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Natural Kitchen and Home

I wanted to redecorate my apartment with small touches to freshen up the space and add some of my personality and style to the décor.  Crossing off the usual cookie cutter home furnishings big box stores or large online retailers, I searched online for décor and furniture boutique that offered unique and modern home furnishings.   Specifically I was looking for an area rug, arm chair and small side table to decorate a nook.   I was happy to find an online boutique called Natural Kitchen and Home that offered an eclectic selection of stylish, modern and unique furniture and home furnishings.  An added bonus: they offer a 10% discount off your first order if you use discount code FIRST10 when you check out.

Here are the items I chose. A little French inspired of course!

Vintage Inspired French Flea Market Table

Poeme Collection Alsace Ice Blue Area Rug

 (4’ x 6’ Hand-spun 100% Wool)

Townsend Gray Linen Arm Chair

Abstract Watercolor Decorative Pillow

Thank You, Tony

Anthony Bourdain holds a special place in my life. The content he has brought to the public’s attention has been an important asset to my growing knowledge and appreciation for different cultures. As I mentioned in my previous post, once the travel bug hits, all I want to do is consume myself in experiencing foreign places, lifestyles, food, people, etc. Of course traveling first-hand is the best way to see any culture, and over the past 5 months I’ve been lucky enough to have had two very fulfilling trips to Paris and Costa Rica. But, since there’s only so much traveling one can do (considering there is a stable job and a limited amount of disposable money involved), Tony’s No Reservations is an outlet for me to get my travel fix…and an inspiration for my next trips.

Beyond satisfying the travel addict with me, Tony’s philosophies and raw, realistic observations provide an acute sense of whichever culture he is exposing. There’s no BS; he’s blunt, honest and knows what he’s talking about. His ideologies have opened my mind in a very humbling way. He is also hilarious, a New Yorker, and a flat-out cool guy. Every show is an experience, a learning opportunity, and most of all entertaining. My top picks: Paris (the 100th episode), Brazil, El Bulli, Vietnam (any of his 3 episodes), Brittany, Rome, Penang, and Spain.

Here are some of my favorite lines from Anothony Bourdain over the years:

Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one’s life.

Perhaps wisdom, at least for me, means realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.

On Southeast Asia: “This part of the world really messed me up. It’s the condiments here, the chilies. Once you have that, there’s no going back.”

On eating seasonal food in Italy: “They don’t talk annoyingly about seasonal here, they just fucking do it.”

While eating Laska in Penang: “Imagine a world without traditional fast food outlets, the usual suspects clogging up our mini-malls. Imagine we had individually owned and operated joints serving stuff like this all over America. Can you imagine how delicious that would be?”

On Rio de Janerio: You have to have some serious problems to not like it here. Pork. Caipirinha. Beach. Life is good.

And of course, his final thoughts on the last episode ever (which was based in Brooklyn!):  “It’s been a wild ride. A lot of miles, a road sometimes smooth, sometimes hard and ugly. And I guess I could tell you that if you look hard enough, that just next door is just as interesting as the other side of the world, but that’s not exactly true. If I do have any advice for anybody, any final thought, if I’m and advocate for anything, it’s to move as far as you can, as much as you can, across the ocean or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in somebody else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”

Travel Addict

The travel bug has hit again. It tends to come around right after an amazing mind-opening trip that was rich in cultural differences…or simply if I’ve been in one place for too long. Right now it’s the former, being that I just returned from a sublime trip to Costa Rica. In one week, my friends and I packed in a large amount of activities (from zip-lining to hiking to jumping off waterfalls to sunbathing on the beach) and visited four cities/towns, revealing very different parts of the country.  It seems as if I was in Costa for much longer than a week; it was an extremely satisfying trip. A photo diary is soon to come. Now the only question is: Where to next? Southeast Asia has been on the top of my list for a while, as well as the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington, British Columbia), a Brazil/Argentina trip. So many places to go!

In the meantime, I’ll be watching lots of episodes of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, reading travel essays, and appreciating the worldly, eclectic culture outside of my front door in Brooklyn.

JE VOUDRAIS…

Commes des Garcons newest addition to the Play collection: “Black Play” for Spring 2013. The black and gray printed shirts come in 5 different versions, the one below being my favorite. Je voudrais maintenent s’il vous plait.

 

T-shirts, especially for women, seem to have become more and more prevalent and stylish–no longer just for casual days-lounging around-catching up on netflix. When styled-up and accessorized, it’s the perfect staple to your super-chic, chill outfit…and incredibly comfy. I’ve always been a believer in prioritizing comfort in almost everything I wear–when one if comfortable, one is more confident, which of course leads to being ones most attractive self. Under a leather jacket and paired with skinny jeans, booties, and a beanie, this can easily be translated to day or night.

My Photo Diary: Trieste

My Italian grandmother is visiting for the holidays and her presence always makes me think about my amazing heritage from one of my favorite places in the world, Trieste. Right on the border of Italy and Croatia, Trieste is a beautiful city where the views are outstanding and there is a pure, sophisticated grittiness that is extremely unique. It’s very eastern Europe meets western Europe, and has cleaned up a lot over the past few decades. I finally got to visit in 2009 with my mom, aunt, uncle, and cousins–what a special experience. This is authentic Northern Italy. No tourists, no Americanized restaurants and stores– just a truly beautiful home to many people, including my family members, and home to Illy espresso, one of my favorites! Here are some photos from my trip.

Holiday Shopping ~ For Myself

I love the holidays in New York. There’s something very unifying and magical about walking outside in the crisp December air along beautifully lit streets and constantly hearing some rendition of a Christmas song, from a saxophonist outside a subway station to a radio playing outside a shop, the music and holiday spirit is in the air. Everyone feels that same whole-hearted warmth that only seems to come about around this time of year (in NYC at least…).

I took the day off from work and spent the day shopping in Soho with the intention of buying gifts for my parents. However, what ended up happening (as it always does when I go Christmas shopping) is that I stumbled upon some great finds for myself, many of which I couldn’t refuse. Most of these Godfather-esque offers I found in the jewelery display at Brandy Melville, a store which is normally hit-or-miss for me, but that I always pop into just to check out the scene. Today was very successful & I’d like to share a few of my favorite items–they’d make a great gift for someone!

The necklace and 2 bracelets are from BM, all under $10 each–they are extremely affordable and pretty unique. You can find them on www.brandymelvilleusa.com or at their Soho shop on Broadway off Broome st.

 

 

Hemingway: Post-Paris Recovery

As always when I return home from Paris, I cling to anything and everything I can in America that has some semblance of France. Reading books and watching movies that are set in the City of Light, drinking red wine with dinner every night, cooking some classic dishes, like roasted-herb chicken and seasonal veggies, and getting properly dressed-up before leaving my apartment (even if it’s just to run across the street to the drug store).

One of my go-to books to read once I return from France is the epitome of a memoir of an American in Paris, A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. His “true” way of writing and conveying the essence of Paris is incomparable. While reading his extremely descriptive prose, one gets transported to the streets of Paris in the 1920s, sitting in a cafe and passing through Gertude Stein’s house on your way back from the Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore. I believe you can only truly appreciate the spirit of what he is describing after having visited Paris. His acute references can be easy to miss or fully understand unless one has experienced the magical city through his own eyes. The truest statement, and what is regarded as one of Hemingway’s famous quotes, says it all:


If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.


Hemingway has always been a inspiration to me and will forever be one of my favorite authors. Here are a few other quotes of his that I adore and that sum up his style of writing basic, true statements:

The world breaks everyone, and afterword, some are strong at the broken places.

I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.

Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.

There is no friend as loyal as a book.

Ways to Spot an American in Paris


How You Enter a Store.

It’s considered very rude to enter and exit a store or a restaurant without saying “bonjour” and “au revoir”. Most businesses here are small and intimate, so to walk in and ignore the shopowner/worker/waiter can be seen as very impolite. When walking into someone’s small cheese shop, it should be regarded as if you’re walking into someone’s home. You would never walk into someone’s home and walk right by them to go to their fridge (I hope). The exception here would be big department stores or grocery stores like Monoprix. Other than that, it is vital to enter with a truthful “Bonjour, Madame”. One day at the market in Montmatre I asked for a taste of the Comte and an American woman budged up right next to me and shouted at the vendor in English, “Can I taste also?”–not saying hello and speaking in English–Mon Dieu! The shop vendor responded to her, “c’est mieux avec un bonjour” (it’s better with a “hello”).

Using a Fork With Your Right Hand.

The French hold a fork with their left hand and a knife with their right hand, and do not put down the utensils while eating (unless, maybe, for a sip of wine). This way of eating does make sense, as opposed to what many Americans do, which is holding the fork in left and knife in right while cutting something, and then putting down the knife and switching the fork to the right hand. Not only does this leave a mess on the side of your plate (or table), but also takes away from the grace of the meal–manners are important here. This method has also proven quite helpful while eating salads–the knife acts as an aid to fold the leaf of greens around your fork. This is very important since another big faux-pas in France is cutting your lettuce!! Don’t, it’s not meat.

The Shoes That You are Wearing.

This one especially goes out to men. If you are not wearing leather shoes or trendy sneakers, then you are definitely not Parisian and are probably an American. I know this sounds a bit stereotypical, but I literally did not see one man in all of Paris in every arrondisement that was not wearing either of these. Women can get away with more, but if you want to fit in, always go for a chic, leather or suede boot.

Speaking in English.

This one is obvious, but it honestly flabbergasts me how often people don’t even attempt to speak French to waiters/shop-owners/clerks. A basic “bonjour” and “merci” go a long way–it’s respectful of the culture to at least greet someone in their native language. Any attempt is muchly appreciated by the French, even if it’s only an “au revoir, merci”. I was eating dinner and three girls walked over to the table next to me and barked at the waiter from across the room, “Do you have French Onion soup here?” I couldn’t believe me ears. Not only did they not greet the waiter, but they were speaking English, and very loudly in a quite tranquil environment. Then they went on to ask for their picture to be taken by him, and then asked again when they realized part of his finger was blocking the lens. Incroyable.

*The stereotypes that French people hate Americans is a very ignorant statement–anyone would hate people that act like that and disrepect the culture–no matter who is disrepecting and who is being disrespected. (It just so happens that many Americans tend to be myopic when it comes to culture and are too naive to realize their actions… a bit of a catch 22, I suppose).

You Are in a Rush.

Parisians take time to do things properly. There are no to-go cups or take-out food in Paris, the exception here being crepes and sandwiches on baguettes during lunch. Overall, the French will sit down every morning for un cafe and maybe a croissant or tartine. There is never a rush to leave or to get a check. This applies for every meal. Unlike the high customer turnover in America, which pretty much pressures you to leave the restaurant as soon as you’re done with your meal, in France you are welcome, if not encouraged, to linger and stay at your table as long as you’d like. A very stress-free environment does wonders for your state-of-mind and view of life.

One Man’s Trash…

Yesterday on my walk home I stumbled upon a huge pile of books that were thrown carelessly onto the curb in front of a large apartment complex. There were a few people rummaging through the near-500 book collection that stood before me. Considering the mound of “trash” was far enough away from the actual pile of trash bags, and considering I noticed Hemingway and Proust at first glance, I decided to devote some time into rummaging through these books with my neighbors. It turned out that an old man had passed away in his apartment and the building porter dumped all of his books outside next to the trash. The owner of these books must have been an extremely intellectual man–one of the most impressive, diverse collections I’ve ever seen. Not only were there a plethora of the classics–from novels to encyclopedias to exposes by philosophical thinkers–but there were also many books in French, German, and Hebrew.

 

I picked up a lovely French book titled La Chartreuse de Parme.Written in 1893 by Stendhal, the novel is fairly easy-to-read and a great way for me to practice my French reading comprehension (I leave for Paris in a little over a week!). I always try to get my hands on French books so long as they were originally written in the language. This rule of thumb should be applied to any book, by the way. As my English Professor in high-school once said, a text should only be read, if possible, in the original language that it was written it. Translations are never completely accurate and the essence and flow of the text will be sacrificed. I definitely noticed the difference from reading L’Etranger (The Stranger) by Albert Camus in French after having read it in English. Enough of my semi-pretentious rant… point is, books are treasures even if they are found in the trash.

Comfort of Home

As the seasons turn, I’ve thoroughly been enjoying the drop in temperature, but unfortunately have been feeling under the weather the past few days. I decided to take a trip home to Westchester to relax, escape from the hustle & bustle of the city, and try to sooth my very sore throat with the comfort of home.

I am very fortunate to come from such an amazing place–to me, it’s the epitome of a “home”.


A very peaceful, Max.


A plethora of books on travel, food, and love.

Fresh eggplants from Mom’s garden.

There’s no place like home.