And the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day!

2011 December 20

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when we remember the incomparable Kirsty McColl, and the beautiful harmonies she made with The Pogues’s Shane MacGowan. Here is quite possibly one of the most beautifully heartbreaking songs ever written. It’s been done over many times, but no one so convincingly sings of hardened lives yet undying love and hope for something better than McColl and MacGowan.

Happy Christmas!

Six life lessons I learned from the Spanish

2011 December 15
by Janelle

Parque del RetiroThe Spanish seem to have it all figured out: Devastatingly gorgeous, incomparably stylish, and quietly cool creative visionaries with excellent food, wine, public parks, and footwear. If there were any way Ryan and I could make a decent living by moving to Spain, we’d do so in a heartbeat. For now, we’ll just have to daydream about the next time we can head back for a visit.

During the two weeks we spent there, we traveled to Barcelona, Granada, Nerja, Seville, Jerez de la Frontera, and Madrid. Each part of the country had a distinctly different flavor and feel; no matter where we were, we couldn’t help but feel like there were enormous life-lessons to be learned by the Spanish way of life.

Kiss in public. How can holding back on passion be good for anyone? If you love someone, allow yourself to overflow with it. More often than not, you’re not holding back for yourself; you’re holding back for fear of being judged by someone who is probably too bitter to score a date anyway. Those who are open to love like to see love displayed fearlessly, and those who don’t could learn a thing or two.

Nap with reckless abandon. Oh, the siesta. I fully believe that if we took more naps, fewer of us would need hardcore therapy, and anti-anxiety meds would be rendered obsolete. Cuddling up with someone you love increases the benefits.

Put away the wristwatch. True, the Spanish may take their blatant disregard for punctuality a bit far but, in truth, we Americans try to cram too much into a 24-hour period. We may fool ourselves into thinking we’re living life to the fullest, but when you never stop rushing as you go from point A to point Z (and everything in between), you’re not living life, you’re skimming through it.

Take snacking to an art form. Snacks aren’t meant to be peeled out of foil wrappers; they’re meant to be savored with wine and conversation. And whomever gave the advice not to eat between meals is a total killjoy who has no friends.

Sing and dance out loud. One of our best nights in Spain was when we stumbled upon a tiny cantina, where the owner got together nightly with her daughters and old friends and sang out traditional Spanish folk songs for patrons. Keeping it to yourself is selfish. Songs and smiles should always be shared.

Share the wealth. I’ve never met such generous and giving people as the Spanish. They are so proud of what they have that they can’t help but share it. Stingy folks can keep to themselves, but those who spread the joy are destined to receive it tenfold. It’s like this awesome tsunami of wonderfulness. And in Spain it usually contained a slab of jamon, a slice of manchego, and a glass of homemade wine. I’m sure your own spin on it will reap equally joyful results.

More photos from our trip here, in Ryan’s Flickr stream.

It’s a giveaway, yo!

2011 November 11
tags:
by Janelle

I’m rapidly falling in love with Fab.com. It’s like a well-curated Etsy, where you don’t have to wade through hundreds of macrame friendship bracelets before you find the cool wrist cuff you were looking for.

Every day I get my email update from Fab.com and every day I’m introduced to new, excellent designers with innovative points of view. The best (read: worst, as it relates to my bank account) part of Fab.com, is I keep being introduced to things I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW I NEEDED!

I’ve spent way too much money on acrylic jewelry by Silvercocoon.com. And I’m waiting for my awesome delivery of these cool glass water bottles, by FaucetFace.

Now you too can be part of the obsession and blow your wad on their cool and stylish wares. If you make a purchase by 3:45 EST tomorrow, Nov. 12, 2011, by using this gateway code, you’ll get $10 off your first purchase.

It’s a giveaway, yo! (sort of) Now go out there and help the economy by spending this week’s paycheck.

La La Love These!

2011 November 3
by Janelle

“I believe in using your best set of dishes – everyday. I’m also a fan of comfortable shoes.” – Tia Salmela Keobounpheng, Designer, Silvercocoon

I meant to do some advanced Christmas shopping. I really did. I booted up my laptop with so much holiday cheer you’d swear I smelled of pine needles and had snowflakes in my hair.

I truly had the utmost intention of finding lovely, unique trinkets for my family and girl friends. But then something happened. Maybe it’s that I got started on my Christmas shopping a little too early. Maybe it’s that I’m just a horribly selfish person who secretly covets anything that dangles or shimmers all for myself. Or maybe it’s that the gorgeous, gleaming, and glossy acrylic jewelry of Silvercocoon by Tia Salmela Keobounpheng was too much temptation for my tainted holiday spirit.

I shopped for myself and only myself. I’ll look forward to having nothing but coal in my Christmas stocking this year. That’s cool; I’ll console myself with my awesome new Pod earrings, and the glossy Stone Necklace, which should arrive in the next few days (squeeeee)! Bah humbug. Word! I mean, sorry.

If anyone has any jewelry websites that might give me some redemption, I’m listening.

La La Love These!2222

2011 November 3
by Janelle

“I believe in using your best set of dishes – everyday. I’m also a fan of comfortable shoes.” – Tia Salmela Keobounpheng, Designer, Silvercocoon

I meant to do some advanced Christmas shopping. I really did. I booted up my laptop with so much holiday cheer you’d swear I smelled of pine needles and had snowflakes in my hair.

I truly had the utmost intention of finding lovely, unique trinkets for my family and girl friends. But then something happened. Maybe it’s that I got started on my Christmas shopping a little too early. Maybe it’s that I’m just a horribly selfish person who secretly covets anything that dangles or shimmers all for myself. Or maybe it’s that the gorgeous, gleaming, and glossy acrylic jewelry of Silvercocoon by Tia Salmela Keobounpheng was too much temptation for my tainted holiday spirit.


I shopped for myself and only myself. I’ll look forward to having nothing but coal in my Christmas stocking this year. That’s cool; I’ll console myself with my awesome new Pod earrings, and the glossy Stone Necklace, which should arrive in the next few days (squeeeee)! Bah humbug. Word! I mean, sorry.

If anyone has any jewelry websites that might give me some redemption, I’m listening.

“Take me now, subcreature”

2011 October 31
by Janelle

Happy Halloween, from the Keymaster and the Gatekeeper.

It’s an understatement to say that I’m a fan of Halloween. I’ve dressed up all by myself during a snowstorm, while I nursed a sick roommate, just for the sheer joy of inhabiting a different character for a few hours. A deep dark secret of mine is I’m a little bit of a geeky fan-girl at heart. Luckily, I’m with a guy who is far geekier than me. This year we decided to use our joint geek powers for good rather than evil. Here we are as Vince Clortho and Zuul from Ghostbusters, eagerly awaiting the coming of Gozer: Gozer the Traveler, Gozer the Destructor, Gozer the Gozarian.

He will come in one of the pre-chosen forms. During the rectification of the Vuldronaii, the Traveler came as a large and moving Torb. Then, during the third reconciliation of the last of the Meketrex Supplicants, they chose a new form for him — that of a giant sloar! Many Shubs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the sloar that day I can tell you.

Okay, that concludes our Geekout for the week. Happy Halloween, all.

Party photos by Becky Pagan. Her flash was broken, so cut her some slack. The intent was there!

Thank you, Evan Dando

2011 October 29

I’m not normally one to hold pop culture icons on a pedestal but, the truth is, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without Evan Dando.

As a teenager, The Lemonheads were my gateway drug to becoming a music junkie. Without Evan Dando, I might have had ended up with a decent selection of albums on my iPod, but I certainly wouldn’t be the kind of music enthusiast that could have a 30-minute discussion with a buyer at Amoeba Music, and leave the store earning a hearty handshake, an employee discount off my purchase.

More than just being an overall favorite in my iTunes library, the Lemonheads–more than any other group—turned me on to an army of new musical options: Who was this Big Star? Oh! Alex Chilton! THAT’S who the replacements were singing about! This guy is awesome! Oh my gosh, Victoria Williams? I need to listen to everything she’s ever wrote. What’s the band her husband’s in? The Jayhawks? Holy cow, this band is fantastic. Who is this Gram Parsons? This stuff is amazing. Who is this woman singing along with Gram? Emmylou Harris? Who is are all of these people Emmylou Harris is covering? Lucinda Williams. Gillian Welch. Whoa? I must own everything ever written by Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch. Why does this CD sound so good? Oh, it was produced by Daniel Lanois! What else has Daniel Lanois produced? Wait a minute—who is this Fugazi he’s touring with?

Knowing my rabid fandom, Ryan surprised me on Thursday night by taking me to see the Lemonheads perform “It’s a Shame About Ray” in its entirety at the El Rey. It was an awesome show, and we were in spitting distance of Dando. If his guitar string broke, it would have hit me in the eye. I sang every word, to every song he played–and I sang them loud, in unison with just about every other person in the venue. Just a few hundred of us die-hards, there for nothing but the love of the music and a little bit of nostalgia.

We were tempted to stick around so I could gush to Dando about all the ways we were meant to be best friends. Then I could invite him over for a few beers and we could laugh about growing up in Boston, and about summers hanging out on beaches of the North Shore. I could tell him how one of my middle school boyfriends had the same dentist as him, and then Evan could tell me how he loved that particular dentist’s nitrous oxide.

I’ve played the scenario in my head a hundred times but, alas, it was an opportunity missed at the hands of security guards and lack of backstage passes. Meh. At least I have some photos.

Less is More

2011 October 26
by Janelle

I know the minimalist movie poster design thing is sort of old news, but I still love seeing fledgling designers doing more with less. I’m a little overstimulated these days. My boyfriend edits movie trailers, and I cast reality TV shows. It seems like we’re both charged with cramming as much story into as little bit of time and space as humanly possible. Our days are these constant collages of information piled on information, piled on story, sprinkled with bullet points, and jazzed up with a couple thousand pull quotes. If I wasn’t born ADD, I am now. Thank you, Hollywood. Who is going to pay for my Adderall?

Sometimes it’s nice just to slow down and enjoy the essence of things. I love seeing these calm, focused interpretations of some of my favorite classics. I found most of these here, but also did a little Googling to find some by BrickHut and BackstotheWall.

If you don’t click on the one with the bullet holes, you’re doing yourself a disservice. It’s amazing, but cut off in the thumbnail.

Making a Manifesto

2011 October 23
by Janelle

A couple of weeks ago I had dinner with a dear new friend, at my favorite Hollywood wine bar, Lou. I’ve been to Lou a bunch of times, and have gotten to know bits and pieces here and there about the owner and namesake’s impeccable taste for unusual wine varieties, and his deep culinary convictions. After the first 10 minutes of knowing him, I became a fan of the man Lou, for always indulging my passionate (bordering on irrational) preferences for Sicilian wines, as well as for his witty banter on Twitter. Add to my accolades that Lou has consistently been one of the warmest places to drop in for a drink in Los Angeles, and this Boston transplant has pretty much found her “Cheers”, minus the barflies and mailmen with South Boston accents. I wouldn’t say it’s a place where everyone knows my name quite yet, but they’re getting to know my face and my palate, which is more important than knowing my name, in my opinion.

As if I didn’t feel at home enough at Lou to consider taking up residence in any corner of the place that would have me, I was endeared with an irrevokable sense of admiration and kinship, after I recently learned the history of my new favorite haunt through our mutual friend. As the story goes (bear with me; I’m abridging things), about five years ago a techy, web-programmer type named Lou decided to indulge in his true passion of food and wine and start anew. Devoting every day, as opposed to a few snippets of time, to the things he truly loved: Creating introductions and life-long friendships between people and the wines they otherwise never would have met.

An inspiring story of choosing to savor life (quite literally, in Lou’s story), rather than simply live it. There was a wonderful and profound irony, to hear this story while I sat in the very seat of someone who had done that so well, while I contemplated my own life path, and goals.

Living in Los Angeles, it’s so easy to get caught up in the “industry.” It’s a different sort of rat race here; one that’s covered in stardust that sometimes glistens so bright you can all but lose track of your own goals and aspirations, in favor of someone else’s—some industry exec who might not even know your name. You find yourself working longer hours and absorbing the stress and anxiety of those around you. It was perfect timing to hear about someone who kept his eye on the prize, and did so by spreading gastronomic joy to anyone who would have him do so.

I recently found this poster by Holstee—a life manifesto, which simply challenges the reader to stop over-analyzing life and just simply do what they love. While Lou did it with his career, and it would be nice if we could all find the perfect career, I don’t even really think you need to do that. We so often get caught up in daydreaming about all the things we’d rather be doing with our lives than showing up to work every day. While I’ll never judge anyone for dreaming big, I also think it’s okay to take baby steps. It’s okay to find the good in what you have and to take joy in the simple things. And it’s okay to make goals that revel in the simple joys of life.

Read more. Take time to pack yourself a delicious lunch that you can daydream about all day. Teach yourself to knit a cable knit stitch. Take a “non-smoke break” and breathe in some fresh air for five minutes in the middle of the day. Tell your friends you’ll meet them at 8 p.m. instead of 7:30, so you can have an extra 30 minutes to pet your dog. Teach a toddler how to make their hair stand up with static electricity. Let your company’s receptionist be weird and enjoy her for it, rather than pointing it out every time she tries to talk to you. Call your parents and let them blindly tell you how wonderful you are, not just because it will make you feel good, but because that’s what they live for.

I’m sure Lou would be surprised that a dinner at his wine bar inspired me to write my own personal manifesto for happiness. Maybe it was the Sicilian wine. That Lou, he knows what makes his patrons tick.

If you had to make a manifesto for yourself, what would you vow to do?

A little bit of Greece in the California Desert

2011 August 23
by Janelle

If you told me a week ago that I would end up obsessed with Palm Springs, I would have looked at you like you showed up to work in your underpants. But after a recent weekend getaway, obsessed I am.

Save for a quick downtown burger stop on our way back from Joshua Tree a couple of years ago, neither Ryan nor I had ever been to the desert oasis that wooed Clark Gable and Carole Lombard on their honeymoon.

I’ve always had this idea of old-Hollywood glamour mixed with mid-century kitsch that intrigued me about Palm Springs, and put it on my list of places to check out. Which is why I nearly did cartwheels in the car when Ryan announced he was surprising me with a weekend retreat there, to celebrate the anniversary of the first night we made out. Maybe not a milestone for most, but it took us over a decade to get together–and a good few weeks of insecure self-sabotage following that–so we figure Aug. 17 is deserving of a little fanfare.

I pictured us staying in a swinging motel with a kidney-shaped pool, decorated with Eames-inspired furniture and orange and avocado-green formica. I anticipated faded signage in repetitive geometric patterns, and maybe even a young Rat-Pack holdover serving us cocktails by the pool. While I reveled in my daydream of swinging Palm Springs, I bemoaned the fact that I hadn’t packed my Go-Go boots and mini-skirts for our weekend getaway.

Instead of a swinging motel resplendent in swank, we arrived at a gorgeous Grecian pensione (No, I’m serious. No, really.)–with a very cool arts-colony history–in the middle of the California desert late Friday night. We were greeted by a gleaming crescent moon, a night sky so full of stars it looked like it was in bloom, bonfires by the pool, and North-by-Northwest projected on an outdoor movie screen.

Soon after arriving, we dropped our bags, poured some wine, reclined on an outdoor yoga platform and relaxation commenced.

I regretfully forgot my camera, but here are some stock photos from our pensione to give you some idea of the rejuvenating weekend we had, soaking in the pool and sipping cocktails. No Go-Go boots or beehive bouffant required.

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