A Fun Idea for Art…

My parents have always had old maps hanging around the house. Most were (and still are) in the living room. As a child I thought to myself, Yes, of course, this is the room where we hang all of our maps. Where do other people keep theirs? 

As I got older, I realized that having entire hallways dedicated to showcasing prints of old maps from around the world was a little (perhaps a lot) out of the ordinary. And I came to appreciate not just the aesthetic appeal of the maps – with their delicate twisting lines and simple typography, matted with navy blue and burgundy and placed in gold frames – but the feelings and ideas they evoke. They always seemed to me to be a piece of the old world, the excitement of discovering new places, the simplicity of lines on paper signifying so much more. They brought an intellectual, worldly flavor to our home, as much as any piece of original art would.

So, wordlessly, I decided to start collecting my own maps. I began with a little fold-up map of far north Great Britain, which I found in a used bookstore in Wales a few years ago. The front cover is finely decorated; it’s in an attention-grabbing bright orange and navy color scheme. It looks kind of cool – definitely vintage. Inside, the map itself is mounted on worn linen, and…it doesn’t look like anything special on first glance. Yup, that’s a map all right. But wait – the altitude of every square inch of land and sea is carefully noted with squiggly shapes and shaded according to elevation. The “recommended throughways” cut across the sandy landscape like veins. Every footpath, every body of water, every hamlet is included and labeled in the tiniest hand. The water is a clear blue. The scale is marked carefully with dots around the whole border. And it’s big. This is a piece of art, unquestionably.

Then, at my favorite annual used book sale of all time (which has now sadly ended, after having gone to it every year of my life), I combed through every book at the travel table. There were lots of Rick Steves and other lightly used and slightly out-of-date travel guides, along with souvenir books from all over Europe, but there were also vintage pamphlets and strange little books. Among them I found a complete plan of Paris, listing every street in the city in alphabetical order (how would one use this??) and including tiny maps of each arrondissement and of the metro system, which is a 5 by 7 riot of color. Perhaps my favorite is a small guide to Sicily, part of a series of guides from the Italian State Tourist Department released sometime in the fifties. The front and back covers fold out to reveal richly colored and detailed maps of the island and its landmarks that look just like the kind of thing artists make and sell on Etsy today. For just one dollar I picked up two lovely prints full of character – how can you beat that? (You can’t).

A side note: another Italian guidebook I found is less visually stunning but is full of such quaint little tips that I had to share. For example: In the glossary of food and drink terms, “Spaghetti alla Carbonara – Spaghetti with bacon, egg, pepper. Very spicy.” In the tips for women travelers section: “In Europe handshaking is much more common than in the United States. A woman should allow a male acquaintance to shake her hand, but never shake his. Women shake hands, too, the younger doing the shaking. If the same age, a handclasp is enough.” In the sightseeing section for Rome: “Trevi Fountain – Just behind the Quirinale, near the center of the city…The legend is that a coin tossed in the fountain insures your return to Rome. The fountain was an important accessory in a motion picture called ‘Three Coins in the Fountain.'” (Which, for the record, is an excellent, ridiculous movie that I have watched on more than one occasion. It’s on Netflix should you be tempted.)

So, in the era of GPS, aren’t maps the new vintage poster? The new art print? They exist in countless iterations for every country past and present throughout time. You can get them for a dollar or a lot more than a dollar; they can be huge or postcard sized; they can be of your home state or the place you’ve always dreamed of visiting. They’re a mathematical rather than representational view of the world, and a welcome juxtaposition against portraits, still lives and paintings. They remind you of where you’ve been and where you have yet to go. Put a map on your wall, and see if it starts to look like art to you, too.

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Pom Poms

Madewell sweater, Gap jeans (similar, and on sale!), Steve Madden booties, Skagen purse (on sale), Madewell earrings

New Year’s is one of my favorite times of year, for all the cliched reasons you’d expect – a fresh start, the optimism that comes with a new beginning, the thought that this is finally the year I’m going to eat healthier/read more/become an all around better person. And of course, it’s usually not, but every year I find myself getting just a little bit closer to actually making lasting personal change. I started coming up with some tiny, achievable, open-ended goals back in December and wrote them down in a pocket-sized notebook, the idea being that if I carry my resolutions around with me, I’ll be forced to keep them in mind…maybe…

Regardless, making time to come blog here is one of my few firm resolutions. I stopped doing it because I was just so busy doing other things, and I told myself that I’d come back to it once I wasn’t busy anymore, and then I realized: I am probably always going to be busy. So I just have to do it despite a lack of time. Of course, though, I’ve been on vacation, so that makes it seem a lot more doable. We’ll see.

So here I am, with news of the best purchase I made in 2016: this pom pom sweater from Madewell. It’s the perfect winter white color, comfortably loose without being baggy, and not to mention it’s softer than any sweater has a right to be. I took it for a spin at the Baltimore Museum of Art, where I went to see their current Matisse/Diebenkorn exhibition (which was absolutely amazing, by the way – check it out if you’re in the area through March, and after that it’ll be at the SFMOMA).

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5 Things to Do to Make Your Day Better

5 little things smaller

If you’re like me, the daily grind can get a little grating. Some days the work piles up, others you’re riddled with anxiety, or sometimes you can’t seem to get out of a funk. In the past, I would succumb: I’d work halfheartedly and spend twice as long doing it, I’d let anxiety paralyze me, I’d collapse on the sofa and waste the day watching Parks and Rec on Netflix for the third time (it happens).

But over the summer, I realized that incorporating little rituals into my everyday routine can make a world of difference. Even something as small as going for a short walk can reinvigorate you. So, for the next time you find yourself feeling crazed, or uninspired, here are some of my favorite ways to re-center.

1 // Hang up some string lights.

Turning on lights is basically a guaranteed mood-boost, especially in the colder months when it starts getting dark early. But there’s something undeniably magical about string lights: they’re delicate and whimsical, and I always feel a little happier when I have mine on. Around Christmas time, my mom lines the living room windows with them, so they always make me feel warm and cozy. I love these from IKEA – they feel a little less stark than a regular white string.

2 // Treat yourself to an afternoon pastry.

I do this one so frequently that it’s practically become a part of my routine. I’m partial to cinnamon buns and scones, but whatever the pastry, taking a break in the late afternoon for a little snack is one of my favorite indulgences. I’ll grab a pastry in the morning (or make it myself on the weekends) so I have it waiting for me when I get back home. Knowing that I have a treat waiting for me usually helps me push through my work and gives me something to look forward to.

3 // Curl up with a milky cup of tea and the news.

I usually combine this with the previous idea. I’m at my most calm when I’m wrapped up in a plush throw (the one pictured, from Urban Outfitters, is my latest obsession) with creamy black tea in hand, scrolling through the New York Times on my iPad, classical music playing in the background.

4 // Read something funny.

Laughter, after all, is the best medicine. There’s nothing quite like reading a “Shouts & Murmurs” story or revisiting a favorite David Sedaris piece to snap me out of a funk. (Here’s my favorite book of his – but they’re all good.)

5 // Listen to a podcast while you go for a walk.

Now that the weather is cooling off, going for walks is one of my favorite things – especially in the evenings, when it’s cool and crisp and dusky. In the interest of multitasking, I like to listen to podcasts while I walk, so I’m learning something new and exercising at the same time – some of my favorites are The World in Words (all about languages), 99% Invisible (cool design history), and The Stockholmer (stories of people doing amazing things in – you guessed it – Stockholm). Alternatively, switch out the walking for coloring in a coloring book if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

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Netflix Watch List

netflix watch list

all images via

I have a terrible habit of picking out movies and TV shows on Netflix. I open up the app on my iPad with the best intentions of watching a foreign film or starting a new cult TV show, but usually wind up scrolling through recently-added flicks or top reccomendations for me to no end. My watch list is getting a little bit out of control now (for every movie I watch, I easily save 10 more to watch later), but I have worked my way through a fair number of hidden gems and TV series. If you’re looking for something to watch but don’t want to get sucked into the vortex that is Netflix, here are seven picks that I can personally vouch for.

  1. Beginners // This is a cool, artsy-type movie – it’s told in a pretty original way, and the story itself is gentle, sometimes heart wrenching, and carries some nice messages about life and love (I’m making it sound really cliched, but it’s actually pretty cute and unique).
  2. Moonrise Kingdom // You’ve probably seen this, so it’s more like a reminder that this Wes Anderson gem is available on Netflix. If not, Moonrise Kingdom is a visually stunning, offbeat, quirky comedy that’s well worth a watch.
  3. Scoop // This was a Woody Allen flick that I’d never heard of and watched on a whim – and of course, being a fan of his, I loved it. It’s quite a charming, funny murder mystery (so…expect some dark humor).
  4. A Cat in Paris // I don’t normally watch animated films (aside from Disney/Pixar, of course), but a friend recommended this to me with the note that the whole thing looks like a painting – and it does. Queue it up if you’re in the mood for a really pretty movie, or if you just love Paris (or cats).
  5. Atonement // I love Ian McEwan, but I’ll admit, I’ve never read Atonement. The movie version, though, is fantastic. The costumes and the acting are superb, and the story is haunting.
  6. The Importance of Being Earnest // If you’re a sucker for witty British period pieces based on books, this one’s for you (pretty specific genre, I know). Truth be told, I’ve never seen this Oscar Wilde classic on stage, or read it, but this version with my favorite Colin Firth is a riot of mistaken identities.
  7. Broadchurch // I’d seen the first episode of this show while flicking channels at least twice, and it was haunting – it begins with the murder of a young boy in the seaside town of Broadchurch, and it only gets more intense from there. I intended to savor this series, but found myself at the end of the first season after just a few days of dedicated binge watching – I couldn’t get enough.

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