Friday, September 30, 2011

Calling all chocolate lovers

It's my birthday this weekend and I'm super excited. Not about the gifts so much. Or the singing. More about the fact that I get to spend the whole day with my family and friends.  Before the Professor and I moved to Miami in August, we'd lived far away from home for six years and only saw my family on the holidays. When we move to Spain, it'll be increasingly unlikely that we can travel back to Miami every first weekend of October to celebrate my birthday with our loved ones. That's why this weekend is so extra special to me. 

So, what's on the agenda? Not much actually. I think we'll just do a quiet dinner and then cake and presents.  In my family, we have a little tradition where we always celebrate birthdays by eating the favorite dessert of whoever's birthday it is.   Everyone in my family has a different favorite dessert and sometimes it's not even a cake. For instance, my dad loves key lime pie and my sister loves tiramisu (in case you couldn't tell, my favorite dessert is anything involving chocolate).  I never realized that this practice was specific to my family until I met my husband.  His family buys the same white cake from the same Cuban bakery no matter whose birthday it is or what kind of cake they like. Weird, eh?  I also know people who always make birthday cakes for their loved ones from scratch.  In my family, birthday treats were always store-bought, perhaps because neither of my parents were much in the baking department. I personally think this last tradition is super sweet and I'd want to do this for my future children. 

What about you guys? Any special birthday traditions? And what are your favorite birthday treats?

Updated: My DIY Fall Wreath

Et voila! Here is the little wreath that could. If you notice, I borrowed the idea for this wreath from Stelabird as mentioned in Monday's post.  I just happened to have some mustard colored, felt ribbon (actually left over from my wedding three years ago!) and some black satin ribbon. Using Stelabird's instructions, I cut the mustard colored ribbon into squares and then curled it to make the tiny rosettes.  I then bought the beautiful, twig wreath form from Michael's (using a 40% off coupon no less!) and then using tiny pins, I affixed the rosettes all around the wreath.  If you'll notice, my wreath is considerably more spare than Stelabird's, partly because I loved the natural, organic look of the bare twigs but also because making those tiny rosettes takes forever and my fingers were killing me.  All in all, this project took around a day and a half and cost $4.  I'm rather proud of this wreath because I'm not a person who generally likes crafts and I'm also not a person considered to be patient enough to try them most of the time.  But what else is unemployment for if not to undertake laborious and useless projects?

I was originally planning on hanging this little guy on our front door like normal people do, but I kind of like the way it looks set atop the bookcase bringing a sense of autumn indoors. What do you guys think?

(Photo: Kiana @ The Barcelona Story)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Where do you work?

I'm half-ashamed to admit this but as design-obsessed as I am, I have actually never carved out a space for a home office in any apartment I've lived in.  The closest I came was when a few years ago, I bought this cute little desk from Crate and Barrel and shoved it against a wall in my bedroom.  I meant to add a white Eames shell chair to it, but never got around to it. So the desk sat in the corner, with no chair, and with a pretty mug set atop it for two years until we found out we were moving to Spain and I had to sell it on craigslist. A sad end indeed for that little desk.

I found that I never actually used my desk as a primary workstation because I was constantly working somewhere else--the library, my local Starbucks, study group at a friends' house, the dining room table.  However, now that I find myself on my computer for around five or six hours a day sitting on the same cushion of my living room couch, I really feel that I could use a separate workstation.  Somewhere all mine.  Somewhere surrounded by images that inspire me, task lighting, and of course, a comfy chair (how amazing is that blue, velvet wingback chair in the last picture?!)

If you too want to create a beautiful workstation for your home, follow these tips:
  1. NEVER EVER buy office furniture.  I can almost guarantee you that anything you buy from Office Max, Office Depot or Staples will not only be ugly but will also be poorly crafted and NOT age well. 
  2. Instead, think outside the box. Anything can be a desk. In the first picture, the homeowner used a    lacquered, wooden slab affixed to the wall to create her desk.  In the third picture, the brushed stainless steel almost looks like kitchen counter material.
  3. Office chairs are ugly.  Instead use something unexpected. I love juxtaposing different styles and materials.  Got a vintage desk? Pair it with a modern chair. Got a metal desk? Pair it with a wooden chair.
  4. Hang or pin images, quotes, or family photos above your desk. Not only do they make the space pretty and personal but they will inspire you as you work.
  5. Have something living on your desk.  Plants or flowers not only cheer up the space but they add a bright pop of color and freshness to any space.
Do you guys have any tips to add? What does your workstation look like?

(Photos: The Marion House Book, French by Design, HGTV Canada, Style by Emily Henderson)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Keeping Busy

Disclaimer: If you're currently employed you may think I'm nuts for what I'm about to say.  Here is my big confession: I miss going to work.  I sound crazy, right? But the truth is that since finding out about our impending move to Barcelona, I haven't pursued any jobs since I've had the assumption that we'll be leaving soon. We first thought we'd be moving to Spain in August. Then we told everyone that we'd be moving in September.  Now we're almost in October and it's looking like we'll be here for Thanksgiving.  It's a very meh state of affairs indeed.

I keep reminding myself that when I was working, I was a stressed-out and frazzled version of myself.  I would come home with a bunch of papers to be graded, a lesson plan to be made, fifty or so emails to answer, and tutoring sessions to rush to.  Now I roll out of bed at around ten, eat a leisurely breakfast while reading the paper, check around five emails, and read and write blogs.  Now I know that if you are at work right now and reading this, you're hating me just a little bit.  You may be envious of my seemingly exaggerated amount of free time. But I assure you that once you've had two months of nothing to do, the once-glorious feeling of liberation will surely fade.

 If you're a Type A (like me) you may even find yourself creating projects just so you have something to do (ex. announcing to your husband, "Today I am going to color code all of the books!" To which your husband replies, "Great! That way whenever I want to read something white, I know exactly where to look.")

My newest little project that I dreamed up to keep myself busy is making a fall wreath totally from scratch.  This should be a great feat indeed if I do accomplish it considering that I am certainly NOT a crafty person no matter how much I like going to Michael's.  I'm currently trying to decide which of these designs I want to imitate or perhaps I'll let myself be inspired by odd things I find around the house.  I will certainly keep you posted as to how it turns out either way (warning: there may be a slight delay as I'll be driving my father-in-law around the entire city of Miami tomorrow and Wednesday. It's a long story. Let's just say it has something to do with him having a hearing and vision problem which makes his driving only slightly worse than the average Miamian's).

In the meantime, I'm curious to know: Are you crafty?  What kinds of craft projects would you recommend to someone with zero craft skills such as myself?

(Photos: Etsy, No Biggie, Stelabird)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Me, the fall, and Meg Ryan

I don't know what it is about these two movies but I can watch them over and over (and over) again and indeed I have.  Both of these movies, "When Harry met Sally" and "You've got Mail", give me such a yearning to live in New York in the fall as the central characters do.  When Harry and Sally walk through the bright yellow, red, and orange leaf-strewn Central Park, I just want to curl up with a spiced coffee and the Sunday Times crossword.  Similarly, when Meg Ryan jauntily walks down the streets of New York, stopping to buy a pumpkin for her bookstore and remembering a line from an email about autumn being a time when you want to buy "bouquets of sharpened pencils," I am just smitten.

It's the first official day of fall today (yay!) and I definitely plan on cozying up with some warm cider (try this recipe from Martha Stewart) or a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks and one of these movies.

What are you up to this weekend?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Presenting: Judy Kaufmann

The three prints above are by Judy Kaufmann, a Chilean born artist who lives in Barcelona (small wold, eh?). She has many different collections with themes as diverse as birds, trees, the circus, and cityscapes.  I especially love her "Famous Prints" which are comedic portraits of famous people in history, like Frida Kahlo (above), Woody Allen, John Lennon, Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin and even Batman and Robin (I don't really know that the latter are that historically significant though).  I think these prints could work in any room of the house but I think they'd look especially cute in a nursery or a kid's room.  You can check out more of her work here and if you're as interior-design-obsessed as I am, you can take a sneak peek of her apartment in Barcelona here.

(Illustrations: Judy Kaufmann)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Conversations with the FBI of a non-productive nature

Last week, I received a letter from the FBI saying something I already knew: I am not a criminal.  Nevertheless, I was overjoyed.  With this letter, I could finally return to the Spanish consulate and shove my (finally!) completed visa application in their face (I might even be tempted to yell, "In your face" at this point even though I have never used that expression in my life).  I was so excited to receive this letter, that I was about to break open some champagne (or white zinfandel if I was in a crunch). I was about to cartwheel around my living room. I was about to jump up and down and screech with my hands waving about. I was about to post the stupid letter on my blog.  I was about to do all of these things until a thought hit me:  Where was the Professor's letter?  Why did I get mine when he didn't get his? After all, we sent in our background checks in the same envelope so, theoretically we should have gotten our letters at the same time.  

After briefly considering that my husband may be a serial killer and the FBI had finally cottoned on, I decided to call the FBI and find out why his letter was missing.

A brief disclaimer: This is not an actual conversation. During the actual conversation there was a lot more cursing (albeit with my hand over the mouthpiece).

Me:  Hi. My husband and I sent our background checks to be processed in the first week of July and yesterday, I received my letter of good conduct but my husband's letter has still not arrived.

FBI:  Oh, I see here that your husband's background check was sent along to another department to be authenticated.

Me: Authenticated? Does that mean that the official letter from the FBI that I received was not authenticated?

FBI:  Well, does your letter have a raised seal on it?


FBI: Well, I'm afraid your letter has not been authenticated.  We're going to need you to send that back to us so we can authenticate it for you and then we'll send it back to you.

Me: (passing my hand wearily over my eyes)  Okay.....and how long will it take for you to send it back to me?

FBI:  It should take no more than two weeks.

Me: WHAT?!  This whole process has already taken over ten weeks and it's not MY fault that the FBI didn't authenticate my letter in the first place when I clearly stated in my initial application that it needs to be authenticated.

FBI: Right. Well ma'am, we can't predict how long it should take. You see, once the mail gets to the FBI-

Me:  Fine, but why can't you just print another letter and THIS TIME actually authenticate it?

FBI:  Well, but we need to have the original first.

Me:  Okay, how about if I send in the original but in the meantime you go ahead and start working on an authenticated letter.

FBI:  Well, it just doesn't work that way.

Me: (grasping at straws. Note: straws mean logic in this metaphor) Look, I'm pretty sure that everything is computerized over there.  So, why can't you just print-

FBI:  Actually since the seal is official, that part is done by hand not a machine.

Me:  Right, but the letter itself was not handwritten. So....why can't you just print----Can I speak to your supervisor please?

As you can see, after hitherto living in a world where logic and reason can solve any problem, I came unceremoniously crashing down to a world where being on hold and being spoken to like you're the one who is not making any sense, is the norm.

What is the upshot of this post?  We don't have our letters yet so our visa applications are still sitting untouched in the consulate.  Oh, and in case it wasn't clear, if I never hear the words "FBI background check" again, it will still be too soon.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Colorful, Artist-Inspired Loft in Barcelona

I love, love, love this loft. You could really find this home anywhere but the fact that it is located in Barcelona is so fitting because so many of the details seem to be inspired by some of Catalonia's most famous artists. To me, the crazy swirls on the kitchen ceiling seen in the first picture and the quirkiness of the bookshelf in the dining room seem almost Gaudí-inspired. And then there's that beautiful entryway.  Doesn't that coat hanger in the third picture remind you of Dalí's melting clocks?  Who knew art-history-inspired living could be so beautiful?

(Photos: Home Designing)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Remembering Chile

When I was in college, I couldn't afford to study abroad somewhere glamorous like Spain, France, Italy, or Argentina.  Every summer vacation, I took classes and worked at a nice on-campus job where all I did was answer the phone and study while earning minimum wage.  When I got my pittance of a paycheck, instead of hitting the mall, I hit the books.  I was determined to save money so that when I graduated, I could go and do whatever I wanted. I could travel, enjoy life, and work and figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Fortunately this studious and ascetic period in my life reaped its rewards. When I graduated, I booked a ticket to Chile where I would spend two months touring the country, seeing amazing landscapes, getting an education in good seafood and good wine, meeting close and distant family members for the first time, and being charmed to death by the warm, generous, and welcoming people of Chile.

These are some of my memories, in case you'd like to see:

The skyline of Chile's capital, Santiago. The stark contrast of the huge metropolis and the snow-capped mountains hovering above reminds you constantly of lifes' contradictions.

La plaza de armas. A place to stroll aimlessly and buy street food and coffee, take in an impromptu street show, support a local artisan, or simply feed the pigeons.

The Magellan Strait.  An electric blue stretch of water which often seems to blend into the sky.

Puerto Natales. A small, picturesque, port city in the south of Chile.  These brightly colored boats brave the winter cold to catch the freshest fish.  Served with a glass of local wine, it doesn't get any better.

A very happy Independence Day to all. May there be much laughing, eating, and drinking. Especially drinking.   :)

(Photos:  Kiana @ The Barcelona Story)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sopaipillas: Chilean for delicious!

Upon seeing this image you may be asking yourself a few questions:  What is that? How do you pronounce it? And where can I get it? Here are your answers in the same order. These clouds of deliciousness are Chilean styled sopaipillas which are kind of like fried doughnuts made from squash or pumpkin (this may sound odd, but trust me the combination is genius!). It is pronounced so-pie-pee-as.  And you can get them from your own kitchen, if you follow my recipe below.

I made these yesterday in honor of Chilean Independence Day which is this Sunday, September 18th.  Sopaipillas are a pretty traditional Chilean dish normally prepared on cold or rainy days and certainly whenever pumpkins are in season (so a perfect fall dish in other words).  Before you make this recipe, be forewarned: sopaipillas are not figure friendly.  Do not try to convince  yourself that because there's a vegetable in it, that these are in some way good for you.  Furthermore, you will be tempted to eat around 30 of these before they make it to the table.

On to the recipe!

You will need:

  • 1 butternut squash (in Chile they use a squash called zapallo but that's pretty hard to find in the U.S. You can also use pumpkin for this but NOT the pumpkin that comes in a can!)
  • 1/4 cup of melted butter 
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 6 cups of flour + more for rolling
  • vegetable, corn, or canola oil for frying
  • confectioner's sugar, cinnamon, or your favorite jam to serve

1.  Peel the butternut squash and chop it into small cubes. Remember that the smaller you chop them, the faster they will cook. Your squash should look like this:


2.  Put the cubed squash into a pan and add just enough water to cover them.  Cook the squash until you can pierce it easily with a fork.
3.  Drain the cooked squash in a colander and allow it to cool for a few minutes.
4.  In the meantime, melt the butter and set aside.
5.  Once the squash has cooled slightly, mash with a potato masher. It will look like this:

6.  Add melted butter, salt, baking powder and flour.  DO NOT dump all the flour in. Add the flour in cup by cup. If you see that your dough is so wet that you can not roll it, add more flour.  You may need less than six cups, you may need more. Use your judgement.
7.  Once you feel the dough is ready, turn it out onto a flat surface and roll it out into about 1/2 inch thickness.
8.  Once the dough is rolled out, use a cup to cut out little discs and pierce the discs a few times with a fork.  It will look like this:

9.  Heat the vegetable, corn, or canola oil on medium high heat. Once the oil is hot CAREFULLY place the discs inside the oil. Don't crowd the pan. If there are too many, not only will they stick to each other, but the temperature of the oil will drop and your sopaipillas will just end up soaking up more oil.  Have a plate with a paper towel waiting nearby.  These babies fry really quickly.  When you see the edges of the sopaipilla get a little golden, flip and fry the other side.  Once both sides are golden yellow, place the hot sopaipilla on the paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
10.  While the sopaipillas are on the paper towel, dust them with as much confectioners sugar as you like. It is important to do this right away so that the sugar can stick to them.
11.  Serve with an extra dusting of sugar, cinnamon, or your favorite jam and a cup of coffee.

Buen provecho y feliz dia de independencia!

(Photos: Kiana @ The Barcelona Story)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Crushing on: Indigo

It's no secret that blue is my favorite color. Indigo, Azure, Aegean, Navy. Whatever you call it, I love it. Fortunately for me, blue appears to be the "it" color for fall.  I'm seeing it all over the blogosphere in interiors and fashion. I've compiled a bunch of images of my favorite pieces for your viewing pleasure above. I made this inspirational pinboard using Polyvore. Ever heard of it? I'm not sure where the  name comes from but it sounds like an image-sharing dinosaur, right?  Polyvore is a handy little website that allows you to select things from all over the web and either use a ready made template created by other users or design your own. Pretty neat, eh?

Wishing you a blue Thursday!

Indigo Inspiration by kiana119 featuring a a line dress

J Crew a line dress
$178 -
Steve Madden lace up boots
$160 -
Madewell canvas tote
$55 -
Alexander McQueen studded belt
$495 -

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Do YOU know IKEA Family Live?

We all know and love IKEA. Not just for their clean, modern aesthetic created for small budgets but also for their tasty and cheap Swedish food and free breakfasts on Mondays before 11am (didn't you know about that? It's awesome!).  But it turns out that there are even more reasons to love IKEA and these reasons all come from the newly redesigned IKEA FAMILY LIVE website.  This is a website where IKEA shows real people from all over the world (mostly Europe really) who have incorporated IKEA pieces into their homes in unique and individual ways. In other words, their homes do not look like a store catalog but rather reflect their individual tastes and suit their family's particular needs.  I have been frequenting this website for at least a year but I was so pleased to discover that they have now updated it to include a list of inspiring blogs, stories from the home owners, and tips for creating or improving upon the space of your dreams.

Feeling in the mood to spend a few hours (or more) being unproductive on the internet? Then this website is for you :)

(Photos: IKEA Family Live)

Some mid-week inspiration

Saw this via the J.Crew blog (yep, J.Crew has its own blog. It's actually very inspiring for everything from fashion, art, beauty, and travel even if you don't actually shop there).  Not being the creative type myself, I always love hearing designers talk about what inspires them to create something beautiful. Imagine seeing a muted beige landscape and thinking of that beautiful dress in the fourth picture or reinterpreting a striped blouse and scarf you saw in a portrait for the modern day as in picture number five. Imagine seeing potential in everything you saw. Wouldn't it be great to see the world like that?

(Photo: J. Crew)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lessons in nonchalance

Nothing freaks out the Spanish.

After taking the entire month of August off for the summer vacations, our point person at the University of Barcelona just returned to work on Thursday, September 1st (and not a moment sooner apparently!). Upon turning on his computer and opening his email, he saw the five emails the Professor and I had sent in August desperately trying to get in touch with him to tell him that we doubt we'll be able to make it to Barcelona by the time of the fall semester start date which is THIS Thursday!  In our emails, we told him that our FBI background checks, which should arrive next week, were holding up our visa applications and that the Spanish consulate told us that under no circumstances should we buy our plane tickets without having our visas in our hands.  Thus, the whole month of August the Professor and I chewed our fingernails and waited anxiously to hear back from the University, fearing what they would say.

So, what did they say?  No problem! They said that they're sorry for not getting back to us sooner and that we shouldn't worry about this minor (!) delay.  They'll just switch the Professor's class from the fall semester to the spring semester.  In other words, instead of teaching a course beginning September 15th as originally planned, he will now teach a course beginning in February.  Of course, they still want us to get there in October or November so that we can get settled in, find an apartment, fill out the appropriate employment paperwork, and get to know the city before the winter holidays. But basically they reassured us that the job was still there, that everything would work out, and most importantly, not to freak out.

That last bit is a little difficult for us (mostly me actually). Freaking out is something I do naturally. I seem to have a gift for freaking out and if I do say so myself, I'm better at it than most people I know.  That's why these Keep Calm and Carry on posters, ubiquitous though they may be, really speak to me. And while I love many of the variations that have sprung up in recent years, I really think we need a Spanish version of these.

The Professor and I were brainstorming what the Spanish versions would say:

Me:  Keep Calm and Drink a Beer (Tranquilizate y toma una cerveza)

Professor:  Keep Calm and Eat Tapas  (Tranquilizate y ve de tapas) 

Me:  Keep Calm and Take a Nap (Tranquilizate y toma una siesta)

Professor:  Keep Calm and Go on Vacation (Tranquilizate y ve de vacaciones)

This list could go on and on.  So what about you guys? Got any calming mantras? Or can you think of any to add to our Spanish inspired list?

Happy Monday!

My memory

Ten years ago today, I was a senior sitting in my first period AP Economics class when a teacher from down the hall rushed into my classroom and without a word of apology for interrupting the class, blurted out, "They've just crashed a plane into the World Trade Center. Turn on your TV."  Before that day, I didn't know what the World Trade Center was, I had never heard the name Osama bin Laden, and had no idea that my identity as an American was about to change forever.

When every television in every classroom in my school showed the Twin Towers engulfed in flame, ash and debris, I naively thought that it was an accident---that some drunk pilot had fallen asleep at the wheel or something. I had heard the word terrorism before that day, of course. But I never thought of that word as having a place within my own vocabulary.  I can't remember using the word before that day. When my classmates and I watched the news anchors reporting on the scene, I heard this word used over and over again and I began to get a sinking feeling in my stomach.

By third period, my worst suspicions were confirmed.  The news anchors were reporting that Islamist extremists were suspected of orchestrating the suicide bombings. When this update left the news anchors lips, a sophomore girl dressed in her ROTC uniform, announced to the class, "I can't wait until I'm in the army so I can get in a plane and bomb all of those damn Iranians myself."  Shaking with fear and anger, I turned in my seat to face her and said equally loudly, "Excuse me. I'm a damn Iranian." I even pronounced it like she did: Eye-rain-ian instead of the correct pronunciation which is: Eee-ron-ian. The whole class fell silent and I turned back in my seat and put my head down. I was stunned at her comment and at the boldness with which she uttered it. In a way, I couldn't believe it. I had spent my whole life trying to explain to friends and classmates where my dad was from.  Most people heard the statement, "My dad's Iranian" and accepted it without judgement. Just curiosity.  My childhood friends reacted to my dad's nationality with innocent ignorance,"Your dad's from Iran? Where's that?"  instead of with the belligerent ignorance that I encountered that day and henceforth.

By fourth period, the PA system was rattling off the names of all of the students who were being pulled from class.  Parents were in a panic over the possibility of another terrorist attack, this time in Miami, and the number of students being pulled out probably numbered in the hundreds. Midway through fourth period, I heard my own name called. In confusion, I grabbed my bag and my jacket, said goodbye to my friends and walked out of the class.  I scanned the throng of parents for my mother and instead saw my older sister and her then boyfriend waiting for me.  "What's going on? Why did you pull me out of class?"  I asked.  "Mom thought that you'd be having a tough day," she said simply.  I found out when I got home that my other sister had encountered the same kind of hostility at work when one of her coworkers announced to the whole office that she just wished that people like that (she emphasized the word "that"  while looking at my sister) would just go back to where they came from.

When I was sitting in the backseat of my sister's boyfriends car as we drove home, I started feeling really sick.  That day, I came down with the flu and I didn't have to go to school the rest of the week.  In a way, I was glad not to have to go because I didn't know how other people would react to me. My friends, I knew, would stay my friends. But I was worried to go into my third period class. I was worried about being treated differently.

If you've never faced discrimination before, I doubt you will be able to understand just how I felt in those days. Apart from being worried and afraid for myself and my family, I also felt angry. Angry that this had to happen at all. Angry at the extremists for putting Middle Eastern people into a position where they have to defend where they're from and what they believe. When the news came out that no single suicide bomber was Iranian, it didn't make a difference.  When the media showed images of people gathering in Tehran to light candles for the victims of the attacks, it didn't make a difference. We were seen as the enemy and it didn't matter that we weren't.  Suddenly my dad, who is not even a practicing Muslim, became a fundamentalist in the eyes of the world.  Some of my dad's Iranian friends coincidentally lost their jobs around this time.  Iranian students who overstayed their student visas in order to not have to return to Iran where they couldn't find jobs and would be repressed by a totalitarian regime, were suddenly tracked down by the Department of Homeland Security, detained, interrogated and unceremoniously kicked out.

I felt that in the days following September 11th, I was being told by the whole country that despite being born here and regardless of whether I identified myself as American or not did not matter anymore.  I was going to be different whether I wanted to be or not.  I couldn't call myself American anymore.

In ten years, it has gotten easier.  Time passes and people's memories do fade for the most part.  But that latent feeling of alienation is still there. When Osama bin Laden was killed, people would ask me what I thought of his death.  It's as though they think my opinion would somehow be different from any one else's.  That I wouldn't feel happy and relieved that there was one less murderer in the world. When people ask me what I think of the latest terrorist attack, or the war in Iraq, or the latest inflammatory comment that Ahmadinejad has made, I am aware that those people do not see me as an American. Suddenly, I'm not a half-Persian, half-Chilean girl who was born in Miami.  Suddenly I am an other.

I have questioned my identity over and over since that day. Whether I even want to be called an American if Americans don't want me. What's that old line? Something like, "I don't want to be part of any club that would have me as a member?"  Well I felt the opposite way once. I desperately wanted to be part of a club that wouldn't have me.  In that sense, national identity can be a very fickle thing. Even today, I'm glad I have so many to fall back on: American, Persian, Chilean, Miamian. That way, the expulsion from one identity does not make me feel groundless and invisible.

I know this post is lengthy and pretty deep but it feels cathartic to get it all out for once. I also think it's important that we all document our memories of September 11th not just so that we can reflect but also so that we can learn from each other's experiences.   The upshot of this whole post in case I rambled, is simply this: We're all Americans. All the time. No matter what.

(Photo:Getty Images)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Small Space Inspiration

Great minds really do think alike. In the past week, three of the interior design blogs that I frequent have done posts on beautiful, small (sometimes tiny!) spaces that are anything but cramped and cluttered.  This is especially pertinent to European living where houses and apartments tend to be smaller than in America, but that's not to say you can't get some great ideas from these posts if you live in a big house.  Below, I break it down for you.

In this Paris apartment, the homeowner used floating shelves in the entryway to avoid using a piece of furniture which would take up floor space and make the space feel smaller. Another smart tip: hang mirrors to reflect the light. If you notice, there's a mirror hanging over the shelves by the door which help make the space feel bright and airy. 

In this Canadian tree house (can we take a minute to talk about how cool it is to live in a tree house?) the homeowners carved out enough space for themselves, their kids, and a dog.  Smart tips from their space?  Use a day bed in the living room which does double duty as a sofa and a bed.  Also, take advantage of the great outdoors, if you're lucky enough to have access to it.  This patio is practically a second living room. 

And finally in this Swedish apartment, the homeowners have made the most of 39 square meters which, if you know your conversions, is pretty darn small.  The greatest ideas here are 1) paint your walls a bright white color so your space feels clean and light and 2) make use of vertical space. Who says your bed can't be up by the ceiling?

I have to admit it---my favorite space is the last one. There's something about a sparsely decorated, mostly white space that gets me every time.

Which one do you like best?

(Photos: French by Design, Apartment Therapy, Delikatissen)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It's not too late to read!

Summer is over.  Most people are pretty bummed about this, but I am thrilled.  Summer in Miami is like whipped cream on a doughnut---overkill!  I am looking forward to the shorter days and longer nights and temperatures in the high 80s as opposed to the high 90s.  

The one thing that I will miss about the summer is that suddenly you’re not encouraged to read lighthearted books anymore.  From May through August, every magazine, radio show, and blog is inundating you with a list of great summer reading---usually books about romance, travel, food, or anything else not expected to make you think deeply or furrow your brow while you sip a Mojito and roast yourself under a plastic umbrella at the beach.

But I say, let’s not deprive ourselves of cheap thrills, useless knowledge and belly laughs over the fall and winter.  Towards that end, here is my recommendation for a great read any day of the year.  I recently finished the book, Lunch in Paris: a Love Story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard.  As the title would suggest, this book is primarily a memoir of an American who moved to Paris where she fell in love, got married, had a child, and did a lot of eating.  At the end of every chapter, she provides a recipe for a dish that in some way relates to the contents of the chapter.  The book is very much an exploration of the differences between French and American culture and what happens when these two worlds collide but the moral of the story is that despite our differences, love conquers all. Especially when there’s a soufflé involved.

Anyway, if you’re interested, check out the book at your local Anthropologie or Amazon.  Hmm. I was going to end this post with the word, “Enjoy!” but under the circumstances I think that “Bon appétit” might be more appropriate. N’est-ce pas?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Por si quieres aprender un idioma....

EF - Live The Language - Paris from Albin Holmqvist on Vimeo.

EF - Live The Language - Barcelona from Albin Holmqvist on Vimeo.

Hope you're all enjoying your weekends. I just wanted to pop in to share this video that I found via the blog, "The Senses Five."  The video above captures the experience of learning French and Spanish in Paris and Barcelona respectively.  Don't you wish you were 22 again and studying abroad?  I never got to study abroad when I was in college because I was working every summer and couldn't afford the expense.  I'd like to think I've made up for it in recent years though :)

Buen fin de semana!

P.S. The post title translates to, "In case you want to learn a language..."

(Videos: Albin Holmqvist)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Don't you wish your vacation photos were this beautiful?


 I don't know about you guys but I'm a sucker for travel pictures, beautiful landscapes, and gastronomical delights. So imagine my pleasure when I stumbled upon the absolutely gorgeous blog of photographer and food stylist, Aran Goyoaga.  Above are pictures that she took on her recent vacation to Iparralde, in the Basque Country. For more inspiration, visit her blog, Cannelle et Vanille (meaning Cinnamon and Vanilla in French).


(Photos: Copyright Aran Goyoaga)