Current aesthetic: Atlantean shipwreck

My current obsession seems to be anything that looks like it was pulled up from mystic Atlantis, or maybe a shipwreck nearby. Give me green patina’d everything, mottled ceramic finishes, molten gold and pearls and amphorae. A touch or two to your home décor or personal adornment can lend a hint of mystery, sophistication, whimsy, intrigue, antiquarian finesse… the list goes on. I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite picks below, from a mysterious woodsy-incense-y perfume to golden baubles and vessels that look like they’ve been pulled right from the depths to your doorstep. Enjoy!

You Could Make This Place Beautiful

I had the privilege of attending a book talk and signing for Maggie Smith’s memoir You Could Make This Place Beautiful at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena recently, with the discussion led by fellow poet Jennifer Pastiloff. I was struck by an overwhelming sense of female camaraderie in the room that evening that was so beautiful, it made me ache. (In no small part it was also thanks to my dear friend Molly who accompanied me.)

Guided by Pastiloff’s excellent questions, Smith touched on several topics, starting with being “bored with genre.” “I don’t need to classify something to make it,” she stated, setting her memoir free from genre in that quietly confident way of hers. It is a memoir, yes, but also a meditation of sorts. An unspooling. And always, always poetry.

On boundaries: “I built it my way and then I needed to be able to shepherd it into the world my way as well, in a way I could make livable.” Smith was touchingly open about her struggles with being seen as her memoir debuted. It chronicles a difficult period in her life that included — but certainly was not limited to — her divorce, and the reckoning in it’s unfurling and aftermath. For a poet who is used to the distance afforded by being The Narrator, being herself in all her raw glory was a new and painfully exposed way to be seen. Thank you, Maggie, for your courage and your willingness to be vulnerable. We have this beautiful unspooling corkscrew of musings thanks to your willingness to share, be open, and give us your “tell-mine” of a book.

On being ‘good’: “Part of being good is being liked, so what happens when you do something that makes you unlikeable?” Smith and Pastiloff both posed this question, one the question of being “bad” and the other of being “good,” both asking the same thing in the end. Are we bad people when we try to find our way to something different? What does being “good” mean for us? For women it means being likeable. Pleasant. Pliant. What happens when we choose not to be?

On perspective: “How did I let myself become so small? How did I let my writing become so small?” As women, it is almost as though we need permission to make ourselves and our work — our true creative work, not just our jobs — priorities. It is sinuous and slippery, this insidious expectation that we often don’t realize is there until a sudden shift in perspective allows us to see how small in our own lives we have truly become. It is a reckoning, but also, a light if we let it be. “I was looking for permission to do something a different way,” mused Smith. What if the only one we need permission from is ourselves?

Smith’s memoir is as poetic as you’d expect, lyrical and sharply observed by turns, musing and marvelous. Pick up a copy today, pick up a metaphorical lantern, and walk with her a while. You won’t be sorry you did.

Five fun things: spring handbag edition

Welcome back to a Friday of five fun things! This week I’ve rounded up a sweet crop of spring-perfect handbags for your shopping enjoyment. Fresh picks, right this way!

Kate Spade’s adorable watermelon top handle is the novelty bag that will carry you all the way through Labor Day. Juicy, puffy, squishy perfection.

Mansur Gavriel’s M frame baguette is beautiful in every color, but I am partial to this springy petal pink. Goes equally well into demure lady-who-lunches or bright Barbie-core territory — you choose!

Rebecca Minkoff’s celestial spin on their Edie crossbody is just darling. Neutral but special, and easy to carry all year round. An easy way to make yourself smile, even during Mercury retrograde season. IYKYK.

Coach has introduced their new Coachtopia concept line, and I am absolutely here for it. Stuart Vevers is pushing toward sustainable luxury with this line made of innovative post-consumer materials as his latest, and this strawberry print Wavy Dinky has my heart. The Coachtopia products have been selling out fast, but keep an eye out for periodic restocks!

Clare V.’s Grande Fanny has long been on my radar, and the fact that it now comes with a longer strap option was exactly what I needed to push me over the edge. Bravo to Clare V. for finally including us larger gals! This cuoio leather will only get better with age.

Happy spring and happy shopping!

I ❤️ new art!

I have been adding so much new art to my home (as I mentioned here), I thought these lovely artists deserved a post of their own. I hope you find a new piece or three that speak to you!

Malika Favre‘s bright, punchy visual style caught my eye recently, and I snagged a few prints from her recent sample sale. Leo from her Zodiac series, Le Plaisir, and Les Ciseaux all have joined my collection — très sexy. I love her graphic lines and shapes and the clever the way she makes use of negative space.

I was gifted a beautiful set of hand-painted notecards by my partner when we stumbled upon them in a sweet little local stationary shop, and when framed with wide white mats, they make for a beautiful set of small paintings for a gallery wall. Two live in our living room grouped with Paige Gemmel’s Dogs on Orange (also a recently addition), and the remaining four are hung vertically in our kitchen. I love how from certain vantage points in both rooms you can see all six — they pull the spaces together so well!

Less recent but just as lovely are three prints I purchased from UK printmaker Sam Marshall. I follow her on Instagram, and I can’t decide whether I enjoy her seeing linocuts and etchings or her adorable mini dachshund Miss Marple more! Curled Up, Those First Few Days, and Lots of Dogs (on our console as seen below) are the ones I added to my little collection. Bonus: may I suggest a mirror ball for no other reason than to make you smile (or perhaps to inspire an impromptu dance party in your living room)? Placed in a sunny spot, the light dancing on the walls will never fail to elicit happiness. Trust.

Last but not least, near and dear to me is the artwork of Jared Schwartz, a mixed media artist based in LA whose work floats somewhere between figural, abstract, cartoonish, evocative, surreal, expressionist, and political in all the best ways. (Full disclosure – he is my partner so I may be a bit biased, but I think his work speaks for itself.)

Schwartz does political cartoons and activist artwork as well as more abstract and figural art pieces. He seeks to make the world a better place through every medium he works with, whether it is mobilizing for a deeply-felt cause or bringing joy to a single viewer. I’m continually in awe of the way he sees the world, then brings those visions to a canvas. His piece Hold Me Close hangs in my living room, perfectly set off by an emerald green frame from Framebridge. I am also very partial to Pan & Syrinx and to the #MeToo anthem work My Body Is Not Yours, a perfect summation of the abortion, rape, trans rights, and marriage equality issues we have to endlessly address.

I hope this smattering of art and artists brings you to a new work of art you love, an artist to follow, or perhaps some inspiration to switch up your wall décor. Enjoy!

Every day is Earth Day

With Earth month coming to a close, I had a chance to reflect on the Earth-friendly products and habits I’ve been gradually swapping into my household routines — and it turns out there are quite a few! Over the past year or two I’ve tried to make small changes here and there, and I am super proud that they have added up to a much more eco-conscious home. None of these are particularly arduous changes, mostly just products swaps, but all together they can make a big difference!

Conscia is an all-natural shampoo and conditioner brand that makes their luxurious cleansing stones without water or plastic. Their products are cruelty-free, smell amazing, cleanse and nourish beautifully, and come packaged oh-so-sweetly in furoshiki cloths rather than plastic. Eco-friendly, salon-grade, and luxuriously pampering haircare all in one package is actually possible! Conscia has done it! Luckily for you, they are offering 20% off your purchase with code EARTH at checkout through the end of the month. With the bar soap I talked about here, you’re well on your way to a plastic-free shower experience.

Suri toothbrushes are one of the more recent items we’ve tried, and I could not be happier so far. I was using a Quip brush before, but the need for a new battery every few months started to feel wasteful, even though their packaging was recyclable and it was only the brush head that needed replacing rather than a whole new toothbrush. Enter Suri. Their brush heads are made from plant-based corn starch and their bristles are made from castor-oil, which are bio-based rather than plastic, they recycle the heads for free in the UK and US, and the body of their brushes are made from long-lasting, easily-recycled aluminum. Plus their batteries are rechargeable, and their brushes are repairable for life! Of course, all that would be moot if they didn’t work well, but I can honestly say my teeth have never felt cleaner from at-home brushing. Sold! Also, get 16% through this week for Earth Day.

After using typical 5-blade razors my whole adult life, I was extremely skeptical of a single-blade safety razor. BUT, Oui the People’s beautiful rose-gold iteration, made in Germany and weighted to perfection, has made me a true believer. I have never had such a smooth shave! My legs feel like silk, I really do have fewer ingrowns, and I might actually have to shave a little less often? I am amazed. The fact that the blades are recyclable and the razor is built to last with zero plastic components is icing on this silky-smooth cake. Yes and please.

I have yet to be able to live the dream of an in-unit washer and dryer. Ever since I went to college I have schlepped jugs of laundry detergent and big loads of laundry out to coin operated washers and dryers. Earth Breeze detergent is the eco-friendly laundry detergent I have been waiting for my whole life. No joke. Their vegan, animal-friendly formula comes in sheets rather than a liquid in heavy plastic jugs, and they really do get my laundry clean. A slim envelope of eco-sheets is delivered to my door, I have them on auto-ship so I don’t have to remember to buy more, and they have a fresh scent that doesn’t linger in a cloying way. No plastic jugs = a happier earth, plus every purchase of Laundry Detergent Eco Sheets donates ten washes to distressed and displaced families in need. Free shipping and 100% money back guarantee means this is a no-risk option to try. I use these with wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. No chemicals in my clothes AND they are cheaper and more sustainable!

Reel toilet paper was an easy swap to make. It is available at Target so I can just pick it up with my usual sundries, has 100% plastic-free packaging, and is made of bamboo so it is entirely tree-free, biodegradable, and sustainable. Not linty at all. Very absorbent. Just a really good toilet paper that is kinder to the Earth in the process.

Also available at Target are Grove cleaning products. I tried and liked them years ago but struggled with Grove’s website and their subscription model, so buying what I need at Target works great for me now! They work well, are formulated with mostly plant-based ingredients, come in reusable bottles and concentrated refills, offer great scents made with real essential oils, and make for a healthy home. Yes to all!

Ilia makeup is one of my go-tos. I love their Super Serum Skin Tint with SPF 40 — it gives just the right amount of tint along with clean, skin-loving ingredients. Also, their ethos for clean, skincare-powered makeup is one I appreciate wholeheartedly. Not only do they make clean beauty products in sustainable packaging, but they do so with an eye for women’s natural beauty, in every shade. Bravo!

I hope this list of tried-and-true products helps inspire you to make some of your own eco-conscious purchases. Happy Earth Month!

Manor manner

Lately I’ve been making some decor updates here and there — some new art, swapping out a pair of lamps, trading out a mirror, etc. I’m feeling really inspired by English manor vibes of late, artist loft-type spaces, and the feeling evoked by curiosity shops and curio cabinets. Here’s a peek at the lovely newness gracing my home these days.

I swapped the mod-ish amber circular mirror I had in my entry for this beauty, which accentuates our tall ceilings nicely. Something this gleaming and elegant was crying out for a matched pair of lamps to flank it, so I went high-low and paired OKA’s Leptoria lamp shades with classic-looking stick lamp bases from Target. Stacks of books and a favorite vessel or three to style, and I couldn’t be happier!

Several updates have been artwork related which I’ll post about soon (peek and hint here!), but another recent addition has been hanging some long-desired curtains. The unique window placement and shape in our old house — a mixed commercial/residential duplex — has stumped me for years, but I finally took the plunge with some linen-y textured sheers and some warm gold curtain rods. I’m really happy with the results! The gauzy, filtered light in our living spaces is so, so pretty.

Shockingly chic (or perhaps not so shocking, as Target often has some real gems!) is this new vase I picked up. The shape is beautiful and I love how it reminds me of one of my dream wallpapers, Cole & Son’s Nuvolette. It is the perfect vessel for a bunch of floppy eucalyptus stems.

For overnight guests (and because I loved the color), we now have a sweet tufted couch that folds down into a full-size sleeping spot. I have it draped in a throw by Matilda Goad & Co. for Anthropologie, which picks up the minty color beautifully.

Lastly, let me let you in on a secret you probably already know about but might not. I have three words for you: candle warmer lamps. I am such a convert! No soot or smoke from your candles means cleaner air in your home, your scented candles last wayyyy longer since the wax doesn’t have to fuel a flame, and the lamps come in so many styles, you can easily find one to fit your vibe. I got this one, but something like this or this would be great if you like a sleeker look.

I love how our home is ever-evolving, cozy and welcoming. I hope you enjoy, and happy decorating!

I ❤️ Maison Midi

While exploring LA with my partner a couple weeks ago, we stumbled on a stylish, magical block on La Brea featuring the combined shops of American Rag Cie. We checked out the fun vintage shop at the far end first, but when I walked into their home and decor outpost, Maison Midi, it was as though the clouds parted and angels sang just for me. I wanted — no, needed — one of everything.

Maison Midi’s beautiful selection of glassware
Virtually any style of Parisian bistro chair you could want at your fingertips.

A California mainstay for over thirty years, American Rag began with a few containers of vintage clothing from Marseille and has since blossomed into a well-curated clothing mecca for men and women complete with a denim bar and vintage shop, and the aforementioned homeware heaven, Maison Midi. Every Mediterranean bit of gorgeousness you might desire, from their perfectly Parisian bistro chair selection to their beautiful Portuguese pottery, south-of-France table linens, Moroccan tagines, Italian glassware, French country flatware, Egyptian cotton napkins… the list is seemingly endless.

The angel, er, sunlight on that pineapple lamp — glorious!

On my short list were these super-extra, super-chic light turquoise pineapple lamps with pleated floral shades, the faux malachite lacquer serving trays, some striped linen napkins, and tumblers in every candy hue imaginable. I also had to stop myself from snapping up every quirky bit of artwork I stumbled upon. Oh, and peep that stylized leopard rug under the table! *swoon*

Table linens galore.

Did I mention they carry furniture as well? Beautiful ceramics and dishware? Baskets and rugs and cutlery, oh my! I seriously couldn’t get enough. If a perfectly eclectic, perfectly colorful, classic-yet-current decor shop exists, it is Maison Midi.

A decor lover’s wonderland.

A smattering of their wares can be found online, but for the full kid-in-candy-store experience, visit their shop at 148 South La Brea Avenue,  Los Angeles, CA 90036. I promise you won’t be sorry.

Bonus: Visit Neighborhood across the street, a lovely little coffee shop with wonderful service. Enjoy!

Grab a latte at the sweetest Neighborhood coffee shop.

holding it together

I wrote this poem a few years ago, on a day when my depression seemed to be swallowing me whole. Some days I come back to this feeling for a while, especially when an emotional lifeboat seems difficult to find.

sinking slowly
kicking back to the surface
over and over and over again
until she tires of treading,

gently she sinks,
lips pressed together
in a hard line
until she rests at the bottom
where no one can tell the difference
between errant tears and the waters in which she resides

crumpled and frayed,
perhaps she can learn to
to sway
like the graceful kelp
that stretches upwards toward the sun,
but for now, she cannot even open her eyes,
or imagine that somewhere there is light
and warmth
and sunshine

the pressure becomes a comfort —
something to hold her pieces together,
something to keep her from flying apart,
to keep her from dissolving into the aether above —
because it would be so much easier to cease to be,
so much easier for sentience to become scattered stardust

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

V-day picks with heart

It’s that time again! Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and there are countless beautiful ways to tell your loved ones they are special. I’ve rounded up some of my favorite picks from small, indie, B-corp, and sustainable brands below. Enjoy!

Local fave Blockshop just restocked their stunning, oh-so-soft Flock throw, plus debuted two new colorways. Perfect to cuddle up under with a special someone.

These versatile and beautiful matchstick hoops from Baleen make a sweet wink-and-a-nod gift for that hotter-than-hot person you want to spoil this V-day. Plus they are 20% off with code LOVE20 for Valentine’s Day.

For the Goth-but-girly John Derian-esque aesthete in your life, the In My Dreams necklace is the perfect way to tell them you’re dreaming of them. Plus, it is HUGELY marked down right now!

When you and your partner are weird in all the right ways together, it’s magic. Tell them so with this quirky-sweet card from indie printmaker Pier Six Press.

For something intimate, you can’t go wrong with a massage candle from Maude. Hand-poured with cruelty-free ingredients, there are three scents to choose from (I’m eyeing no.3) plus an unscented option if you’re unsure of your lover’s preference. Mood lighting can turn to pampering, and then who knows? *wink wink*

These gorgeous disc chimes are handmade by female-powered Pigeon Toe Ceramics, perfect for the tasteful homebody or décor aficionado in your life. Hang them indoors as a decorative object, or outdoors for a soft, modern windchime. They’ll think of you fondly every time they look up.

Bluebonnet soap from A Wild Soap Bar is my favorite shower indulgence right now. Responsibly wildcrafted and organically grown botanicals, certified organic oils, and a company that gives back — yes and please! Plus it smells heavenly and lathers beautifully. Pick up a couple and get down and dirty.. err… squeaky clean with a partner, or stock up to share with your favorite pals who deserve some self-care.

And finally, a gift of poetry to ponder alone or to share with a loved one. Kate Baer’s newest collection is on my short short list to read, and I’m looking forward to her signature blend of pathos, humor, and razor wit with bated breath. Consider it an unorthodox bouquet of flowers for your valentine that will last and last.

The Wage Health Rights Gender Gap

…with liberty and justice.. for all?

Staying comfortably alive is, unfortunately, much harder as a woman than you’d think. Collateral damage of war, terrible domestic violence, and a surprisingly insidious gap in medical care — and rights. Most medical knowledge we have is based on research on male bodies. Knowledge and effective treatments for women’s health conditions and diseases are shockingly in short supply. Women are regarded as more “emotional” than men, dismissed as “hormonal” when concerned about alarming physical symptoms, and are often dismissed in a way that makes the “hysteria” diagnoses of bygone days seem not that far away after all. Black women and other women of color are disproportionately affected. Heavier women are told to lose weight as a catch all solution to every ill. Pregnancies are more dangerous in the U.S. than any first world country has a right to be. And a whole host of reproductive health concerns have been made violently worse by the recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down Roe v. Wade. Abortion access is imperiled in much of the country. Safe and easy medical treatments for other reproductive issues will be harder to receive due to the ban of practices deemed to close to those used for abortion. In short, women’s health care in the United States is a travesty. It is an environment that is negligent at best — and malevolently hostile at worst — towards female bodies.

A smattering of recent news:

According to the 2021 Global Women’s Health Index, not only did women’s health get worse worldwide in 2021, the United States was ranked 23rd in the world. Twenty third. We are one of the richest countries in the world, but we don’t even crack the top 20 for women’s healthcare.

Recent reporting in the New York Times brought to the forefront how very little we actually know about an organ possessed by approximately half the world’s population: the clitoris. Virtually no one is studying it. Most medical literature ignores it completely. Surgeries and procedures regarded as routine and straightforward have documented injuries to the organ as a result of anatomical ignorance. And even though regular examinations are recommended, most providers “neither know how to examine nor feel comfortable examining the clitoris.”

Abortion bans in the 100 days since Roe V. Wade was struck down by the Supreme Court have resulted in incredible harm to women’s healthcare, including but also well beyond abortion procedures themselves. “Abortion bans have impacted healthcare beyond reproductive care, keeping Americans in some states from obtaining treatments for conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and even cancer because the medications can be used to induce a miscarriage.”1 Women in the middle of life-threatening medical emergencies are sitting and waiting until legal teams, not doctors, decide if their lives are threatened “enough” to provide care.2 Other very basic, safe medical procedures that utilize similar methodologies or medications as abortions are in serious jeopardy due to the potential legal ramifications for the providers. A miscarriage has become a prosecutable crime. As Jia Tolentino pointedly explains, “We’re not going back to the time before Roe. We’re going somewhere worse.”

What can we do? remains a steadfast resource for women’s healthcare, including issues related to menstruation, endometriosis, UTIs, PCOS, pregnancy, contraception, and more. lists abortion funds in every state if you’d like to donate, as well as links to resources to help find a clinic near you or get more information about safe, effective abortion pills.

California Black Women’s Health Project provides a variety of resources for Black women and girls, including mental health, aging, and sexual empowerment.

National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center advocates for policies, offers resources, and holds events and trainings in support of the mental and physical health of indigenous women in the US, extending even to housing instability and gender-based violence.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has excellent advice to keep your digital privacy safe, whether you are seeking an abortion or a provider of abortion or healthcare support. What was benign data can now potentially be used as criminal evidence, so know your digital rights and protect yourself accordingly.

We are in this together. Let’s do all we can to close the gap in our rights to healthcare and bodily autonomy. Women’s rights are human rights.