Friday, June 27, 2014

Fashion prodigy: the mix-and-match ensemble

I love how Izzy sees the fashion potential in items that most of us would either toss or donate. 

Take these three pieces for example, all things in her closet she has outgrown. The first is her favorite pink monkey pajamas (size 2T). The second is a Baby Gap 60s-ish shift dress I bought for her when she was a year old. And the third is an emerald green Splendid t-shirt -- a favorite hand-me-down (size 3T).

Izzy's current fashion obsession is dresses and skirts with side slits. "I don't have a green skirt, so I made one!" she announced when I went upstairs to check on her (as I mentioned in my last Fashion Prodigy post, when all is quiet in the house it usually means she's up to something!). I quickly learned she had found the scissors I hid in the bathroom and used them to make a slit in her favorite green tee. The shirt became a skirt with a very high slit (which I was a bit bummed about -- I loved that shirt! -- but I gotta give my daughter bonus points for her innovation).

She's also really into capes ("Just like Elsa and Anna in Frozen!" she says). So naturally, she transformed her monkey jammies into a cape with long sleeves.

But what absolutely kills me is her poses. Izzy's part dancer, part diva and totally owns every second of it.     

You go, girl.

A bedsheet? No, an evening gown!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Off we go (to California!)

Tomorrow we head to California for the summer. I haven't been back to my home state for a year, so I'm very much looking forward to hugging my parents again, seeing my extended family, spending quality time with my best girlfriends, and eating lots and lots of my mom's home cooking, dad's Korean BBQ and good Asian and Mexican food (my mouth is watering just at the thought of Shandong beef rolls, jjajangmyeon, tacos al pastor and fresh ceviche). Yum.

California, I can't wait to see you at the beach. I look forward to sitting underneath your palm trees. And visiting back and forth between LA, OC, the IE, Santa Barbara, San Francisco and in between. 

To my California peeps -- hasta mañana!    

Illustration by Nicole Duquette. (Etsy)

Katy Perry's got it right about California girls

Monday, June 23, 2014

My first 5K

Ran my first 5K yesterday.

It didn't quite unfold the way I had anticipated, but it does make for a good story: I was supposed to wake up at 6:30 a.m. to meet my co-workers (this 5K was a team building activity) at a nearby nature preserve. Laid out my running clothes and sneakers the night before and though I was kind of dreading it (I've never run more than a few miles consecutively and I have horrible knees to boot), I was looking forward to seeing my friends.

I didn't hear my alarm. Woke up with a funny feeling like I was missing something, checked my clock and had an "Oh sh*t!" moment as I jumped out of bed. "Where are you miss?!" my friend Suzanna texted me at 7:58. Uh oh.

Well, better now than never. I showed up an hour and half late and missed my friends at the starting line, but gave it my best. Suzanna came back after she finished her own race and ran the whole 5K again with me (what a friend!). I'm not sure I could have finished without her. Thank you, Suz.

I have to admit I wasn't looking forward to this 5K, but now that I've accomplished it I feel like I can do even more than I thought. 

When's the next race?

6 reasons why running is good for you. (Runner's World)

Friday, June 20, 2014

A day on the lake

We officially kicked off summer with a day on the beach yesterday. And though the word "beach" looks different to a California girl, Lake Erie's beachside is just as beautiful and relaxing.

I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day: pristine sky, sunny rays, a warm breeze, the company of my dear family and close friends. I even stole a few quiet, uninterrupted moments by myself and just sat and stared at the waves. 

Beyond the water, on the other side of the lake, sits Canada. How long would it take to swim across, I wondered. Apparently, Steve Wargo of South Euclid wondered the same thing and actually did something about it, becoming the first Ohioan to swim to the other side.

As for me, I'll stay comfy on this side of the lake thankyouverymuch. 

The kids had a magical time, too. Caden found fish bones.

And took a selfie with Mommy.

Izzy made a "chocolate sand cake."

And posed with Daddy (such a diva!). 

We couldn't have enjoyed such a lovely outing without these lovely people. Thank you, Jeff and Julie, for inviting us to spend the day with you!

Julie, a fellow California girl, admires the view.

Jeff has a fantastic eye. You'll always find him with his camera.

Our view from the lake house.

Same view at sunset.

These guys!


This family spent 10 months traveling around the world. (The New York Times)

Links jun20


  • From taco truck to fusion mogul, Kogi's Roy Choi moves on to a new hotel in the heart of Koreatown. (The New York Times)
  • Unknown Pablo Neruda poems discovered in his native Chile. (The Guardian)
  • Can't believe these award-winning photos were taken with an iPhone. (iPhone Photography Awards)
  • The Presbyterian church OKs gay marriage. (The Washington Post)

Photo by Emily Berl for The New York Times.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What we can learn from French girls

A view of Lyon from the top of Fourviére Hill.
All photos © Hilary Bovay.

You know how you meet certain people and immediately you want to be their friend? That's how I felt when I first met Hilary. She's a gal with a certain je ne sai quoi about her. Maybe it's the blonde pixie cut or the waif-like frame or her distinctive style. I told her the other day if David Bowie and Andy Warhol had a baby, she would be that incarnation. "Oh my God, that's like the biggest compliment!" she gushed. 

Hilary recently spent two weeks in France visiting her best friend, Kayla. She came back raving about her adventures, all the amazing food she ate, the gorgeous sites she saw and the impeccable style she witnessed. 

I asked her to write about Lyonnaise street style, especially since she was so inspired by how they do it so effortlessly. Without further ado, I am thrilled to present Hilary's guest post about what we can learn from French girls.

Happy reading and stay chic!


No Fussing Required: Street Style in Lyon
By Hilary Bovay for

Ah, Lyon.

I recently spent an incredible week in France visiting my best friend Kayla, who is teaching English to French students in the city of Lyon. Located 300 miles south of Paris, Lyon is France's second or third-largest city (this is a much-argued topic among the French, so whether it comes 2nd or 3rd depends on who you talk to). It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the country's capital of gastronomy, but is far less well-known. It should be noted that all the locals I spoke with insisted that the city is "better than Paris" and truth be told, it was easy to see why.

Lyon has so many of the amazing qualities of Paris -- cultural happenings, incredible food, jaw-dropping landmarks and beautiful architecture everywhere you walk -- but without the overwhelming scale and ceaseless bustling crowds of the City of Light. 

The Lyonnaise also rival Parisians in their impeccable sense of style. As a photographer, I desperately wanted to capture every instance of fantastic street style that I came across, but was simply too awe-inspired by the sheer amount of fashion-forward city-goers. Instead, I decided to observe them from afar and noted that comfort, versatility and of course minimalist chicness were the crucial elements of Lyonnaise style.

No fussing required.

soft/slouch/harem pants
Call them whatever you please; soft pants are my new favorite fashion trend. I saw them sported in abundance on the streets of Lyon and the style is definitely catching on here. Being on the shorter side height wise, I prefer cropped, culotte silhouettes or soft pants with elastic on the bottom (so my legs don't get lost in a sea of fabric). The French were rocking every style of soft pant imaginable, but particularly ones with minimal patterns and more tapered forms.

Rather than going full-on 70s hippie, French girls seem to prefer these pants for their strikingly offbeat silhouettes rather than their possibility for swathes of colorful pattern. They also paid close attention to fabric choice, as no one wants to be caught looking like they're in sweatpants (I can almost feel Karl Lagerfeld cringing at the thought).

Forget the French stereotype of wearing heels everywhere. Nowadays, comfortable chic is key and shoes are no exception. There were incredible booties to be seen everywhere you looked in Lyon. The booties I ogled certainly had a fair amount of height to them, but nothing like a stiletto (think Cuban heel). Most had great metal and buckle details. 

There were even some bright pops of color -- cobalt blue, scarlet red. I love the idea of having a conservative, neutral color palette in the rest of one's outfit, then setting it all off with a great surprise of color on your feet.

multi-texture moto jackets

Never have I seen such chic moto jackets as those I saw in Lyon! The major trend I noted was that most of the jackets had leather or faux-leather fabric on the arms and canvas for the torso. Some jackets mixed colors on the arms and torso, while others didn't.

My favorite combo was the black arms/olive torso, but I also saw some great blue on blue and black on black. The mix of textures brought moto jackets to a whole new level (particularly when the full leather/faux-leather moto jacket trend is becoming a bit of a yawnfest). The moto jackets in France were a variety of lengths, which I also loved. They seemed very strongly influenced by parka silhouettes and traditional military style.

lightweight scarves
I'm sure you saw this one coming from a mile away, but scarves are the ultimate key to French style*. They are never fussed over. Rather, the scarves the French wear somehow look as though they were just magically swirled on like silk soft-serve. I love the scarf as an alternative accessory, in lieu of the big chunky necklaces that are so popular here right now. In fact, I saw minimal accessories (other than scarves). And feather-light silk scarves are still fun to wear, even in the summer heat! 

*How to tie a scarf like a Parisienne (Vogue).

The French keep it simple. Rarely did I see overdone eye makeup or intense blush on anyone. Instead, the current trend in Lyon seemed to be a bold red lip and nothing more. A clean, moisturized and overall well-cared-for visage is the most naturally elegant beauty statement. Since returning from my trip, I've found myself seeking out higher-quality facial products than I'm used to (but it's worth it, isn't it?). I've invested in a few Mario Badescu products (Acne Facial Cleanser, Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs & Rosewater, Drying Lotion and Oil-Free Moisturizer SPF-17) and have already noticed a great difference (plus, they never test on animals). I'd rather have happy skin that requires less makeup.

Hilary (left) and her best friend Kayla at the Ancient Theatre of Fourviére.

More photos of Hilary's French adventures. (Exposure)

36 hours in Lyon. (The New York Times)

Monday, June 16, 2014


How do you haiku?
It is really quite simple.
Just five seven five.

The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Katushika Hokusai (c. 1829)

NYC in 17 syllables. (The New York Times)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Bravo, my boy!

It takes a village to teach a child the violin. 

In this village you'll find a teacher, the school, parents, grandparents, the music community, the violin shop, fellow students and greats like Brahms, Mozart, Beethoven and Suzuki. All of these individuals play a vital role in shaping the young musician.    

Of course, the greatest responsibility lies with the child himself. The countless hours of practicing, the memorization, the raw chin and sore fingertips and aching back. The forsaking of extra playtime and appeasing the nagging mother (guilty, Your Honor!).

When Caden started this journey 15 months ago, it looked like a crazy up-and-down-and-up graph. There was excitement and curiosity in the beginning (the graph ticked way up) followed by a sobering end to the sweet honeymoon ("What, you mean I have to practice every day?!") with plateaus in between (triumphant lessons and confidence-boosting practice sessions). 

There were also times he wanted to quit. "This is too hard!!" he huffed during one of our early practice sessions. Caden was so frustrated I thought he was going to throw the violin across the room -- or maybe he wanted to chuck it at me! 

Last night's end-of-the-year recital was a reminder of how far my boy has come (how far the entire village has come!). Caden played so sweetly. He is the consummate performer. While most of us get jittery with nerves right before show time, Caden is calm and centered. The moment he walks on stage he owns it. He savors every note, every measure and the best part, he told me later, is sharing the music with his audience. And he does it with such style (the shirt! that tie! those skinny jeans!). 

I was so proud I felt like my heart was gonna burst.

Bravo, my boy. Bravo.

Why the violin brings out my inner Tiger mom.

New favorite restaurant

It was the perfect spring day. The husband and I played hooky yesterday and wandered into Ohio City whilst enjoying blue skies, a light breeze and the gorgeousness of lush trees and blooming flowers (I've learned when you live in Cleveland, you take advantage of as many beautiful days as you can!).

I have been wanting to try The Flying Fig, especially with all the good things I've heard from my foodie friends. We got a table on the patio and already I knew it was going to be a great lunch experience (I always notice the little things: pretty just-planted flowers, white lights strung up overhead, tap water poured from vintage bourbon bottles). 

The gourmet cheese curds (light puffs of Buffalo mozzarella deep fried to perfection) sounded too good to pass up, so I indulged. Meanwhile, my husband ordered the Grilled Ohio Burger (with bacon, Cabot cheddar, mustard aoli and melted onion) and we agreed it was the best burger we've ever tasted.

And so I decided: The Fig is my new fave.      

39 things I love about Cleveland.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

An idiot abroad

If you're looking for a show to watch this summer you must check out An Idiot Abroad**, a hilarious documentary travel series that follows bumbling Englishman Karl Pilkington as he unwillingly traverses the globe.

Though he has no interest in broadening his cultural horizons, Pilkington, who is sent on assignment by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant (The Office co-creators and Pilkington's mates) travels to China, India, the Middle East, Mexico, Egypt, Brazil and Peru to see the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Though Gervais and Merchant spare no expense on gorgeous sweeping shots of places like Petra, Rio de Janeiro and the Great Wall, they usually put Karl up in the grossest hotels in the dumpiest parts of town, force him try the local cuisine (stewed goat face or cow penis, anyone?) and make him hang out with some memorable characters (like completely naked, bendy, Jim Morrison-looking yogis). 

OMG I've been laughing so hard (I was dying watching the India episode). Thanks to Karl, you can travel around the world without leaving your living room. 

**(You can stream it on Netflix!)

35 great travel books. (Flavorwire)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

This week's obsession: dry shampoo

Did you know it's not good to wash your hair every day? In fact, washing daily will actually strip away natural oils and lead to dry, brittle locks. That's because the bubbles in your shampoo are made from harsh ingredients and sulfates and aren't necessary in cleansing your scalp (getting that soapy, foamy feeling is just that -- a feeling -- an illusion of cleanliness). 

Most of us only need to wash three or four times a week (depending on your hair and scalp type). And the longer, thicker, curlier and more processed your hair, the longer it can go between washes.

My beauty fix in between washes? Dry shampoo. Available in spray or powder form, dry shampoo first showed up in the 60s (Twiggy starred in early ads for Minipoo Dry Shampoo) and is making a comeback. I picked up a classic, Pssssst! by Clairol, and so far I like it. It smells fresh and after a few practice runs, it's pretty easy to use. 

Here's a quick tutorial:

don't spray on wet or damp hair.
do spray at least 6 inches away from your scalp.
don't freak out if it goes on white at first. Let the product sit for a few minutes before styling.
do lift sections of hair and spray underneath the roots.
don't apply it like you would hairspray.
do style as usual and enjoy your hair pick-me-up!

Orange lips, cheeks and nails.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Links jun08


  • The video for Kimbra's new single (from her upcoming album The Golden Echo) is now here! 
  • Five reasons why you should think before you click. (The Trees Will Clap)
  • Are you an introvert? Extrovert? Or ambivert? (A Cup of Jo)
  • 10 things you've been doing wrong every day. (CrazyRussianHacker)

Friday, June 6, 2014

Graduation speech

As far as graduation speeches go, I never remember them. Though I've attended six of my own (preschool, kindergarten, middle and high schools, college, journalism school) and countless others, I can't recall who gave the speeches or what they were about. And it's not because I wasn't inspired or grateful. 

I'm a pretty sappy person (I will cry at graduations, weddings, recitals, first birthday parties, white coat ceremonies -- yes I'm that person) so you think I'd walk away remembering at least one wise morsel. I do remember the crying and feeling emotional. The snapping of photos. The slathering of sunscreen and still getting burnt to a crisp.  

This graduation speech, given by a US Navy Admiral at the University of Texas at Austin's commencement a few weeks ago, has been circulating the Internet. It's trending on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms and I think it's worth mentioning. 

Ten life lessons from a Navy SEAL. They're all good. I loved #1 because the lesson is so simple. And #8 really stuck with me. What about you?

#1. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed.

If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack—rack—that’s Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task—mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs—but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

#8. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

As Navy SEALs one of our jobs is to conduct underwater attacks against enemy shipping. We practiced this technique extensively during basic training.

The ship attack mission is where a pair of SEAL divers is dropped off outside an enemy harbor and then swims well over two miles—underwater—using nothing but a depth gauge and a compass to get to their target.

During the entire swim, even well below the surface there is some light that comes through. It is comforting to know that there is open water above you.

But as you approach the ship, which is tied to a pier, the light begins to fade. The steel structure of the ship blocks the moonlight—it blocks the surrounding street lamps—it blocks all ambient light.

To be successful in your mission, you have to swim under the ship and find the keel—the center line and the deepest part of the ship.

This is your objective. But the keel is also the darkest part of the ship—where you cannot see your hand in front of your face, where the noise from the ship’s machinery is deafening and where it is easy to get disoriented and fail.

Every SEAL knows that under the keel, at the darkest moment of the mission—is the time when you must be calm, composed—when all your tactical skills, your physical power and all your inner strength must be brought to bear.

Start each day with a task completed.
Find someone to help you through life.
Respect everyone.

Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if you take take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up—if you do these things, then next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today and—what started here will indeed have changed the world—for the better.


Illustration by Elaine Melko for the Chicago Tribune.

Interestingly enough, the commencement speaker, Admiral William H. McRaven, Commander of the US Special Operations Command, is a person of interest in the Oscar-nominated documentary, Dirty Wars (a must-see, by the way).

Fashion prodigy: the dishtowel maxi skirt

Fashion prodigy strikes again!

This week's inspiration comes from a colorful Cost Plus World Market dishtowel. Seeing that no one was using it, Izzy promptly yanked the towel from the kitchen sink and ran upstairs (I always know she's up to something when she skitters up to her room and the house gets all quiet).

A few minutes later she comes downstairs with her ballet leotard on and gives me specific directions. "Mommy, please make this a skirt by wrapping it around my body," Izzy says as she hands me the towel. "Use a rubber band. And make sure there's a slit!"

And there you have it, ladies and gents: the dishtowel maxi skirt. 

p.s. that pose on the right. Ferosh!

Fashion prodigy: the sheet dress.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Life in miniature

Kinda creepy, kinda cool and completely draws you in. That's how I would describe sculptor Thomas Doyle's wonderfully intricate miniature worlds.     

"I'm interested at looking into this little world and telling a story," Doyle explains. "And making it in this tiny, miniature scene is sort of freezing that story -- something has just happened and something is about to happen and we are only getting that one slice in the middle."

The "what happened?" and "what's about to happen?" aspect of Doyle's work explores fear, uncertainty, secrets and darkness against the backdrop of idyllic American suburbia. Terrific material for a horror novel.  

Video by Cool Hunting.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer reads

The library brings something out in me. I'm like a kid in a candy store and I just can't help myself. So many stories. So many adventures and possibilities. So little time (sigh). 

I'm gearing up for the summer and can't wait to jump into these books. Am I being a bit too ambitious with eight different titles? If I've got roughly 12 weeks of summer, that gives me about a week and a half to finish each book. Doable? I say all things are possible if you've got the will.

A quick rundown of my Summer 8:

Love in the Time of Cholera 
By Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never read any of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's books. But his death this year prompted me to finally step into his magical world. I look forward to meeting Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza and wonder what Marquez will reach me about their ill-fated love. 

"To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else's heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell." 
By Osamu Tezuka

The godfather of Japanese comics, Osamu Tezuka elevated manga to an art form. I wouldn't consider myself a manga fan but I got sucked into this one after the first few pages. Tezuka brings ancient India to life through this graphic novel about the Buddha. I can't think of a better way to learn about Buddha's life and legacy.

There Will Come a Time
By Carrie Arcos

I'm most looking forward to finishing this one because the author is a good friend of mine. I remember when Carrie was dreaming about writing her first novel when we were on assignment together in Africa seven years ago. She followed through and her first work, Out of Reach, became a National Book Award finalist. There Will Come a Time is her second title and follows the story of Mark Santos, a high school senior who navigates his way through grief following the death of his twin sister, Grace.

The Best American Short Stories, 2008
Edited by Salman Rushdie

If I want smaller morsels of literary works the Best American series is my go-to. This summer, you'll find me on the beach reading this one. 

By Cheryl Strayed

Technically this book isn't a summer read as I finished it a few weeks ago. But I included it on my list because perhaps you'll want to include it on yours. Reeling from the death of her mother, Strayed decides to hike 1,100 miles of the Pacific Coast Trail solo. It's a compelling memoir told in her fantastic, irreverent, honest voice. A good read.

Still Life With Bread Crumbs
By Anna Quindlen

A friend recommended this one. The book's jacket cover tells me, "[An] often very funny story of unexpected love, and a stunningly crafted journey into the life of a woman, her heart, her mind, her days, as she discovers that life is a story with many levels, a story that is longer and more exciting than she ever imagined." I love Quindlen's work and the premise of the story sounds like good summer reading to me.

I Am Malala
By Malala Yousafzai

Seventeen-year-old Malala Yousafzai is changing the world. Activist, writer, speaker and survivor of a Taliban's near-fatal gun attack while riding the bus home from school, Malala is like a phoenix rising from the ashes. "I come from a country that was created at midnight," she writes in her memoir. "When I almost died it was just after midnight." I look forward to reading words from the warrior herself.

The Goldfinch
By Donna Tartt

Seems like every powerful, influential woman is reading or wants to read Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. At 771 pages, this one is my most ambitious summer read. I know almost nothing about it (other than it is Tartt's first new book in 11 years and won her a Pulitzer Prize). Palo Alto Online says, "Sometimes you should believe the hype." Well in that case, I'm intrigued.  

What about you? What are you reading this summer?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

This week's obsession: stacked rings

I recently acquired this beautiful coiled brass ring at Anthropologie (by fair trade cooperative MADE and unfortunately no longer available). Handmade in Kenya, this simple yet elegant piece of jewelry is now my summer staple.

You might also like this 18k gold-plated stackable set, this adorable heart and Cupid's arrow, and this custom made heart stack ring.    

Kimbra on plain gold rings.