The gift

“… burn this candle to embrace your entire spectrum of identity and bloom like never before.” — Boy Smells

Just before my birthday last summer I was out shopping and eating with friends in LA, and I stumbled upon a candle in a little shop that I kept coming back to. The vessel was a bright, shiny gold, with an artful label of all text. The scent was deep and woody, and the name? “Polyamberous.” The quip made me smile, as I always love a good wordplay. It took me a bit to decide between it and another candle I liked as a little gift for myself — I was apprehensive about making it mine, to be honest, in more ways that one. I finally said “yes” to it in my head, and as soon as it found a home on my nightstand, I felt seen. Yes, I was – I am – polyamorous. I wasn’t out to anyone but myself, and I wasn’t seeing anyone yet. But I felt like I had finally embraced this part of me.

The smell of amber and tonka bean is heady and rich, much like my life these days. I’m grateful and scared and learning and growing every day. What I am not doing every day, though, is asking myself, “what’s wrong with me?” Not anymore. And that, more than anything, is the true gift — a gift to myself that was long overdue.

Wish list 2021

Welcome to December, land of colder weather, warmer sweaters, and visions of sugarplums. Here is my wish list for this year – lovely items to give that special someone on your list, or maybe even yourself! After all, YOU are definitely a special someone.

Coach”s new Studio bag in green is everything I’ve been craving – an evergreen shade that takes me right back to the 90s (in the best way) paired with a sleek shape and classic brass hardware. Love love love.

Speaking of love, Pamela Love’s designs hit just the right sweet spot between edgy and classic, with an undertone of mythos I adore. My favorites are these pomegranate studs and heart-in-hand huggies, each sold singly. They’d be the perfect additions to my earring mix right now, plus they are made from recycled (and recyclable) materials. Style AND substance!

And speaking of the 90s, I am fully on board with the the chunky loafer resurgence. These are well-priced, beautiful, and this Alpine green shade would go with just about anything.

If you have someone in your life you’d like to spoil with incredible sleep, may I suggest one of these gorgeous velvet weighted blankets from Bearaby? Their eco-velvet is 100% upcycled, GRS-, STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® and Fairtrade International certified, perfectly cozy, and oh-so-soothing to sleep under. Trust.

I couldn’t possibly do a December gift post without including my favorite winter candle of all time. This gilded white ceramic iteration of my beloved Frasier Fir candle is calling my name.

At the top of my list are gifts that do good, and you can’t go wrong with any of the gift items featured in the ACLU’s shop. My personal picks are this excellent civil rights calendar and this minty soft reproduction rights tee. Every purchase made supports the ACLU and allows the fight for our civil liberties to continue.

For the beauty lover in your life, a clean beauty set like this one from Ilia is oh-so-nice. I can’t get enough of their Balmy Tint hydrating lip balm these days, and this pretty set will have your mom or bestie looking glowy and holiday-festive in a flash.

Ideal as a stocking stuffer, cool-aunt gift for a teen (hello!), or hostess gift, these super-stylish bubble candles are scented with grapefruit – if you can bear to light them.

And finally, for the chocoholic in your life, this tasting set from San Francisco small-batch maker Dandelion Chocolate is everything. They visit each origin, work closely with their cocoa producers, and use only ethically sourced beans and organic cane sugar to make their confections. Indulgent deliciousness, beautifully packaged and ready for gifting.

Vintage inspiration

Lately I’ve gotten sucked into the addictive black hole that is Facebook Marketplace. There is a LOT of random stuff people have for sale! It’s like thrifting, with the ease of search terms and the comfort of your own couch. Sometimes you’ll find a gem, sometimes you’ll find something quirky that appeals, and sometimes… well, you never know what you’ll find!

Last week I drove down to La Jolla to acquire a set of Postmodern Italian white lacquer dining chairs for my mom’s apartment, a find that she said “gave her all the feels!” They are beautiful and look great in her space. I (unfortunately?) have no need for new dining chairs. What I do need is about 5 extra rooms in my own house to satisfy all the designing and decorating I’d like to do. Not exactly an option at present, so instead I’ll do it virtually here with you.

I had to fight myself for days to keep from buying this pair of leopard print chairs. I. Have. No. More. Room. I debated what I could move or get rid of. I strategized. I planned and moved furniture around. I conceptualized. Then I sighed with regret and a little relief once I saw they had sold. Goodbye, beautiful chairs. We would have been good together.

This floral armchair is being sold as a pair, and while the print might seem a little dated, how cute and fresh would it be paired with a modern checkered pillow? And that funky table and chairs gave me pause as a set (and not in a good way), but how gorgeous would the table be painted glossy white? Major Kara Mann for CB2 vibes. It would make for a beautiful desk.

I also stumbled upon an L.A. listing for ten (!) William Morris dining chairs. At first glance, the cobalt and yellow with the ornate two-tone wood seemed like a lot of look, if you know what I mean. But if I had a big, stately dining room (and infinite money)? Green lacquered walls, a graphic Jonathan Adler rug, a modern/glam chandelier paired with a Milo Baughman burlwood table, and some abstract floral art with a sleek Danish vase? Now we are talking! This combination makes for a striking, bold, and eclectic dining room setup I’m swooning over.

art chandelier xl vase vintage table rug

It just goes to show you that a little imagination and a little bit of digging can yield some beautifully unique pieces for your home. Happy hunting/thrifting/digging/shopping, friends, and good luck!

The scent of summer

With my dad at Del Mar racetrack, mid 1980s

This morning I took a long walk around the neighbor with my dogs. I overheard a fellow dog walker across the street ask, “what time’s the party?” and when I rounded the corner, a little girl was twirling around in her front yard with a big bouquet of pink balloons, a shiny pink “5” floating proudly in the middle. Her mother was puttering in the yard as she twirled, and just past her in the driveway was a big inflatable slide, surely huge and and shining with promise to her little birthday girl self.

As I continued past the house, all of a sudden I caught a whiff of kids’ sunscreen, and I was instantly transported. I couldn’t help but grin, a huge ear-to-ear smile that took me totally off-guard. It was one of those olfactory memories that comes out of nowhere and takes your breath away. That smell was pure childhood summer to me — vacations up the CA coast, beach trips and running around the infield at the racetrack. Sunshine and swimming in a lake. Sandwiches, sodas, and giggles. I could practically smell the Italian bread we’d buy on our way to the races, a scent that mingled with sunscreen as my sister and I squirmed away from my mom, much more interested in lunch and the cookies that would follow than whatever hypothetical sunburn might befall us. In my mind’s eye I could see the geese that would honk and hiss at us despite our well-meaning offerings of bread (it was too good for them anyway… oh, that bread!). The grass under our feet as we ran from the far end of the infield to the other, determined to try to get a glimpse of those beautiful horses twice in one race. The feel of a cold can of black cherry Shasta I’d eagerly fish out of the cooler. Or the feel of the warm lake water of Havasu as we splashed outside the houseboat, life vests bright in the sun, and my dad eternally tidying and hanging up soggy towels. The games of Acey Deucey we’d play those evenings, betting with piles of little river stones, our foreheads slightly pink from the day despite repeated applications of sunscreen.

I had a happy childhood. Summers felt like a golden time, and that unexpected waft of sunblock on the breeze this morning made me remember just how beautiful summers can be. This year, as we stretch our wings and rediscover the world outside our front doors, I’d like to try to hold onto that golden, joyful summer spirit. We didn’t care if we were sweaty and tired. It was all about the joy of the moment… and those moments smelled like sunscreen.

Friday thoughts

This weekend is Mother’s Day. It is a time to celebrate motherhood, yes. But it is also a very complicated holiday. Mother’s Day celebrates a huge lie about the value of women: that mothers are superior beings, that they have done more with their lives and chosen a more difficult path. The lovely Ann Lamott expresses this complexity with beautiful candor, and her words got me thinking:
I love my mom dearly. She is still alive to celebrate with, and I am lucky to have had a happy childhood. Also I have chosen to remain childfree. I feel like Mother’s Day is a holiday that is about my mother and not me, but maybe there is room for the aunt-ing and pet parenting and mother-hen-ing of friends I do, too? Regardless of how I eventually answer that question, I have enormous compassion for the day’s complications, and the women who bear them gracefully, silently, and with a certain amount of internal rage or sadness. I see you if you’ve lost your mother. If you are estranged from your mother or your children. If you have a difficult parent/child relationship. If you’ve lost a child. If you’ve yearned for children and cannot have them. If you have children and yearn some days for something different. There is nothing wrong with perhaps wishing for a solo glass of champagne instead of shepherding a crowd of kids and moms-in-law et. al. to IHOP when you don’t even like pancakes. I see you all, and I’m sending you love.

For a little enjoyment this weekend, here are a few things to make/buy/watch/savor:

This delightful tote is perfectly French and effortless. Wear it all spring and summer on your breeziest of weekends.

For some light and easy sweetness, may I recommend Julia Turshen’s Afternoon Cake? I make this regularly and it could not be simpler or more satisfying. Just use the nut flour of your choice (I like almond flour) instead of finely grinding your own nuts to make it even quicker. Makes one perfect olive oil cake, citrusy and not too sweet, to enjoy for any reason — or no reason at all.

I am deeply inspired by this “secret” antique revival trend spotted by Caitlin over on stylebyemilyhenderson. Mixing old and new is right up my alley, and the color and pattern combinations are swoon-worthy. It makes me extra-happy to have my childhood wood dresser mixed into our living room decor! Also I may or may not have my eye on some vintage nightstands…

And finally, I’ll leave you with the cutest video I saw all week, a stealthy otter worthy of his own spy film franchise. Because otters! Happy weekend, friends.

Mint julep

It’s April, the month of spring sunshine and mint juleps, and right now I am super inspired by soft minty hues with pops of orange. It is such an invigorating color combination, don’t you think? The grounded calm of mint green with an energetic little (or big!) zing of orange, bronze, tangerine, rust, or terracotta is just what I’m craving. These gorgeous interiors do it so well! Swoon, sigh, yes and please.

If you’re as inspired as I am, here are some beautiful picks for your home to get you going, from total bargain to splurge-tastic. Helle Mardahl’s Bon Bon vessels had me at hello, but a poppy orange tray on your coffee table would have the same visual impact. Of course, Rothko’s color juxtapositions are spot-on, and how cute is that microwave? (I have it so I’ll answer — it is adorable.) Happy shopping, and enjoy!

Decorate wild!

photo via Justina Blakeney

Congratulations to Justina Blakeney on her new book, Jungalow: Decorate Wild! In her most personal book to date, Jungalow is alive with Blakeney’s signature bold colors and patterns, mixed textiles, and plants galore. She centers her adventurous designs squarely amidst her own beautifully mixed heritage and encourages all of us to do the same. I found this to be not only a delightful design perspective, but a timely reminder amidst increasing polarization that we are all enriched by the “magic of mixing.” Cross-cultural food, art, music, design? Yes and please! Her mixes are artful, collected, and so stylish (amazing!) while also being grounded and respectful of deeply rooted traditions. As she shared in a book talk recently, she believes strongly in respecting cultures and supporting artisans. Her seriousness in this regard is matched only by the playful exuberance she brings to decor, and her earnest belief that we can all thrive, grow, and express our creative selves in the home we cultivate for ourselves. Bravo, Justina! I couldn’t agree more.

Jungalow is a feast for the eyes, full of Dabito’s stunning interior photography along with shots from Blakeney’s own travels. The colors are saturated and exuberant — such a delight after a dreary year! Pick up a copy and you won’t be disappointed, I promise.

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Loving right now

You know when the stars align and there are just tons of things out there making want to open your wallet? Here is a mismash of items I’m loving right now:

I’ve had all the heart eyes for Jonathan Adler’s Ripple mirror for ages, and as of yesterday it is HANGING IN MY HOUSE. Guys, I am so excited. It is exactly what I wanted for our space – fun and modern, a little quirky, and the perfect foil for some of the more traditional elements I’ve incorporated into our decor. Here is a little peek at how I styled it, if you’d like to see. I couldn’t love it more!

Right now Kate Spade is knocking it out of the park with playful, beautiful summer accessories — exactly the kind we need after such a dismal year. I kind of want one of everything. The Catch bag in that perfectly brilliant shade of blue came home with me, but I am equally smitten with the sweet Buoy wicker bucket bag. And how perfect would that ocean-inspired wave card holder be paired with Shelly crab crossbody? Adorable! We can all use a little kitsch right now, no?

I haven’t talked about it here on the blog much, but coffee is a pretty serious undertaking in my household. My husband used to be a barista, so he (and now I) really appreciate a good cup of coffee. Enter: the Fellow Ode brew grinder. I can absolutely see why the Specialty Coffee Association named it their best new product of 2021 — it is just that good. Super quiet, super stylish, and by far the most consistent, even grinds we have gotten on a home grinder. If you love coffee and like to brew it at home, I highly recommend putting your dollars toward a good grinder. It makes all the difference.

Of course, the pandemic is still on my mind these days. Please allow me to also share some great reads on it as related to women, expectations, and realities:

I have long admired LaTonya Yvette and her feminine, resonant representation of Black womanhood and community. Her blog series Sex Stories is an honest, raw, heartfelt look at sex and relationships (or lack thereof) during COVID times. Savor them individually or binge them all right now. Trust.

COVID-19 has disproportionately affected women. Some info on why and how to help women rejoin the workforce after the devastation of the pandemic, right this way.

And finally, “Celebrating the beauty of motherhood and failing to acknowledge the significant work mothers do every day without any meaningful systemic support (while their bodies and reproductive rights are still treated as debate fodder) is not a benign action.”

Happy Friday, friends!

Five fun things: coffee table edition

As I was browsing for a coffee table recently, I realized that a) there were several I LOVED, and b) all of them were the wrong shape and size for my living room. Wah-wah. I needed something oblong, and narrow enough to allow for comfortable clearance between our facing couches. All those round and square coffee tables of my dreams were a solid no-go. Sigh. I eventually found some great contenders, but it was a bit of a journey!

Just for fun, today I share with you five coffee tables I loved that I couldn’t get, along with five that I could. Double the five things, double the fun!

As you can see, a very specific aesthetic had lodged itself in my brain. I loved these for their chunky bold look and clean lines. Three legs were also a theme. I mean, look how gorgeous these are! Swoon, amirite? I could just see a stack or two (or four) of beautiful art books on display, pretty as you please. But sadly, we were not meant to be.

Not only did I need something oblong and relatively narrow, but it could NOT be brown, to avoid brown overkill with our our leather couch. Way to make it harder, huh? I cast my net wider and looked and looked and looked. And looked. And gradually, some lovely options coalesced from infinite internet land. Interestingly enough, even though none of these options were originally my “dream” table, I think the assortment below feels a whole lot more like “me” than the ones above. Less minimal, more eclectic and collected, a little richer, a little more glam. I could easily see any of them fitting into my home beautifully and seamlessly.

So what did I go with? Well, I found a spectacular dupe of the Anthro table here for a great price, plus there was no need to wait for a backorder! Hooray, a clear winner! I love it and am so excited to play with styling this weekend. Airy, open, a little Deco, a little glam, and the perfect size.

Have a great weekend, and happy shopping!

Blue-green goodness

Lately I’ve noticed that a certain blue-y, green-y goodness has been threading it’s way through my inspiration boards. Equal parts serene, moody, and playful, I just can’t get enough these days. I particularly love it combined with other colors in unexpected ways, especially dusky hues like mustard yellow, burgundy, or rose — or all of the above!

via marccosta / remodelista / domino / remodelista / sfgirlbybay / michaelsinclair / laurenlcaron / remodelista / anthropologie / emilyhenderson

Here are a few ideas to get you started if you’re feeling this color inspiration as much as I am, whether you’re looking for a pretty accent or an all-in look. Enjoy!