Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiday Season Cards

As the holiday season dawns, one of the things I enjoy doing is selecting the 30+ cards that I will send across the world - remember the ones I sent last year, illustrated by Yoshimoto Nara and dear Fifi Flowers?
This year, I chose these graphic, fun, green cards from Kate Paperie in New York. I also chose some plain ivory-color cards that I will decorate with stamps I bought in Amsterdam - I especially love the paw stamp, which allows Benjy to co-sign my cards without having to dip his precious pads in messy ink.
Finally, on the back of these beautiful, delicate and creamy envelopes, I will apply the spectacular stamp designed for me by Etsy's Asspocket Productions - mention AUREA if you purchase from her store and you'll get 15% off!

Writer's Almanac - my dear, worshiped, adored Oscar Wilde died on this day, Nov. 30, back in 1900; his "Canterville Ghost" is my favorite short story of all times (download it for free here).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Children's Books

With Where The Wild Things Are (which I reviewed here) and The Fantastic Mr Fox, these past few months have brought us true gems when it comes to adaptation of children's books - or rather, masterpieces aimed primarily at children. The likes of Roald Dahl, my absolute favorite writer when I was a kid, and Maurice Sendak, are true magicians, true artists who do not pale in comparison with the greatest writers.
Right now, I am reading a recent scholarly volume, Children's Literature - A Reader's History From Aesop To Harry Potter, by the respected University of California professor Seth Lerer. In this fascinating study, Lerer pays tribute to extraordinary authors such as Lewis Carroll and Dr Seuss, and makes you yearn to rediscover those eye-opening classics. My only regret is that there are not more illustrations (the few we are treated to, such as the one below, are really great) and that none is in color; it seems to me that the imaginary universe of many authors has been enhanced by illustrators (I would hate to read Roald Dahl without Quentin Blake's sharp drawings), or in cases such as Sendak's, are an intrinsic part of the book.
The books that illuminated my childhood were, among others: the Noddy series by Enid Blyton, which got me hooked on reading, Odette Joyeux's La Porte Ouverte, chronicling the live of a little girl learning ballet at the Opéra de Paris, anything by Roald Dahl and later anything by Judy Blume, the Nancy Drew novels, Martine Petit Rat de l'Opéra (which I blogged about here), Kessel's Afghan tale Les Cavaliers, Pipi Longstocking, and more.

Christmas present tip: a beautiful copy of a classic children's book is always an enchanting present...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sesame Street T-shirt

Sesame Street is 40! The classic PBS children's show may be 40, but really, it is timeless. To celebrate its anniversary, American Apparel came up with a special line of t-shirts; I immediately got my little paws on one, of course.
For a little nostalgia and a good laugh, check out Sesame Street's YouTube channel.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New Old Rocking Chair

I found it, distressed and abandoned on the sidewalk. It had most obviously not been taken care of for a long time. I carried it home, sanded it carefully and painted it bright white.
Now all it needs is a cushy pad/pillow for its seat, to make it more comfortable. I haven't found anything on Esty, and am now considering making a custom sized pad using old sweaters. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


The metal door says Members Only. Upon entering, you must sign a discharge of liability. Yet this little Venice "club" is merely a place where you can buy produce, raw milk dairy products and all kinds of foods, some of which are pretty crazy - like the Kombucha featuring "symbiotic fungus"; I'll pass, but my dear friend Stacie swears by it. The dairy products, made with raw milk à la Europe, come from an Amish community, know for its commitment to all-natural methods and ingredients; the Amish also produce an apple cider I'm eager to try.
They have their own oil press on the premises and just bought a mysterious machine they mention with awe, that should allow them to make such products as almond butter...

If you're interested in food, don't miss The New Yorker's food issue, now in stands. Also check out the New York Times's article on so-called edible walls.

Monday, November 16, 2009

More Etsy Loveliness

As I continue to search for X-mas presents on my fave shopping website, Etsy, I sometimes stumble upon items I can't resist buying... for myself.
I was looking for a flower wreath to nail on my door to celebrate the joy of the season, but I wanted to avoid corny Christmas wreaths, with their red ribbons and heavy, plump figure. When I landed on Etsy's New Hampshire Woods Creations, I was smitten - every single wreath was so graceful, in such delicate colors, that I had a hard time choosing just one. Allison, who was taught this art by her grandmother, makes her own dried flower wreaths, among other floral creations. I finally chose the Santa Cruz oregano wreath. When I received the package, a thoughtful present from my mom, I was submerged by the fresh and invigorating scent of oregano. The bliss!

I really needed (yes, really) glass cases, as I hate my Ray-Ban's ugly and bulky case and don't want to scratch them, and as I lost my eyeglass case a long, long time ago. Etsy's Sew Gracious offers lovely, very affordable ($8), handmade eyeglass cases I chose 2 of. Aren't they perfectly exquisite?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Meet Guest Blogger Taocito

Perhaps you are already familiar with my witty comments which I sometimes leave on this lovely blog. My name is Tao, aka Taocito, and I am a traveling pooch. I was given to my owner at the tender age of 2 months and ever since it has been quite the adventure. She took me to Ithaca when she was studying for her MBA at Cornell, and then we jetted off to Mexico. While in Singapore she did have to leave me behind but then she took me to Amsterdam where I blissfully resided for two years.
A close friend of Benjy the Oracle, I enjoy chewing on expensive leather shoes, chasing toys around the house, eating fruit and just living it up in any country my owner decides to move to. I am often praised for my thick fur, approachable demeanor and incredible whiteness. I will be dropping a few lines on this blog to share with you the adventures of a traveling dog and the ins and outs of living with a globe trotting owner.
Hope you enjoy my posts!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Venice Skateboarding Kids

On Sunday, a walk on the beach took me to Venice's new skateboard park. Its was packed with kids, their curvy shadows following the funky shapes of the concrete park. Like many of us, I've long loved the easy stylishness of skateboarders, with their cool sneakers.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


When you think of Kenya, where I spent some years as a child, the Indian community is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Yet there are many Sikhs living in Kenya - the British brought many Indian workers to build the East Africa railroads and to serve in the police forces.
My family was often invited to the home of Kenyan Sikhs - I once saw a Sikh man rolling up his long long hair before putting on his turban, a beautiful and mesmerizing sight. Most of the time, we joined Sikh families for curry dinners and as a result, my mum learnt to prepare curries; they became staples of our own meals. Years later, in Paris, when a friend of my sister's was horrified she did not know how to make the classic French dish "escalopes à la crème", she retorted that she could make curries - and she prepared a fabulous chicken curry to drive her point home.
I always have curry in my pantry; I add it to pumpkin soups, chickpea salads and pretty much anything. I bought this one at Penzey Spices in Santa Monica yesterday.
And a must-read about curry: the fabulous Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors by Lizzie Collingham.

The picture hereunder, taken at my Nairobi school, reflects some of the ethnic diversity wonderful Kenya allowed me to discover and value.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Benjy At The Dog Park

In my ballet flats and Stronghold jeans, I took Benjy to the Venice dog park, where he could have fun with beasts much bigger than him... Can you spot him on all the pictures?

Don't forget - adopting pets from shelters is the way to go!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

French Kids' Friends

For the past couple of weeks, I've been tutoring kids at France Exchange, a Los Angeles institution that has been offering French language programs for over 20 years. Little by little, the house has become filled with all things French for children, including an extensive book collection, with some concessions to local passions - witness the basketball court. It is precisely around this court that you will find the almost life-size figures of some of French children's most beloved characters.
There is the Petit Prince, from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's eponymous little masterpiece, and Tintin with his loyal pooch Milou in tow - for some reason, Milou is called Snowy in the English version of the bande-dessinée (graphic novel/comic strip). Visitors also run into Bécassine, another character all French children are familiar with, though she is not as famous abroad as Tintin or the Petit Prince - now over 100 years old (she first appeared in a comic strip in 1905), Bécassine is youthful as ever.

Sad Update: I was fired. The reason? I am not authoritative enough with the kids - I get the work done, and done well, but I'm not bossy enough. French education could be summed up by this principle, once stated by my high school biology teacher: "In teaching, you can go with the carrot or the stick. I've always liked the stick better."
I'm devastated.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Volunteering With Food Forward

Some time ago, I posted about how, in bounty-laden California, people have been getting together on private properties to pick fruit that would otherwise just rot away. This is done, of course, with the kind authorization of property owners, and the fruit is then donated to food pantries.

I just joined Food Forward here in Los Angeles - "a grassroots effort by Angelenos to help fight urban hunger." And on Sunday, I participated in my first orange pick. With a group of volunteers, we descended upon a garden in Northridge, reaching for oranges packed with sunshine and sugar; we then loaded the fruit-filled crates into an old blue hatch back car. All the oranges we picked will be distributed to struggling people around the LA area.
Writer's Almanac: The great Irish playwright Bernard Shaw, who gave us My Fair Lady via his witty, sharp and just plain wonderful play Pygmalion, died today (Nov. 2) 59 years ago.