A Cliched Spring Day, Los Angeles

I took an hour-long sabbatical from my desk to stop and smell spring’s roses. Why save it for a rainy day?

NB: All pictures taken with my not-so-flashy phone camera.

Make Lemonade

Make LemonadePushing Up DaisiesFloral carpet

Between A Rock and A Hard Place

agaveSilver Lining

Palm fringed horizonMade In The Shade

In the shadow of palmsOn Middle Ground

Racing stripeSturdy As A Fir Tree

real firDon’t Gild The Lily

cala lilyKarma Camellia Carma Camelia

A Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose

roses are redHow Green Was My Alley

how green is this alleyA Place In The Sun

Modern Home

 

 

Summer in Australia, 2016

I found myself in Sydney at the height of summer for a very special occasion: my sister’s wedding. That Sunday was absolutely beautiful — rain showers had given way to a sunny day, which led to a stunning evening celebration that I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

In between wedding preparations, I fit in travel around Sydney, Byron Bay, and Melbourne.  Australia thrives; it bursts with talent and pulsates with energy. Those side trips delivered in spades.

Back in LA, feeling a tad homesick, I’ve jotted my top experiences to relive those happy days. I’m here to assist with specific information or tips if you’re planning a trip Down Under. Just ask in the comments section:

MY TOP 5 AUSSIE MOMENTS

  1. ABORIGINAL HERITAGE TOUR, SYDNEY

Ever since the Sydney Olympics of 2000, Australia has amplified its reconciliation efforts with the Aboriginal people. An interesting way to understand their heritage is on the Royal Botanic Garden’s Aboriginal Heritage Tour, during which I learned more in 90 minutes than I did in history class at high school.

Reading about the tour  in a pamphletby chance, I signed up for a Friday visit before my flight back home (tours run a few times a week). That morning, our small group was led by guide/actor Leon Burchill (he starred in Wyrmwood), who shared his knowledge about Aboriginal life, specifically in relation to the Cadigal people, who’d lived on the land we were treading. On a walk through the Cadi Jam Ora portion of the Garden, Leon told us that Aboriginals have a strong attachment to Mother Earth and don’t take any more than is needed from nature. Here, he pointed out lemon myrtle, used to relieve headaches; bottle brush leaves, to flavour food; casuarina trees, to make canoes; and lomandra grass, to make bags. The best part? When Leon played the didgeridoo.

Leon Burchill on the didgeridoo

Leon Burchill on the didgeridoo

Me with the star

Me with the star: Leon Burchill

2. COSMOPOLITAN BONDI, SYDNEY

Yes, Sydney’s most famous beach is beautiful, especially when it is seen from Icebergs’ dining room or the downstairs RSL Club  (both only serve lunch after 12pm, so order a drink while you wait). But, perhaps the most interesting food spots are located a short walk away, on cosmopolitan Gould and Hall streets. We stayed in the recently opened QT Bondi — so hip it sells a beard grooming kit in the mini bar — overlooking Gould, making street access easy (the hotel has no ocean views). The pour-over coffees at Sensory Lab were excellent, as was the coconut cake. Dining at the new Bills on Hall Street was on the agenda (so was dinner at A Tavola), but we missed our reservation as we ran out of time.

Views from Bondi RSL

Views from Bondi RSL

Pour over coffees and cake at Sensory Lab

Pour over coffees and cake at Sensory Lab

3. BYRON BAY, NORTHEAST NSW

Byron Bay is marketed as a mecca of all things hip and artisinal. And it is, when you travel away from its tourist-filled beach, where every accent other than Australian fills the air. I especially loved staying in the Byron hinterland near Newrybar, at Gaia Retreat & Spa (co-owned by Olivia Newton-John), which employs some of the most gifted healers and therapists I’ve met. I highly recommend the Intuition Massage with Gisele Faddoul, as well as the Kahuna massage, best experienced in the outdoor screened treatment room. Meals at the restaurant are fantastic — so fresh and innovative in their presentation and use of superfoods. My favourite meditation spot was on a day bed by the Buddha statue at Samira Lookout. There’s something spiritual about this spot and I hope to return again.

Samira lookout at Gaia Retreat

Samira lookout at Gaia Retreat

Gaia's version of the Caesar Salad

Gaia’s version of the Caesar Salad

Dazzling sunsets at Gaia

Dazzling sunsets at Gaia

4. NATIONAL GALLERY OF VICTORIA, MELBOURNE

Walking to the gallery from our hotel (Ovolo Laneways, located in the middle of Melbourne), we worked up a sweat. Retreating into the gallery from the 40C temperatures made our visit more enjoyable. Jokes aside, the Ai WeiWei and Andy Warhol exhibit is fun and pretty extraordinary. It features 300 works by the artists that find parallel in their production values and methods of social engagement. If you’ve seen Warhol’s Silver Clouds, an interactive balloon exhibit, you’ll like Ai Wei Wei’s Caonima Balloon Bird Balloon of llamas and Twitter birds. Other standout artworks include Ai Wei Wei’s Blossom (2015), composed of thousands of white porcelain flowers, and his political project, With Flowers (2013-15), a collection of photographs taken of the bouquets the artist placed in a bicycle basket outside his studio for every day he wasn’t able to travel without his confiscated passport. The exhibit ends April 24, 2016. Go!!

Melnourne skyline and Yarra River on the way to the gallery

Melbourne skyline and Yarra River, seen along the way to the gallery

National Gallery of Victoria

National Gallery of Victoria

Ai Wei Wei's

Ai Wei Wei’s interactive balloon exhibit

5. IL BACARO

The rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne is not dissimilar to the one that plays out between  NYC and LA. Sydney is the flashier of the two, with her beautiful harbour and world-famous beaches, whereas Melbourne feels more cultured, with her European good looks, art-filled alleyways, and excellent Italian food.

My older brother travels a lot for work and recommended Il Bacaro for a modern Italian meal. We walked into the intimate, white-linen dining room and managed to score two seats at the bar. The food was fabulous: Wagyu carpaccio with dill mayonnaise; charred scallops, made into flat spaghetti, with asparagus; rabbit cannelloni; and a dreamy agave nectar cheesecake made with airy ricotta. After my husband toured the kitchen (when the staff learned of his Italian restaurant in California, they took him by the arm), we finished off a memorable dinner with Amaro.

Cheers to Il Bacaro

Cheers to Il Bacaro

And that, dear readers, is a snippet of my time in Australia.

Dream On: Cirque’s KURIOS show at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, CA

While much of America tuned into the Republican debate last night, I was watching curiosities of a different kind at KURIOS – Cabinet des Curiosités created by the enigmatic Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil. This show may not tour as long as the run for presidency (it ends in Los Angeles on February 7, 2016 before visiting Atlanta, Boston, NY, and DC), but it is a wonderful way to get lost in theatrical alchemy: acrobatics, steam punk fashion, otherwordly creatures, and soaring vocals by the brilliant Greek singer, Erini Tornesaki.

As soon as you enter the Cirque’s big top tent, or the Grand Chapiteau, you give yourself over to Kurios‘ fantastical world of the late 19th century, an era of steam power and engineering that influenced a whole subgenre of science fiction (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne, HG Wells’ Time Machine) and steam punk culture.

Our Kurios scientist is the inventor of a machine that transcends time and space. When the clock freezes at 11.11 — wishing hour — we’re introduced to the main characters in his cabinet of curiosities. There’s an accordion-shaped man; a telegraph named Klara in a hoop skirt that transmits messages; and Mr Microcosmos, the embodiment of the technological process, whose subconscious takes the form of a tiny lady named Mini Lili that lives in his boiler-as-potbelly.

I love Cirque for its contortionists, acrobats, and balancing acts, and in this show, they’re  as amazing as ever. A quartet of bendy ladies dressed as sea creatures effortlessly twist into unreal poses atop a giant mechanical hand. Twin aerialists display muscular strength while arm balancing on a set of rings. Rebounding off of an Acro Net, artists jump, flip, and glide through the air like swimmers in the sea. And just when you thought you’d seen it all, a chair balance taking place at a dinner party is interrupted by a second party happening above, upside down, on the ceiling. Suddenly, two sets of chairs  are being stacked towards each other from opposite directions. Teetering on the brink, they finally touch.

Perhaps the most unexpected act of the show is the finger puppetry, where one hand, costumed in sneakers and a baseball cap, dances to hip hop, swims, and performs skateboard moves on a mini theatre stage — all filmed with live video that’s projected onto a giant screen — before taking off in a hot air balloon. The act ends as a love story (there’s a second set of fingers involved) on top of an audience member’s head. It shouldn’t make sense, but it does – a perfect example of success in bizarre experimentation.

That’s the thing about Cirque du Soleil. It asks us to embrace the unexpected and stretch beyond our imaginations. I’m always compelled to write more, dream bigger, and read fiction after a show (I’m about to watch Oz the Great and Powerful actually). In Kurios, an invisible theatre act forces you to fill the void of the unseen characters whose presence is only made apparent by the consequences of their movements. Sound strange? It is, but it can be as crazy as you imagine it.

Other acts include the gripping Rola Bola that involves an aviator balancing atop a stack of tubes on a swing; a yo-yo extraordinaire (he lends a retro air); an aerial cyclist; and acrobats performing mesmerising synchronised sequences.

The whirlwind two-hour performance comes to an end when the Kurios clock flips to 11.12. As we filed out, I dared the performance to inhabit my dreams.

Photos Martin Girard / shootstudio.ca

Overexposed Malibu, CA

Starting the New Year with the sun on my back, a glass full of bubbles, easy conversation with friends, and an ocean full of glitter is the perfect tonic for a day that usually begins with scribbled resolutions, pregnant expectations, and unnecessary hangovers.

It’s not easy to define Malibu — who knows where it begins and where it ends. It’s more a state of mind, which probably explains my overexposed photos. Cheers to a sensational and memorable 2015!

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

Chinatown, San Francisco, and Happy 2015!

On our way back home from Napa and Sonoma, we detoured through San Francisco’s Chinatown, which meant we had to cross the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a beautiful day — any nips from the chill were zapped away by the sun — and gazing over the swath of San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean felt freeing.

Because it was Christmas Day, Chinatown was alive. Bakeries drew crowds hungry for moon cakes; the alleyways bustled with tourists; and storefronts displayed a motley of knick-knacks: good luck cats, New Year cards, jade bracelets, hologram 2015 calendars. The air resonated with traditional Chinese string music from the strumming busker.

This unplanned side trip turned out to be a happy one. On that note, I wish you all a prosperous and healthful 2015. May it be full of surprise, unexpected detours, and happy outcomes. XO

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

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Happy International Peace Day

Love. You’ll find references to it everywhere, on walls, with family, inside fortune cookies, in latte art.

Love is the antidote to fear. I’m sending a generous dose of feel-good your way to amp up the peace quotient across the world. I hope you’ll pass it on…

Street art, El Paso, Texas, October 2012

Street art, El Paso, Texas, October 2012

Shadows: me and my little sis, San Francisco, February 2013

Shadows: me and my little sis, San Francisco, February 2013

Street art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, April 2012

Street art in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, April 2012

Close up of the above street art

Close up of the above street art

Strawberry Fields in Central Park, Manhattan, NY, July 2012

Strawberry Fields in Central Park, Manhattan, NY, July 2012

Coffee at Brooklyn Roasting Company, DUMBO, Brooklyn, October 2012

Coffee at Brooklyn Roasting Company, DUMBO, Brooklyn, October 2012

Pasted poster, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2012

Pasted poster, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2012

Downtown Los Angeles, July 2014

Downtown Los Angeles, July 2014

Staten Island September 11 Memorial with view of Lower Manhattan, Staten Island, NY, August 2012

Staten Island September 11 Memorial with view of Lower Manhattan, Staten Island, NY, August 2012

Chocolate = love, Red Hook, Brooklyn, May 2012

Chocolate = love, Red Hook, Brooklyn, May 2012

Love locks on Brooklyn Bridge, January 2012

Love locks on Brooklyn Bridge, January 2012

Near the Red Square, Moscow, July 2014

Near the Red Square, Moscow, July 2014

Fortune cookies at Jade Island, Staten Island, NY, August 2012

Fortune cookies at Jade Island, Staten Island, NY, August 2012

Street art, Bushwick, Brooklyn, July 2012

Street art, Bushwick, Brooklyn, July 2012

A kiss from my husband, Sedona, Arizona, November 2012

A kiss from my husband, Sedona, Arizona, November 2012

Roses, From NY to CA, USA

Bowing down to smell the roses means inhaling nature’s most intoxicating scent.

May 2012, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

May 2012, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

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April 2012, Soho, New York

June 2013, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles

June 2013, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles

August 2012, Union Square, New York

August 2012, Union Square, New York

October 2012, DUMBO, Brooklyn

October 2012, DUMBO, Brooklyn

May 2012, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

May 2012, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

May 2012 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

May 2012, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

May 2012, Red Hook, Brooklyn

May 2012, Red Hook, Brooklyn

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July 2012, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Birthday Flowers)

May 2012, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

May 2012, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

April 2013, Santa Monica, Los Angeles

April 2013, Santa Monica, Los Angeles

July 2014, Brentwood, Los Angeles (Birthday flowers from Steph, Andrew, and Ben!)

July 2014, Brentwood, Los Angeles (Birthday flowers from Steph, Andrew, and Ben!)

March 2012, Laguna Beach, Laguna

March 2012, Laguna Beach, Laguna

May 2012, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

May 2012, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

March 2012, Carlsbad, S. California

March 2012, Carlsbad, S. California

May 2014, Huntington gardens, Pasadena, S. California

May 2014, Huntington Gardens, Pasadena, S. California

May 2012, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

May 2012, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

September 2014 in Brentwood, Los Angeles

September 2014, Brentwood, Los Angeles

May 2012, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

May 2012, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

May 2012, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

May 2012, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

May 2012, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

May 2012, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

May 2012, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

May 2012, Williamsburg, Brooklyn