Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cupcake War

I was in Beverly Hills yesterday, so I couldn't resist dropping by the two local cupcake nerve centers, Sprinkles and Crumbs. A mere couple of blocks away from each other, these two tiny boutiques vie for the title of the most sought-after cupcake bakeries in the city - and judging by the line snaking out its door, Sprinkles has been doing something right.
In addition to Sprinkles's beautiful key lime cupcake, I decided to get the most chocolate-y cupcake at both places for a comparative study - namely the Dark Chocolate cupcake at Sprinkles and the Brownie Cupcake at Crumbs. Truth be told, I was disappointed by both: the texture was spongy, the taste was sugar more than chocolate, which I like rather bitter, and the frostings were so very sweet that I found them nauseating... Sigh.

(Pssst - for a real chocolate treat, go for RöckenWagner's chocolate muffin, with its dense texture and just the right balance of bitterness and sweetness - kind of like me...)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dance Books

After the intensive reading I did during my trip, I took delight in leafing through a couple of text-light dance books that featured mostly photographs...
In Royal Ballet: 161 Images (above), former principal dancer Johan Personn snapped black and white pics of fellow dancers, in rehearsal, in class or in the wings of theaters. With tender admiration, he captures the intensity, the concentration and the grueling work that ballet demands.

John Fraser's Private View: Inside Baryshnikov's American Ballet Theatre features beautiful pics of a young Mikhail Baryshnikov, often with the members, both dancers and non dancers, of the company he directed - including his dog Tim, who seemed to have his own personal spot in every studio at ABT...
Like Personn, I'm guessing Baryshnikov has a taste for photography, as he is publishing a book of his own pictures celebrating the great Merce Cunningham - who died this summer, much to the dance community's chagrin. On the occasion of the book launch, the dancer America has taken to calling Misha will be signing copies in Santa Monica in a couple of weeks... I'm wondering whether or not I should go...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Chandelier In My Room

I have written time and again about my passion for Etsy, its talented, crafty and kind designers. Well I can now add a new Etsy seller to my list of favorites: Little Love Letters sells beautiful and surprising vinyl decals that you can apply to your walls for instant style. I had a hard time selecting a single model - I didn't want to overdo it in my smallish room, but finally went for an ornate chandelier, that is elegantly reflected in my curvy mirror and contrasts with my room's pop yet sober style.

I also had to change the blinds in my room, replacing the metallic ones with light, natural wood ones. Why the change?A certain four-legged someone, in fits on rage directed at the mailwoman and at Otis, his nemesis from across the street, destroyed the original blinds with his beastly fangs...
The lower part of the window is also now covered is textured Japanese paper, that lets through a good deal of light while keeping Benjy's enemies away from his alert gaze...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Blue Lanvin Dresses

It's that time of the year again - the Barneys New York warehouse sale in Los Angeles... (Remember the Marni heels I bought there last winter?) This time, I went for two dresses, both blue and both casual numbers by Lanvin with exquisite details.
The first one is an ankle-length cotton dress, in a bright and unusual cobalt blue that my pictures sadly betray. I love its delicate frayed silk trimmings - also found along the long slit on the left side of the dress. They're really the Lanvin touch on what could otherwise be a very standard item. I imagine wearing it to the beach or to dinner parties, with flip flops or with a fine piece of jewelry such a baroque pearls.

The second one is a denim dress from the Lanvin and Acne jeans collaboration (amusingly named Lanvin [Hearts] Acne): strapless, with a pencil-skirt shape from the waist down, it features delicate pleats on the hips and the breasts. I find it versatile, very sleek yet not generic at all. Marked down from $820 to, believe it or not, $120.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

In My Suitcase (2)

On airplanes, on the Thalys between Paris and Amsterdam, in the garden at Lafitte, this past month I had a lot of time to read:
War and Peace, a treasure I discovered many years ago, but which I was thrilled to read again in the acclaimed translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky; I loved it all over again, and was smitten with Natasha Rostov anew - dear, dear Natasha...
La vie rêvée des plantes, a cryptic and haunting modern Korean novel by Seung-U Lee - I just adore its cover!...
Jacques Drillon's tribute to the great harpsichord player and baroque music specialist Gustav Leonhardt, whose parents gave him a choice after dinner every evening when he was a child: to help do the dishes or practice his instrument: he soon became a virtuoso...
Doris Lessing's The Grass Is Singing: set in South Africa her first novel is a tale of frustration, heat and murder...
The letters of Marguerite Yourcenar, 1951-1960 - the author of the sublime Mémoires d'Hadrien, her erudition, her lawsuits, her adoration for animals...
More letters: those my dearest Colette wrote to her lover Missy; Colette's genius for writing comes through spontaneously, so fresh and whimsical...
Sam Savage's novel Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife tells the story of a wise rat who lives in the basement of a used books store, and devours his way, both figuratively and literally, through books that transform his life... Books have also transformed mine; they are my haven and a path towards more knowledge.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In My Suitcase (1)

I am back in Los Angeles! As I unpack, I thought I'd share some items with you, straight out of my suitcase.
I'm mostly a fan of American cosmetics, from Neutrogena to quirky organic brands, but when it comes to sunscreen, the French have got the best - many ingredients haven't been FDA approved yet, mainly to give American firms the time to do research and find similar molecules; Vogue did some thorough research on this a couple of years ago. Though I've always been a fan of Anthelios's sunscreens by La Roche Posay, I gave an emulsion by Avène (above) a try and frankly, I'm hooked. It's very light on the skin, smells nice, and its SPF 50 strength protects my white complexion from sun damage.
As for Lipikar, a wonderful moisturizer that's my favorite in France, I just can't resist its fresh and zesty scent.
Also in my bags: many many presents for my friends, such as fancy Roger & Gallet soaps, pots of special artisanal mustard (with herbes de Provence), fashionable yet very traditional pink biscuits de Reims - the recipe is over 300 years old...
And books! I'll show you my reading list in a couple of days.

One this I wish I could have brought with me is Yamazaki's green tea slushee with its anko topping - I always enjoy this summer treat at their Porte de La Muette outlet, an award winning pastry shop that offers French treats with a Japanese twist.

Friday, August 07, 2009

St Petersburg On The Amstel

The Hermitage, St Petersburg's legendary museum, has started a partnership with an Amsterdam venue by the Amstel canal. I heard about this on NPR's Art Talk - thanks, dear Edward Goldman! By now, regular readers on AUREA know about my passion for Russia; I actually just spent a couple of weeks re-reading War And Peace. So this weekend, as I am spending a couple of days in Amsterdam, I rushed to see their first lavish, exhibition, and wasn't disappointed.

Many divine items were displayed, especially ball gowns, dress uniforms and all kinds of accessories like silk shoes, spectacular jewelry, feathered fans, exquisite hats. I adore the children's adorable costumes of course... There were also collections of paintings and photographs.
I bought a bunch of postcards (click on the top pic to enlarge) and a Danish novel, The Tsar's Dwarf, about a dwarf who was given as a present to a Russian tsar.
Can you spot my reflection in the poster?

Thursday, August 06, 2009