Paper Crush: San Francisco

October 7, 2013

Filed Under : Uncategorized

I Heart SF

One of the hardest things about moving to San Francisco from L.A. was leaving behind my beloved stationers, Urbanic Paper Boutique in Venice and Sugar Paper in Brentwood. Why? Well, for one, because I’m obsessive about paper and design (expect regular updates on my own letterpress and calligraphy projects!), and two, because these two stores are (were) my go-tos for gifts for all occasions. From birthday cards to custom invites, baby presents to thank yous, and just general tokens of affection, Urbanic and Sugar Paper carry some of the most unique items around. So, naturally, upon departing I asked my friends at each post for some S.F. recs… Lavish in Hayes Valley, Union Street Papery in Cow Hollow, Soiree San Francisco in Pacific Heights, and Urban Mercantile in Cole Valley.

After recent visits to Union Street Papery and Lavish (where I discovered an entire wall devoted to Rifle Paper Co. goods!), I now have a new crush: S.F. inspired design. From greeting cards by San Francisco’s staple stationer Hello Lucky!, to brilliant maps and paper suites with cable cars and Golden Gate Bridge silhouettes, I think it’s safe to say that many of you will be getting some S.F. love in the mail from me very soon. Here are a few of my faves available online (including picks from Urbanic and Sugar Paper, of course!). -A-

My Skincare Faves

October 5, 2013

Filed Under : Beauty

Skincare Super Stars


In my teens and twenties, I was blessed with great skin. I made it through all those awkward high school and college years without any devastatingly bad blemishes and thought I was in the clear… then I hit 30. Now, adult acne is just plain mean. Just when you should be hitting your stride, you’re suddenly smacked with confidence-busting breakouts. On top of that, my sensitive skin seemed to become more prone to eczema flare-ups as an adult than it did in my youth (which could be attributed to added stress or any number of other factors), and I was looking for anti-aging ingredients as much as anti-acne. Many, many trips to my dermatologist, a bevy of facialists, and hundreds of product trials later, I’m happy to say that I’ve finally found a skincare combo that works for me. Everyone’s skin is different but I was extremely fortunate to have had direct access to some of the amazing women behind these lines, as well as an excellent dermatologist, through my work at InStyle and I hope that, by sharing a few of the tips and skin-saving products I picked up along the way, I can help someone else even out their complexion and get their glow back. -A-

1. CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser: My dermatologist introduced me to CeraVe, a widely available drugstore brand. This face wash is super gentle, removes makeup without stripping my skin, and is packed with hardworking ceramides and hyaluronic acid.

2. Kate Somerville Quench: I started going to Kate Somerville about 10 years ago and Quench was one of the first products she turned me on to. I use other serums now and then but always seem to go back to Quench. It absorbs nicely and makes my skin super soft.

3. Josie Maran Argan Oil: For me, this acts as a nourishing eye makeup remover and eye cream in one. After I wipe away my eye makeup (even waterproof mascara!) I pat an extra drop around my eyes for added moisture.

4. Renee Rouleau Sheer Moisture: A total lifesaver! Chock full of vitamins it’s anti-aging yet won’t clog pores. I use this day and night.

5. Josie Maran Protect + Perfect Broad Spectrum SPF 40 Tinted Lotion: This is currently only available in a set from QVC but it’s well worth it in my opinion. Very subtly tinted with a high SPF, it’s easy to layer and perfect for a dewy, no-makeup look.

6. Smith’s Rosebud Salve: Beloved for a reason. It’s perfect alone or as a moisture-rich gloss over your favorite lip color.

Not Pictured:

Ziana: By Rx only, I use this at night after cleansing and before moisturizing. It’s great for both keeping acne and wrinkles at bay.

Dickinson’s Oil Controlling Towelettes: I began using these after reading that they’re one of Drew Barrymore’s blemish-fighting secrets. I use them when needed but especially love using them to quickly cleanse skin after a workout.

Notte d’Estate (Summer Night) Out in Florence

July 15, 2013

Filed Under : Florence - Food - Italy - Piazzale Michelangelo - Travel

piazzale michelangelo

When my friend Duccio (whose family has owned my Florence apartment building for generations), invited me out to see his friend’s band play on Friday night, I enthusiastically said, yes! Having been on my own, sightseeing for the majority of my days, I was desperate to get out of tourist-ville and have drinks with normal, young people.Me: “Where exactly are we going?”
Duccio: “It’s sort of an outdoor space”
Me: “Ok, well, what should I wear?”
Duccio: “It will be very hipster.”

Italian hipsters?! I couldn’t wait. Now, keep in mind that cars aren’t allowed down many of the town streets during certain hours, so Duccio asked that I meet him “about a five minute walk” away. Sure, whatever. I’d do anything to go out at that point! Luckily, my Italian phone was up and running so my buddy G-Maps was there to help me find my way down the dark cobblestone streets to the main city loop, where he picked me up, right on time, in a boxy old Fiat Panda (“This car is very classic Italian,” he told me). Before heading to the concert, Duccio drove me to see some of the areas outside the city center. First stop, Piazzale Michelangelo, a sort of look out point with spectacular, sweeping city views and an energy all its own, with hoards of kids, street artists, and cafes overlooking the Arno River. From there, we drove through some of more posh areas of the city, with one gorgeous villa after another—the Beverly Hills of Florence. Then we headed off to see the band. Turns out, that “outdoor space” Duccio mentioned was actually—wait for it—a castle! Only in Italy. We walked through the courtyard to an open area in the back where a makeshift bar was awaiting, surrounded by tables, strings of multicolored lights, and hipsters (complete with handlebar mustaches, suspenders, and their dogs by their sides). We ordered Negronis and made our way through the crowd to see the band. Duccio’s friends greeted us. Hugs all around. Introductions. No one really speaks much English. No problem. Fortunately for me, with the music going, the conversation automatically downshifted into what I call, Universal Crowded Bar Sign Language, in which I happen to be fluent. You know, someone signs, “Do you have a light?” You shake your head, no. Someone signs, “Do you want to get a drink?” Obviously, yes. You sign, “I’m going to the restroom. Be right back.” They nod. Someone tries to speak in your ear, “Blah blah, blah blah blah blah.” You smile and nod, which is sign for, “I have no idea what you just said but it’s not worth repeating because I can’t hear you.” After a while, one of Duccio’s friends pulled out a lighted Frisbee and we migrated to a stretch of lawn to play in the dark. No English needed for this game. When it ended, we joined more friends at a table near the bar where they were hand rolling cigarettes and chatting away. Notably, there was not a single cell phone in sight. Novel idea, everyone actually talking to each other, laughing, drinking, and smoking. No one looking for someone better to talk to, no one checking social media. On our way home, Duccio asked if I wanted to stop at the 24-hour bakery, the local version of late-night fast food. Well, of course. Who wouldn’t want a cream-filled pastry at 2 a.m.? It was a perfect cap to a whimsical summer night. -A-

Pensieri di Viaggio (Travel Thoughts): On Dining Alone At A Hotel

July 13, 2013

Filed Under : Florence - Food - Italy - Piazza Della Repubblica - Travel



So, here’s the thing: it’s fine. Do you kind of wonder if people may think it’s, let’s say, an open invitation? A little. Do you care? Not really. After two easy nights of grabbing pizza with a friend, and cooking dinner at home, I found myself alone and decided it was time to formally dine out. Of course, I’ve been getting cappuccino and sandwiches solo by day, but dinner at a pricey ristorante is a different story. Wanting to treat myself for no apparent reason (Hmm, maybe I should make one up? Best gelato eater? Most likely to go broke? Sure, that deserves a reward.) I splurged and went to Hotel Savoy. Now, a hotel was probably not the best choice in hindsight, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Great reviews, close to my apartment, and people must eat there alone all the time, right? Plus, I had passed it earlier in the day and knew I could find my way home in the dark…after some vino. I marched in confidently enough, requested a table (Host: “Two?” Me: “No, uno.” Host: questionable smile), and sat down on the patio, overlooking the Piazza Della Repubblica. I tucked my purse under my seat thinking, I’m not going to be one of those annoying people relying on their iPhone for company. But, then, when the extra place setting at my table was swiftly cleared, and my wide-grinning waiter came to take my order, I suddenly felt it. A pang of embarrassment. Is he laughing at me and my solo-ness? My American-ness? Or is he just a happy person? At any rate, he convinced me to order l’antipasto, il primo, and too many glasses of vino. Being alone makes you feel obligated to order more than you want. As if you’re occupying such valuable space that you had better make it worth their while. My meal was delicious though. Salmon crudo over fresh asparagus lightly dressed with olive oil, salt, and herbs. Linguine with clams perfectly al dente. And, even though I said no, grazie to dessert, a plate of almond cookies and honey pecans arrived at my table with compliments. I received some other compliments as well. Sitting by yourself on the edge of the Piazza leads to quite a few winks and stares from men in too-short shorts and too-tight jeans. The kind of stares where you avert your eyes but, just when you think it’s safe to look back, you realize they’re still staring and now you’ve unintentionally made eye contact. The kind where you suddenly find yourself thinking, maybe that guy from Houston sitting one table over will pretend to be my father or something and I can make a run for it. Harmless, hilarious stares. In the end, I had a beautiful night out. Summer evenings in Florence are magical. You feel like you’re on a film set, with pink skies, street musicians, and children launching these little light toys into the sky that look like fireworks. Surrounded by sculptures and the hourly ringing of church bells, you just have to smile and think, maybe the waiter was just happy. I mean, I would be if I lived here. -A-

piazza della repubblica

pink sky

Buongiorno! First Days in Florence

July 11, 2013

Filed Under : Florence - Food - Italy - Travel

mushrooms and pasta


fruits and cheese
fish and olives

After a long journey from San Francisco, I happily arrived at my new Italian home, just a cobblestone’s throw from Il Duomo, Florence’s grand cathedral, and Michelangelo’s David, which resides in The Accademia Gallery. (More on those later!) I decided to spend my first full day in Florence on foot, exploring the city. This led me to (1.) cappuccino, (2.) gelato, and (3.) Mercato Centrale. Clearly, eating was my main priority after two days of airport food! Mercato Centrale is like a juiced up, Tuscan version the Farmer’s Market at The Grove in Los Angeles. Its entrances hide behind the rows of stalls at the San Lorenzo market, a sort of street fair with vendors selling mostly leather, paper, pottery—basically, souvenirs and designer knock-offs. You have to hunt around for a while until you find your way into Mercato Centrale but it’s well worth it. The market bursts with the rich colors of ripe produce, aisles of candied fruits, cured meats, wine, breads, oils and vinegars, cases of cheese, olives, freshly made pastas, and seafood (heads still on!), and macellaio, butchers preparing everything from pork sausage to wild game. To top it off, there’s an order-at-the-counter eatery wafting with the smells of hearty sauces and panino, with a line as long as the market itself. I picked up a bundle of flowers wrapped in colorful tissue paper to spruce up the new pad, and a bottle of limoncello because, well, when in Rome…or Florence. -A-
dinner and street

Dinner on a rainy evening, thanks to Mercato Centrale. View from my window.