Monday, March 30, 2009


I realized that on this blog, my fascination for Russia and Iran has overshadowed another culture I am in love with, Japan's...
When I was living in Hong-Kong as a teenager, my mum traveled to Japan and brought back in her luggage many Japanese treasures; even the simplest things were exquisite, and even the most precious items, such as lacquer trays, were simple yet refined. She also brought back many Japanese novels, and I delved with delight into the works of of Kawabata, Kenzaburo Oe, Kobo Abe (a genius!), Ibuse, Inue, Soseki Natsume, Tanizaki and more. Years later, when I was 21, I spent a summer in Japan that I remember as a dazzling and intense experience.
Last week an article in The New Yorker made me want to read more about Bunraku - an ancient type of puppetry.
I got this book by the great Japanese scholar Donald Keene...

New to Japanese literature? Start with a novel with Kawabata, before graduating to Tanizaki's weighty Makioka Sisters, preferably in the translation by Edward G. Seidensticker.
Another wonderful way to delve into Japanese history and culture is Kimono: Fashioning Culture, by Liza Crihfield Dalby.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Dance classes are a great place to learn about all kinds of remedies, ointments and what not... A fellow ballerina, who is also a somatician and a Pilates instructor, told me that when she has migraines, which I am prone to as well, she rubs some Tiger Balm on her neck - on the sides of the neck, going towards the hollow place right behind the ears where the jaw ends. She told me that white flower worked even better than the regular camphor and menthol in Tiger Balm, so I bought a little bottle of that. It also works wonders to massage sore muscles.
Another great buy is the Salonpas patches; loaded with camphor and menthol, you apply them like a band-aid on the place that hurts and it will just heat the pain away.
Like more and more people, I like avoiding heavy duty medication - do you have any tricks for any kinds of aches and pains?

Update: based on the comments I'm getting, it seems many of you are interested in migraine. Here's a recent article from the Los Angeles Times about migraine triggers such a temperature and changes in air pressure.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Makool's Wrap Skirt

With my discovery of blogs came the discovery of many, many talented designers who sell their amazing, handmade creations via such sites as Etsy. I like the idea of buying from individuals rather than from chain stores. It's not just about wearing something unique, but also about sustaining a community of like-minded individuals who share their skills and ideas with us, and work with a ferociously independent vibe.
Among those many designers, Makool immediately became one of my favorites, and I have at long last ordered one of her items. This denim wrap-skirt is actually made of bamboo - pandas' favorite snack is also one of fashion's favorite earth-friendly new fabrics. The skirt arrived a couple of days only after I placed my order, wrapped in paper and with a sticker to funny that I debated whether or not to actually open the package - I always have the same problem when I order from super tasteful Artycho.

What are your favorite Etsy stores?

Small left photo by Makool

Monday, March 23, 2009

Smells Like Soap

On Venice boulevard in Mar Vista, there is a place called Soaptopia where they handmake soap right in front of you, with all -natural ingredients, before giving their products quirky names such as Staying A'Lime, Sage Against The Machine, Walt Mintman and LA Squeeze...
I find that the heavy duty detergents in regular soap really makes my skin dry and itchy, so I have become very partial to detergent-free cleansers - Neutrogena's classic Cleansing Bar is also a good choice; if you want to avoid aggressive agents, make sure you use something that is free of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or its close relative Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES).
No such ingredients at Soaptopia. I visited them today and bought a rosewood soap as well as some Lavender moisturizing oil - regulars on AUREA know about my everlasting quest for the perfect moisturizer... I bravely stayed away from other goodies, such as their natural sponges, lip balms, and shea massage candles.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Eid Mubarak!

Eid Mubarak, Happy New Year!
On the first day of spring, Iranians around the world celebrate the Norouz festival, their new year. Last year, my Norouz post focused on my experience in Iran, where I lived as a baby, in the late 1970's; this country has remained very dear to my heart ever since.
This year however I'd like to focus on the future. As President Obama just reached out to Iran via a video message, I am elated to think today may be the dawn of a new era...

More on Iran...
Listen to a hilarious interview of the American-Iranian comedian Maz Jobrani, on NPR...
Watch Majid Majidi's new film, The Song of Sparrows, a lyrical comedy focusing on a lively and moving family, that I just loved (to be released in New York April 3, in Los Angeles April 10)(trailer here)...
Read Reza Aslan's How To Win A Cosmic War, out April 21 - I'll talk about it on this blog again soon...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Another Tag

I was tagged by both Marie and Hila.

what is your current obsession?
Russian culture and history

what are you wearing now?
a long-sleeved black tee and James Perse skirt, white Dr Scholl slides

do you nap a lot?
I try not to...

who was the last person you hugged?

if you were a tree, what tree would you be?
A cherry tree, because of their divine flowers and exquisite fruit

what's for dinner?
avocado and whole-grain bread, bittersweet chocolate

what was the last thing you bought?

what are you listening to right now?
I'm obsessed with John Cage's 44 Harmonies.

what is your favourite weather?
balmy spring breeze and sunshine

what time do you usually wake up?
my alarm clock is set for 7.15 every day

what is your most challenging goal right now?
figure out my life

say something to the person who tagged you:
Marie, you're such a talented and sensitive darling!
Hila, I admire your dazzling intelligence.

if you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you want it to be?
Malibu, California (pic above)

favorite vacation spot:
I dream of going back to Russia

what movies can you watch over and over?
Clueless, and the only season of the series Action

what is your favourite tea?
Japanese green tea

what are you reading right now?
Magical Chorus, a book about Russian culture from Tolstoy to Solzhenitsyn, by Solomon Volkov.

what is your current guilty pleasure?
watching the 2nd season of the series Mad Men, downloaded on iTunes

where is the landscape of your mind?
the garden labyrinth from Alice in Wonderland

you have one wish:
shhhhhhh, wishes must be kept secret...

Monday, March 16, 2009

What You Get For $3

I love going to yard sales and on weekends I always visit a couple in Venice or Santa Monica on my way to my ballet class. Home-made brownies or cookies are also often for sale, and I never even attempt to resist them.
Buying second-hand clothes is not only cheap, it is also a good way of, well, recycling...
This Sunday my yard sale foraging was very successful, albeit brownie-less. Here's what I got for a mere $3: a Levi's plaid shirt (the tag reads: 99% cotton, 1% metal), a cream silk Banana Republic top with exquisite details such as those discreet pleats, an a very soft long sleeved black Roam tee.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Benjy's LA Diary

Sure, I love naps, but I'm also enjoying life in Malibu...

I met a rat!

I went of a ride in Mary-Laure's beautiful red convertible, Red Chief! But when is she going to remove the hard top so that we can drive around with my ear in the wind?

I had some yogurt! Maybe it's because I was born in Normandy, France's butter and cream capital, but I just love all things dairy. Licking clean yogurt containers is always a treat.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Beautiful Treats

These treats are so beautiful that I cannot bear to slice them up and eat them...
These California avocados are one of many varieties available at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, and with their shiny, taut skin, they remind me of the avocados that grew in our garden in Kenya - eating them is one of my very earliest food memories - what are yours?
Can you guess what the other picture is? Candied mini-tangerines from Provence, a typical local delicacy that my foodie mum sent me.

These days, I sometimes make a gourmand snack I invented, the Banana Choc Oatmeal:
Make oatmeal.
Add a pureed banana.
When the oatmeal is still hot, add chocolate chips.

And there, you have a chocolaty, fruity, warm and healthy snack.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sunday, March 08, 2009

M83 And The LA Phil

Months before I moved to Los Angeles, I read about the eclectic, modern programs that the LA Philharmonic's musical director, the great Esa-Pekka Salonen, offered the audience. Breaking away from the repertoire, the orchestra indeed often plays scores by all kinds of young composers, and I was very excited to attend those concerts. I love it when cultural institutions break with tradition!
Last night, for the first time, I headed for the home of the LA Phil, a fab and crazy structure designed by Frank Gehry, for a very special event - the orchestra had invited M83, a French rock/pop/electro group that usually performs in nightclubs. After the orchestra played one of my favorite works, Debussy's La Mer, Anthony Gonzalez, the leader of M83, headed for his Apple computer and electronic gizmos to play songs with the orchestra - magical vocalist Morgan Kibby joined them for one song. It was lyrical, noisy, moving, polished and fun all at the same time.
To celebrate the event, KII Arens designed a limited edition poster (above) that now graces my room with its bright colors.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Style Tag

Gabbi tagged me!

Describe your style
Very sleek and casual, with a quirky detail (ideally punk/Victorian, like my memento mori cuff links)
What are the staples in your wardrobe?
Black American Apparel tees and hoodies, slim April 77 jeans (picture below), Dr Scholls, hats, stripes, black and white cashmere cardigans (2nd pic below), my Yamamoto dress that can be dressed way up or way down, white shirts I buy in London
What's your signature look?
Denim micro-skirt, Dr Scholl slides, a white shirt
What inspires you?
Trying to be myself
Who is your fashion muse?
Audrey Hepburn, 1920's flappers
Favorite purchase of all time?
The Lucien Pellat-Finet cashmere shawl my mum bought for me
Biggest splurge?
Hmmmm... Possibly my (used) Yohji Yamamoto black apron dress
What's your beauty routine?
I wash my face with Cetaphil, use Anthélios SPF 50 sunscreen every day and am still looking for the perfect moisturizer for my dry body. Any recommendations?
What jewelry do you never take off?
The De Beers diamond ring my parents, my sister and my grandma gave me for my 30th birthday.
What are you wishing for?
A huge gray sweatshirt, Atypik's Be Tough tee, this double chain ring, and more
What are your obsessions?
Leotards and warm-up gear for my ballet classes

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Happy Birthday Birthday Birthday!

March 3 is the birthday of my dear, dear sister. Here's a picture of her, in my mum's arms on the day of her very first birthday party, in Kenya, where my family moved just weeks after my sister was born.

March 2 is Benjy's birthday - the beast turns 8! - while March 4 is the birthday of my wonderful friend Kelly.