The Double Life of Veronique

  — Architecture and interiors

I love the bolster pillows and bedding in orange velvet?!!!

Movies like Midnight in Paris and The Grand Budapest Hotel highlight the cutesy-ness of European life. After living in Europe for a while, I've come to appreciate the gritty aspects far more.

Most buildings are more rundown and weathered. There are plenty of dark cavernous spaces.

A European portico.

The Double Life of Veronique shows the shabby chic, less idealized qualities of Continental life. Since it's produced by Europeans, there's no intention to romanticize Europe in the way American directors do. The story is about two girls, one in Poland and one in France, who look exactly alike.

I remember thinking about a potential doppelganger in the universe. When I was in kindergarten, there was a headline that some Earth-like planet was discovered within a habitable distance from a star. If there are planets out there just like Earth, there should be people living on these Earth-like planet, potentially exactly like me.

I really enjoyed the lived-in '90s interiors. The homes were bohemian in style, with plenty of plants and art effortlessly thrown together.

Dried flowers and a crooked lamp.

Crooked spaces create neat shadows that let light stream through.

Lovely how eerything seems to be thrown together. Even the corner of the rug is tucked.

Crooked lamps everywhere.

I didn't know bottles could be arranged this way! Podium style.

The real Europe: shabby chic all over.

I love this messy setup

Small details are fascinating from an American perspective, like the shape of this door.



  — What this city reminds me of

I could have enjoyed a coffee at Caffe San Carlo if I'd caught the flight to Turin.

In college, I studied abroad in Paris. When I arrived, I was in total shock. Nothing bad happened but I was scared.

I wasn't the only one. My friend Saleet who I met through the program called her father immediately upon arrival begging to go home. In the handful of years we'd live, we hadn't ever been in such an unfamiliar place. I was surprised how scared I was.

It's not like we hadn't traveled abroad. Saleet's mom lived in Israel and my parents took me to Taiwan quite frequently. It didn't make any sense but we couldn't stop crying on our first few nights.

Of course the three months turned out to be great, but it took a while to warm up.

There was a lot of pressure back then to hop from city to city while in Europe. Saleet and I decided to book a trip on Easyjet. We found a the cheapest flight. It was to Turin, a place we hadn't heard of.

A week before the flight we looked for accommodations. That's when we realized we didn't have any money to go on this trip.

Instead of getting on that flight, we ended up at Vanves flea market. It was one of the first warm days of the year. We wanted to be outside and since we couldn't afford to do anything, selling our belongings seem to be responsible. Also, it was within walking distance so we didn't have to spend money on the métro.

Could have enjoyed the Piazza San Carlo in Turin.

The market had stalls full of vintage items. At the very end was an unauthorized section of sellers. There were no tables, just people on the ground with items arranged on blankets. That's where we set up shop.

'No one is going to buy any of this stuff!' I resigned right after placing our items and laid on my jacket to enjoy the sun.

A Swedish girl and her boyfriend stopped by and actually looked through our pile of crap. She tried on a shirt, one with billowing butterfly sleeves. I got it from Forever 21, but this was before the shop went global. It was made from linen, a material they'd never use today.

Seeing her wear my shirt, once a favorite, made me realize how good it looks. She tied up the sleeves and created an entirely new way to wear it. She looked really good in it. Too good.

'How much?'

'8 euros'. I didn't want her to have it.

She looked at it again. '6?' I refused and she went away.

Fifteen minutes later, I saw her approach us from fifty meters away. I quickly stuffed the shirt in my backpack when Saleet had her back towards me. I wasn't ready to admit how jealous I was.

She came to us and said she had the 8 Euros.

'Oh, sorry. You're too late. Someone just came buy and bought that shirt.'

My friend was surprised. 'Really?! When did that happen?' No, we didn't sell anything. You would know if we did. Why is she trying to blow my cover?!

It was a really awkward.

I'm surprised how incapable I was. I couldn't figure out how to travel. I couldn't figure out whether I was selling something or not.

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A Successful Career

  — A sign of the times

Imagine getting paid to wander Paris.

"The movie shoots in Paris. There’s no script."

"We want to build the character with you. It’s a process. Three-month rehearsal, four-month shoot."

It's no longer good enough to land the job of your dreams. La La Land shows that becoming an actress with a leading role isn't enough--an ideal job is one where 'work' is about being yourself.

This change in 'success' is probably the result of reality television. I like how social values morph over time, but I can see drawbacks from having such high expectations for work.

After I graduated, I had expectations for work. I expected my employer to be emotionally stable, I expected coworkers to be supportive and I assumed projects were created to progress the company. I didn't know any better.

If I didn't have such high expectations, I would've had a better time. Instead, I was critical and conflicted.

People may never come close to expecting their job to revolve around them, but there seems to be a change in what career success means. I kind of like the emphasis on success being defined by how much someone is themselves, even if it's very ego centric.

How much money are you awarded from your 'shining' personality? It seems to suggest a lot more than a pile of expensive things.

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French Pressing

  — A update from yesterday's experience

A successful cup today and a snap of Seattle clouds, perfect mood for coffee

I got a french press just for the coffee beans I'd purchased right before leaving Seattle.

It worked so much better than the drip method I tried a day ago. I just need to add more beans next time but the flavor was closer to what I had at the Storyville cafes.

The beans expire within two weeks of roast date. When I purchased them, seven days had already passed. I'd normally feel ripped off but the coffee is so good that I'm going to finish an entire pack within the remaining days.

I like the simplicity--the roaster only offers one roast so I don't get confused about what to get. There's an extent to how much I want to think about coffee.

Since I've been trying different coffees in Seattle, I've come to notice the differences in caffeine highs. The artisan roasters (Stumptown, Caffe Umbria, Caffe Vita and Storyville) never give me the jitters. I feel awake, alert and calm. Can't say that about Starbucks.

I don't want to think about coffee at all. But outside Seattle it's hard to get a delicious cup that doesn't cause problems.


Yuki Masuzumi

  — Decorative arts of India

"I want to become a bridge between India and the rest of the world."

Local architecture goes unnoticed. Even if the shapes and patterns are unlike anywhere else in the world, natives of any location don't take notice at how special their surroundings can be.

I've been admiring the photos captured by Yuki Masuzumi. Originally from Japan, Yuki has a perspective that allows her to notice the quirky and beautiful details of daily life in India. She's been there for over a decade, but the place never gets old.

"I work for fashion industry since 1999 and moved to India in 2007. Earlier I used to work for Japanese trading company in Delhi."

"I was core member of Calico for the last four years but I left that company then started my own business this year. I coordinate product design and manufacturing of garments between Japanese designers/apparel companies and Indian artisans."

Yuki introduced me to Calico, a Japanese label that creates beautiful clothes made from Khadi, the traditional Indian cotton cloth. I wish my entire wardrobe was made of it. I once bought a white Khadi cotton dress and ended up wearing it for the following eight summers. It finally tore. The cloth is so light and it was the only thing that kept me cool in the summer.

"My mother is a professional dressmaker and had her own label. I started posting photos because I want share with my friends who never know real life in India."

Yuki's intention, to share life in India to people who will never know what it's like, has been achieved in a way that delights people beyond her friends. Her collection of images are rare glimpses of everyday life. For people who enjoy variety, differences in style and culture, Yuki's snapshots are one the few places where we can actually observe the unique beauty of a far off place.

View Yuki's daily images at @yuki_masuzumi.


A Ruined Morning Ritual

  — Accidental learning

Took a walk in my neighborhood this morning to see what changed while I was gone. My gym got re-branded so now there will be live djs playing while people work out. There was a large poster of a lanky guy with a beard.

I made a terrible mistake this morning. I brewed my coffee with the wrong method.

Right before leaving Seattle, I went to Storyville to grab a bag of beans. I love their coffee but unlike hipster coffee places around the world, this one wasn't using any fancy cones or contraptions.

I just assumed that I could brew these beans the same way I've seen in most coffee shops, with a Hario V60 dripper. How could it go wrong?

"Storyville also brews their coffee differently. They brew their medium roast coffee in a press pot, a method they believe retains all the oils and flavor from the coffee beans." - Real Food Traveler

After my cup this morning, I learned that it can go very wrong. I was alarmed how much of a coffee snob I've become. Overall, it was educational to know that brewing methods come in and out of style and that coffee can taste extraordinary made with a less popular method.

After experiencing Seattle coffee standards, it's hard to go back. No matter how nice the interiors are in nice coffee places that keep opening up, I haven't been to a city where there's good coffee to the degree Seattle has.


The Zen of Waiting in Line

  — Finding peace during a dreaded activity

Flying over Mt. Rainier and Canadian permafrost, not a human civilization in sight

I've waited in eight different lines today. On our way home to Berlin we had a transfer through Paris. Not only did me and my husband wait in multiple lines for airport security and boarding, but there were lines to get onto buses that transported us to the planes, and there were lines for customs.

It wasn't until my very last line, at the grocery store, did I start realizing the space that these lines provided.

A girl three customers behind asked the cashier to open another lane. There's something about checkout lanes in the supermarket, I get so competitive about getting into the right one. 'Oh, should I go over to the new lane?' By the time the additional cashier arrived, I had finished placing groceries onto the conveyor belt.

'Why is there such an urge to choose the quickest line?'

'I can get out of here faster and get on with my life...' Which just means I'd rather fill my time with other things... useless activities of my choosing. How about step back, relax for a moment and not get into doing anything at all?

The endless line at the Vatican, a great place to relinquish yourself to a generous amount of 'doing nothing'. I was eager to fill my time with as many experiences crammed into a short stay so I didn't get into the Zen of this line.

Filling all my silly as it is, I cannot help but be driven by the same things others are. I can pull out my phone and find something mildly entertaining to keep me away from the 'dreaded' emptiness of waiting.

Whether it's news on what's unjust in the world or celebrity gossip, my head space is used to being occupied. I feel 'productive' when my mind is filled with thoughts. Fortunately, I lost my sim card so I had to wait in line without the option of filling my headspace.

During my flight, I watched a movie on the Met Ball, The First Monday in May. "If you see too much, you don't see anything at all." Director Wong Kar-wai mentioned as he offered suggestions on the exhibition design. Recently I've been overwhelmed by internet news. None of the information I've picked up benefit me in any way except to keep my mind busy. I get angry at what's unjust in the world, I fantasize about celebrity lifestyles after glancing at a gossip headline.

In line at the grocery store, I felt thankful. It was a rare opportunity to enjoy the space I had.


Sundae Regrets

  — Starting the day not right

Reflecting like this eagle I spotted on the Pacific shore...

I want to write a note to myself on how I feel now. A week ago, I had purchased a jar of fudge to go with ice cream.

Each of the past few evenings I've had an ice cream sundae. My stomach feels terrible in the morning when I wake up. I start the day stressed thinking how I'm on my way to diabetes.

When evening comes the gross discomfort will be forgotten. How can I remind myself? A written note doesn't capture how bad it feels. Is there a way to record this feeling?

I would love to remind myself later.

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Unbounded Possibilities

  — Finally coming up with ideas of my own.

A drawing of a photo I liked from a real estate site.

I haven't given up on my dream of having a nice home. Recently, I've been reading a book on bathrooms by Waterworks founder Barbara Sallick and I studied the English homes in The Arts and Crafts Country House by Clive Aslet. I've researched many styles of design and interiors to understand what I want in a home. Drawing has been the best method in uncovering my preferences.

I don't have a background in anything creative so drawing is all new to me. It allows me to pay attention to forms in a way I'm not familiar with.

Usually I sketch rooms and buildings from photos and sometimes real life scenarios, but today, I sketched from my imagination. It's as if all the ideas I'd collected over the past months boiled down into an entire room.

My imagined bathroom.

I can pinpoint where certain design concepts originated, although I wasn't conscious about it when I envisioned the room. Now I see the influence from a riad I saw a couple months ago. The mirror frame was inspired by details I found on a Gustavian cabinet in a Swedish antiques book. The shelf idea came from a room designed by Sophie Buhai.

The sketches in my notebook are terrible, but the exercise of sketching has allowed me to retain design concepts. Somehow they all get jumbled and placed in a room overtime.

Of course my imagined bathroom is highly unrealistic because the toilet sits so far from the sink. Of all the apartments I've stayed in, none have the sink more than a couple feet from the toilet. I think that's due to plumbing since toilets are not like furniture, you can't just move it where you want it.

But why not?

I'm tired of the sink-toilet configuration. Right now, my current apartment has the toilet sitting between the sink and bathtub. There's no room for a side table, no place to put drinks, or a phone or a magazine. Maybe it's too gross for people to discuss, but the toilet deserves more customization. I hope to put more consideration into the design of that experience.

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Super 8 Austin

  — What happened to the roaches?

'Duty, Honor, ....Texas'

Last weekend, I flew to Austin to attend a wedding. I had booked a room at the Super 8 downtown for four nights. It was strangely cheaper than any in the area. While prices were $200+ on average for a hotel room, Super 8 was $60 a night.

A week before, while checking to see if the hotel had parking, I came across terrible reviews on the hotel. Some complained about cockroaches and bad service while others mentioned how loud the neighbors were.

Every so often good reviews popped up. There weren't many neutral reviews which made me question the truthfulness of reviews in general.

Am I going to have a terrible time? Will my husband find it comfortable? The good reviews seemed less hyped. People who enjoyed their stay just said they had a great stay and the rooms provided everything they needed.

I was bracing myself for the worst. I was ready to face the cockroaches, I was prepared to settle for rude customer service. I was even ready for several sleepless nights with loud drunk neighbors.

During our stay we didn't see a single cockroach. There wasn't loud music, nor was there unwelcome service. The whole time I was anticipating that a roach or two would pop up. I spotted a dot on the floor in the bathroom one night and was both relieved and reluctant to find that it wasn't a roach.

Also, what kept me up one night was the anticipation of loud neighbors. If I heard someone talking loud outside our door, I was expecting it to lead to a louder annoyance, but any noise I heard only remained for a couple minutes.

Unfortunately, we didn't experience anything close to the stories online.

A puddle at Pedernales Falls: My husband and I were well rested enough to go on several hikes in the Austin region

It seemed like there was a conspiracy to make the place look terrible. If the lowest rate of the hotels in the vicinity was $200, I would be mad as a hotel owner if there was one that offered rooms way below.

Having worked one summer in a four star hotel I know there's no additional value staying in rooms that are more than standard. The color scheme and interiors might look nicer, but the number of people who have slept in the beds, touched the furniture and floors remain the same.

The location was better than all the other hotels downtown. Most hotel accommodations were located in the city center west of the highway the divides Austin. We were located East of the highway but within walking distance to all the same attractions. The restaurants and bars near us catered to a more local crowd.

There weren't $1 shots and screaming drunk people. We were able to find several restaurants and bars where we could relax and enjoy an evening.

If I were to visit Austin again, there would be only one hotel I'd stay: Super 8.

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