closing meditation.
I can recognize these negative thoughts, and I can stay and do the class anyway, because the thoughts are just thoughts. They're not real. The yoga is real. My breath is real. My presence in this class tonight is real. The thoughts can't touch that. It was a pretty powerful realization, and as I moved through the various poses, I felt my mind stop racing and become quiet and still. It was just me and the mat.

The funny part is, I actually did just fine. I mean, my Chaturanga wasn't as deep as some of the others, and I definitely took a not-very-graceful tumble out of Crow pose. But, overall, it really wasn't a big deal. My brain had tried to make it into a big deal, but it wasn't. By the end of class, the voice of my inner critic was a faint (and, frankly, pretty silly-sounding) echo.

I know that one of the major tenets of Buddhism is that enlightenment can be explained as the liberation from our thoughts. And, conversely, that pain is caused by the blurring of our thoughts and our reality - an inability to distinguish between what is real and what is simply a manifestation of our various thought patterns. I can't call myself a practicing Buddhist (or practicing
anything, for that matter), but I think I'm beginning to witness the basic truth of this principle in my life, in a new and exciting way. I definitely witnessed it tonight, and it's something I'd like to cultivate further.

What about you? Have you had a similar experience?

Etsy Pick of the Week

I absolutely love bright, colorful jewelry. It's really the perfect accent for any outfit, especially in the summer. For running errands on the weekend, I'll throw on a white tunic and jeans and dress it up with dangly beaded red earrings. For dinner or cocktails, a simple black dress with a statement-making turquoise necklace never fails me. For work, i'll jazz up a white button-down-shirt with oversized pink pearls or a vintage charm bracelet.

So, I adore these pieces by Etsy designer Ecstatic, don't you? So versatile and pretty! I'm thinking they would make a great addition to my vacation wardrobe this summer. I'm going to be traveling to San Francisco and Napa Valley for a week with Jason and his family and have vowed to myself that I will pack lightly (or try!), so jewelry will add some nice variety to the mix!

Ocean Spray Necklace

Hot summery turquoise bracelet


Cool Creative Space

I was browsing through the Creative Spaces pool on Flickr, and found these beautiful images. Wouldn't it be neat to have a studio like this? A place to just hang out and create? And, of course, I love the turquoise.

Photos by Julochka via Flickr.

"It's not where you take things from - it's where you take them to."

I love this quote by filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, from his Golden Rules of Filmmaking. I first saw it here, and I just keep coming back to it. I love that he sees artistic inspiration everywhere - "...bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light, and shadows." What a beautiful notion.

La Pluie

It's definitely an umbrella sort of day here in DC! I used to despise rainy days because they are totally inconducive to 1) doing anything with my hair besides throwing it into a wet ponytail after the shower 2) wearing cute shoes, or really any shoes besides clunky rain boots. Sometime in the past couple years, the rain and I have developed a somewhat more friendly relationship. There is something nice about sitting at my desk, doing research or writing a proposal, sipping some green tea, and listening to the gentle pitter-patter of the rain on the roof. I'm lucky enough to work in an office with a huge vaulted ceiling and enormous skylight so on rainy days, the overcast sky creates a sort of grey-ish, moody tint in the room, which is pleasant and cozy in a strange way. I've also come to appreciate the stillness after the rain stops, when everything is quiet and dewy and the foilage is newly green. And I love, love, love cute umbrellas, like the one above, available from UmbrellaHeaven on Etsy.

What about you? Do you love rainy days or hate 'em?


Saturday in Annapolis

I spent an absolutely lovely Saturday in Annapolis with my sister, Jason, and Jason's family. Jason's grandmother lives right on South River (which feeds into Chesapeake Bay). Here are some highlights.

We had a crab feast!

Amazing sunset over the water.

So pretty.

The sunset reflected on the water.

I am in love with Annapolis. It is truly one of the prettiest places on earth.


Art-inspired Notecards by Iota

I absolutely love these notecards by Iota. I noticed them for sale at the shop in the art museum where I work, and I made a mental note to look them up online. Aren't they pretty? The swirly one reminds me a bit the sky in van Gogh's Starry Night.

Here's another set.

The striped one reminds me of a Gene Davis work.

You can purchase them online here.


This morning

Woke up early and lay quietly in bed for a few minutes, listening to birds chirping as the first rays of sunlight shined through my windows.

Went for a nice and easy 20-minute run (muscles are still sore from yoga last night).

Drank a whole liter of water post-run.

Put some Paolo Nutini on Pandora (perfect mellow morning music).

Ran a warm rose and chamomile-scented bubble bath and let myself soak for longer than usual.

Took my time getting dressed.

Ate a bowl of apricot and almond granola with soy milk.

Savored a mug of Yogi Green Tea Triple Echinacea.

I love mornings.

Photo by BlueIris2006 via Flickr.

More Artist's Date Ideas

      Earlier this week, I blogged about my artist's date at Anthropologie, and listed some ideas for artist's dates. Here are a few more...

      • Visit an artist’s supply shop (I like Utrecht).
      • Spend some time outdoors with your journal, sketchbook, craft supplies, etc.
      • Go for a walk, and take your camera with you to document the experience.
      • Visit your local library, and browse a new section.
      • Create an artist’s workspace or studio in your home.
      • Make a new iTunes playlist and upload it onto your iPod.
      • Check out a lecture or panel discussion on a topic that interests you. (Check local newspapers/websites for event listings.)
      • Visit a craft supply store and check out materials you've never worked with before (fabric, origami paper, scrapbooking supplies, yarn, beads, etc.).
      Thanks to The Artist's Way blog for many of these ideas.


      Creative Find: Klas Fahlen

      I am loving this image by illustrator Klas Fahlen. It makes me want to put on some Band of Horses, light some candles, drink some tea, and just chill.

      Images by Klas Fahlen via
      Art Department.

      Les Printemps

      Have you seen the photography of Alicia Bock? Her work has such a sweet, vintage feel to it. I especially love these images, from her I Love Paris In The Springtime series. Don't they just make you wanna ride down the Champs-Elysees on a vintage bicyclette?

      Speaking of spring, it's finally starting to feel like springtime here in DC! Today was the most gorgeous day. Warm with a clear sky and light breeze. Autumn is my favorite season, but spring is definitely a close second. I just love the sense of renewal and possibility in the air. The long days and stunning pink-purple sunsets. And, of course, the warm weather. It makes me want to kick off my shoes and laze around on a blanket in the park with a bottle of wine and some mozzarella-tomato-basil salad. Mmm...

      For the Birds

      How adorable are these eco-friendly notecards from Kate's Paperie? I love the use of pattern in the foreground.

      Images via Kate's Paperie.

      Get Your Happiness On

      Whole Living (the website associated with Body + Soul magazine) recently published a list of 9 Ways to be Happier. Who couldn't use a little more happiness? What a fun, inspiring list! (My comments are italicized.)

      1. Learn to give.
      Research has revealed a surprising fact about what we get in return when we give. In what can only be considered a blissful karmic payoff, it's more often the giver -- not the receiver -- who reaps the biggest paycheck.

      If, like me, your paycheck doesn't leave you with a l
      ot of extra dough for philanthropy, consider dedicating a few hours each week to volunteer work. Check out Idealist to find volunteer opportunities in your area.

      2. Eat more avocados.
      Stress depletes vitamin B6, which helps produce serotonin. Help sooth those stressed-out nerves by eating avocadoes and other B6-rich foods like fortified whole grain cereals, salmon, and chicken breast.

      Guacomole is an easy and delicious way to add more avocado to your diet. Just mash up some ripe avocados with salt, a bit of chopped cilantro, some jalepenos, and a squirt of lime juice. Enjoy with your favorite tortilla chips, or spread on some whole-grain bread with swiss cheese, cucumbers, lettuce, and tomatoes for a yummy veggie sandwich.

      3. Fix your career.
      "Unhappy at work? Find out whether or not a quick fix -- like decorating your office -- will do, or if a career change is in order."

      Easier said than done, right? Seriously though, if your job is making you miserable, it might be time to re-evaluate.

      4. Do more yoga.
      After an hour-long yoga session, members of a small study from the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed a huge hurge in brain levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmitter often found at low levels in people with depression.

      I truly cannot say enough good things about yoga. Its benefits are too numerous to list. I dare you to try it and see the difference it can make in your life.

      5. Spritz with essential oils.
      Extracted from leaves, fruit peels, petals, and other plant parts, essential oils capture nature's subtle fragrances and can even balance your mood, aromatherapists say.

      For sweet and restful sleep, try some lavender mist on your pillow at bedtime.

      6. Stock up on strawberries.
      Vitamin C-rich strawberries boost your immune system and fight brain cell damage resulting from constant exposure to cortisol (a stress hormone). But foods like guava, bell peppers, and oranges also do the trick.

      Try slicing fresh, organic strawberries onto your cereal or oatmeal in the morning. Yum!

      7. Learn to quickly rejuvenate.
      In the rush of everyday life, you'll often find yourself racing from one event to the other, with almost no time in between. What can you do to refresh and rejuvenate in just 20 minutes? This quick routine can help you hit the reset button on body, mind, and spirit.

      8. Practice mindfulness.
      The practice of mindfulness (referred to as smrti in Buddhism) leads to concentration (samadhi), which in turn leads to insight (prajna). the insigh you gain from meditation can liberate you from fear, anxiety, and anger -- allowing you to be truly happy.

      To get started with meditation, check out the teachings of the endlessly wise and down-to-earth Pema Chodron, a leading proponent of Tibetan Buddhism meditation techniques.

      9. Add chickpeas to your diet.
      Chickpeas contain folate (folic acid), which helps make dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. Other folate-friendly foods include lentils, black-eyed peas, and soybeans.

      My favorite way to eat chickpeas is to make hummus, which serves as a great dip for veggies or as a spread for sandwiches. I like this recipe from Epicurious.

      What suggestions would you add to the list?

      Photo by JIGGS IMAGES via Flickr.


      The Art of Tea

      For the past year or so, I've been having a love affair with Teaism, a sweet little Asian-inspired teahouse located just a couple blocks from the museum where I work. In addition to its extensive collection of teas from around the world, Teaism's menu is filled with all kinds of yummy Pan-Asian cuisine, such as Japanese Bento boxes, Thai curries, and Chinese Noodle soup, plus homemade veggie burgers, salads, and wraps, all of it delicious and healthy. On days when I don't have time to pack a lunch or am running low on groceries, Teaism is my default lunch option. I'm also a big fan of the Zhenzhou Pearls (bubble tea) and the to-die-for sweet and savory Salty Oat cookie - perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up!

      After placing my order, I like to check out Teaism's selection of funky and colorful tea accessories (pictured above). They carry all sorts of gorgeous artisan-made mugs, strainers, tea kettles...you name it. Their displays never fail to inspire me with their cool, yet cheerful, Zen-like order and the promise of lazy weekends spent curled up with a good book and a mug of of my favorite tea.

      Today, Sally Jaffee's stoneware caught my eye (her "Fish Tray" is pictured at right). Sally's designs are inspired by the minimalist beauty of the Japanese artistic tradition, and hand etched through layers of slip on white stoneware. I'm digging the red, white, and black motif. Absolutely gorgeous, no?

      Photos of Teaism via Apartment Therapy.

      Photo of Sally Jaffee stoneware via Sally Jaffee's website.


      Artist's Date at Anthropologie

      I am trying to get back into a weekly artist's date habit. Many of you may already be familiar with the brilliant Julia Cameron, but for those of you who aren't, an artist's date is a concept Cameron pioneered in The Artist's Way, her classic book on discovering and recovering the innate creativity that lies within each of us.

      So what is an artist's date? To quote Cameron, the artist's date is "a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The artist date need not be overtly 'artistic'-- think mischief more than mastery." Nothing is too silly for an artist's date. It's our silly, childlike qualities that allow us to explore and create without inhibition.

      For this week's artist's date, I explored the Anthropologie store in Georgetown, taking in all its delicious visual wonders. In addition to the lovely clothes and household items, the store always has absolutely beautiful displays that really are works of art unto themselves. There was one display near their kitchen items that had a vine of tomatoes made of felt (or some other type of cloth) woven into a piece of iron lattice fence. Another featured a vintage bicycle in a sweet baby blue hue. I struck up a conversation with a sales clerk, who told me that they have some extremely talented visual merchandisers who create the displays at the Georgetown store. I'll say so! It was definitely an inspiring little outing. (To consider: a career in visual merchandising?)

      Of course, I fell in love with some of the merchandise as well. I'm particularly digging the Orimono pillow and Deep End dinnerware (above).

      Do you go on artist's dates? If not, would you consider it? Remember, it doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming. Here are some artist's date ideas to get you started (comment and add your ideas!):
      • Wine and dine yourself… go to dinner and a movie.
      • Spend some time browsing around Etsy and create a Favorites list – a list of items there that speak to you on a creative level – to refer back to and be creatively inspired by.
      • Take yourself on a culinary artist date, and try a new cuisine, recipe, restaurant, fruit, vegetable, etc.
      • Take a walk with someone else’s iPod. Expose yourself to new music.
      • Move your body. Try Tai Chi, Pilates, yoga, bellydancing, etc.
      • Write a letter to the person you plan to be in ten years.
      • Check out the course offerings at a local community college or community center. See what catches your eye. A course in modern art history? Piano lessons? Cooking classes?
      • Visit a farmer's market and talk to one of the farmers about his or her product.

      Thanks to The Artist's Way blog for many of these ideas.


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