South America

My dream for ringing in 2013 was to go someplace warm and tropical in the face of our foggy San Franciscan winter and countdown to a new year bathed in heat. For months the dream of a tropical getaway during a global celebration was so enticing that by December it had become almost all-consuming. It’s almost impossible to believe that our trip truly happened but here it is nearly 4 weeks since we got back. To say it was a whirlwind adventure is a true understatement in every sense of the world. My friend Rachael and I ventured to South America with the goal of beaches, caipirinhas, and Rio de Janeiro in mind. After leaving early on Christmas morning we had nearly 6 days to travel around and explore the NYT’s #1 place to visit in 2013 (both of us saw this article for the first time the day after we got back home – HA!). It really is a very strange experience to flip-flop between two extreme weather conditions. Going between the dead of winter to the heart of summer makes packing feel unnatural. Packing a suitcase full of summer dresses and bathing suits while you’re currently wearing 3 layers of sweaters is…odd.

Some of the highlights from our time in Rio (Christ the Redeemer, swimming in Ilha Grande and New Years on Copacabana)

Some of the highlights from our time in Rio (Christ the Redeemer, swimming in Ilha Grande and New Years on Copacabana)

Of course the Brazilian landscape is…intoxicating. I’ve never seen such lush greenery and mountains that look so otherworldly. The way that the hills roll and peak feel like they were plucked right out of a fairy tale. I will say honestly though that Rio was not quite the tourist destination that we had initially anticipated and I think that this is only fair to point this out to any other travelers thinking of spending a tropical retreat in Brazil. I will say (and admit that it was quite foolish) that we had read about the crime and dangers of Rio but felt that it was a big tourist destination and thought that we’d be travelling to the version of Rio consisting of beaches, samba, girls from Ipanema, clubs of Copacabana, and of course, Christ the Redeemer protecting over all. Weeeeell… the city is very dense and very populated and of course this means that there is a lot of crime so take that into consideration, and when you are in Rio during one of their biggest holiday’s, you should expect that there will be some shifty characters about. And the city is so large that there really isn’t one particular nucleus for tourist areas, the places you want to see and experience are all over the city and very much spread out. So take this also into consideration when dodging the “children of the night”. Cabs are essential – this is not a city to walk around in at night. But there are still beautiful points. The city architecture is an eclectic mix of South American and European influences that harken back to the countries Portuguese heritage. Often times you can walk along European style monuments in a Parisian-type square right next to the beach line. Incredible.

Buenos Aires: Recoleta Cemetery, Tango Show, Cafe Tortoni, Pretty Rachael

Buenos Aires: Recoleta Cemetery, Tango Show, Cafe Tortoni, Pretty Rachael

After ringing in the New Year amidst a 16 minute long firework show directly on the beach surrounded by other carioca’s decked out in white (symbolizing good luck for the coming year) Rachael and I headed to Buenos Aires for 4 days. Arriving in Argentina was like a breath of fresh air. I truly wish that we had planned more time in this amazing city. True to the rumors, it really does have a very European feel and layout. In BA not only did we see a fantastic live Tango show, but we bought custom leather jackets, consumed mountains of Argentine beef and Malbec, saw firsthand the city’s ongoing admiration for Eva Peron and walked amidst the crypts of the countries elite. The Argentinian people were by far the friendliest people and most welcoming that we had met and I strongly suggest to anyone who goes to South America not to miss this wonderful country.

Imperial Palace at Petropolis, Sunbathing on the beaches and ports of Buzios

Imperial Palace at Petropolis, Sunbathing on the beaches and ports of Buzios

After 4 days in Buenos Aires, Rachael and I went back to Brazil to visit some of the smaller towns. We stopped by the Imperial city of Petropolis and saw the Summer home of the Royal Family and then afterward went to Buzios, the beach town retreat of Brigitte Bardot in the 1960’s. Buzios is an incredible getaway about 3 hours away from Rio by Bus and a MUST-SEE! Buzios was truly the tropical retreat we had been waiting for and full of other Brazilian’s escaping the bustling city as well. Overall in the 2 and a ½ weeks that we were in South America we got sunburned many times, drank a lifetimes worth of caipirinhas, saw incredible sites and met some wonderful people. My favorite moment of the entire trip was our day in Ilha Grande. Rachael and I took a bus about 3.5 hours south to a beautiful island dotted line of the Brazilian coast and took an all-day boat tour. We drank cheap beer, swam in the ocean and in between listened to Samba music played by a little 4-piece band on the boat.  Check out the video below to see for yourself! Sitting next to us was a group of VERY fun, VERY flamboyant gay boys and the biggest impression I will take away from my time in Brazil is just how true the spirit of the Carioca is. Play any music remotely near them and everyone knows the words, sings along loudly, and dances until their heart’s content! Because any opportunity to stop and enjoy the pleasures of life needs to be taken with both hands. Brasil.

Lessons to Learn When You Join an Ad Agency

After having about a month of Media Planning in a world class agency under my belt, here are a few quick lessons I’ve learned along the way

1. Sobriety is NOT WELCOME
Expect to go out to a lot of Media Events, Publisher Meetings or wine-and-dine sessions where the party doesn’t stop! Also, embrace the keg on tap in the middle of the office. Its there for YOU! And never be surprised when you find a collection of shot glasses in your desk from the previous owner! Drinking in the office still happens at Ad Agencies. Its just mostly beer this time.

2. Math Skillz
All those lessons that you snoozed through in school? Maybe you should have taken better notes yeah? But most importantly, don’t doubt your abilities. Its your own insecurities that will fruition into truth. Never doubt your self.

3. Timing is Everything
There is no rest for the weary here. In fact sometimes it can feel like you are going at double speed. Everything is go, go, go. The faster you work, the better! But I have to be honest in that I’ve found that to be the most refreshing part. You can expect to get approvals the day you send in a submission. Such a change considering the background I came from.

4. Youth Rules
This has to be one of the youngest offices I’ve seen, let alone been in. The oldest person in here must be what?! 40?? But thats not a bad thing by any means. I feel like I am surrounded by my peers all the time and I feel like everyone is on an even footing. However, I will admit that it is a little strange to think that in a few years, I could be a senior account exec!

5. Expect to have A LOT of fun!
After only one month, I’ve already been to an Inter-Agency Bowling team, a Boozy SF Trolley Bar Crawl put on by MySpace, and next month is Ladies night at the Spa. And this is all covered by Publishers! I can hardly believe it. Also, don’t shy away from having a bean bag toss competition in the middle of the day with the set up in the middle of the office. The basketball hoop set up near conference room 8 is also a lot of fun 🙂

6. The Sky’s the Limit
There is no ceiling in this industry. Hard work and creativity will always be rewarded. As long as you have both the world is your oyster.

Disco Bowling and Boozy Trolley Ride all within a two week period!

Movin’-and-a-Shakin’

Isn’t is extraordinary how much your whole world can shift in only a few days?
I’m always so surprised at how much can change in a relatively short period of time.

Its been almost two years since I posted this, and I’m more than willing to concede that since that time I’ve learned so much, taken on incredible responsibility, realized exactly what I am capable of and grown immeasurably along the way. However, there always comes a time when you feel the need to take on more.
I’m ready to take the first steps into my career path.
I’m ready for the next chapter.
Hence my immense excitement at the following announcement! So long old job! HELLO NEW ONE!!! I can’t say exactly which company I’m going to be working for (except that they are one of the largest in the world) and I can’t really say what exactly I’ll be doing – not on a public forum at least, but I can say that my new industry will mirror something along the lines of what these people do. I really can’t believe my good fortune and incredible luck. I’m so happy to utilize all my interests and integrated marketing training as well as years and years of pop culture knowledge into a paying J – O – B! What more could you ask for?

But as always (for me) with change comes sadness. I really will miss a lot of the people I have worked with and grown to admire. I am so fortunate to have forged some lifelong friendships and connections. Some of the people who I have worked with over the past couple of years have mentored and guided me through moments when I really needed some encouragement and have continually given me sound, professional advice. I will be forever grateful! I’m saddened at the thought that I won’t be able to see them on a daily basis, but so happy that I had the chance to meet them at all! Thank you so much work friends! I will forever be indebted.

But now I turn my sights to brighter and wider horizons. I’m so excited to see what the future has in store. I can only see possibilities.

Tea For Two

Sometimes I feel so blessed to live in a city where there are so many creative and fun outlets. Anything you could possibly want to do or see is readily available.
One Saturday afternoon my friend and I were out and about in the city and decided that we needed a little break to rest our weary feet. However, we weren’t interested in having a full-blown lunch.
We needed a TEA TIME!

Crown & Crumpet Tea Salon

Surprisingly there are a number of Tea Houses in San Francisco that cater to those looking for a light bite and slightly more pizzazz than your average Starbucks. In San Francisco you are most likely to visit Leland Tea Co. or Samovar, but Rachael and I were looking for something a little more authentically English, and high tea at the King George Hotel or the Sir Francis Drake can run you around $50/person – a heavy weight on our light wallets. We decided to visit Crown & Crumpet Tea Salon and split the High Tea Service for One. Not only is C & C deliciously girly, fresh and pink but it is a feast for your feminine eyes. Every surface is swathed in light florals, their comfy sofas surround a most inviting hearth and their selection of teas compliments every little girls fantasy princess tea party (my favorite flavors are, “Alice’s ‘Drink Me’ Tea”, “Marie Antoinette”, and “Keep Calm & Carry On”) C & C’s selection of tea sandwiches are also quite delicious and not your run of the mill cucumber sangies. My favorite flavors would have to be the red pepper and pesto, Chicken Curry and the Dijon Turkey – yummy! The whole space is warm and inviting and being situated in the middle of Ghiradelli Square, you already feel like you are being treated like royalty. I would highly recommend C & C for any birthday parties, baby showers or just…because!

Lovejoy's Tea Room

I had so much fun at C & C with Rachael that the next weekend I decided to hit up one of the most popular Tea Houses in the whole City, Lovejoy’s. I went with my mom after we walked through the DeYoung’s Masters of Venice exhibit (which was incredible!) Lovejoy’s is a decidedly more authentic tea room. Stepping through the doors you truly feel as though you have been transported to a war-time London sitting room. You are almost overcome at all the floral patterns and lace and embroidery. Lovejoy’s scones are huge and delicious – almost worth the trip in and of itself. And their tea service for one is abundant to say the least, complete with tons of sandwiches, salads, and fruit. I can’t imagine what their service for two or three is like! Also their bottomless pots of tea left a soft spot in my heart! I highly recommend either room to visit as a cute way to catch up with old friends over a light bite a warm cuppa. You can never be too old for a tea party!

All Hallow’s Eve & Dia De Los Muertos

My Spooky Specimen Table with Pumpkins underneath

Anyone who knows me knows that I live and breathe for Halloween. It is by far my favorite holiday EVER! I feverishly anticipate every October 31st and prepare for this night by soaking in all the harvest and autumn inspired surroundings. It feels like the entire month of October is one big build up that only fuels my passion for this night/holiday. I can’t explain how or why I have this passion inside of me for one night of the year, but whatever it is – it has dug its nails in deep and over the years I have just come to accept the undeniable joy I get from the rituals surrounding All Hallow’s Eve. I have learned how to indulge my inner/eternal child by falling head first into all the pageantry and decoration and tradition that truly makes Halloween absolutely wonderful.

The Haunted Mantle Piece

This year I was lucky enough to host a “Victorian Era Eerie Haunted House” Party! Talk about a lifelong dream come true! I can’t even begin to describe how much I’ve wanted to have a blow out party dedicated to my favorite holiday. Ever since I was little I’ve wanted to make my own haunted house. For years I’ve wanted to craft a macabre headquarters filled with nothing but fog, spiderwebs, scary sounds and pumpkins, pumpkins and MORE PUMPKINS! (see October Tin5le #2) To make the scene even more perfect, the classic San Franciscan Victorian house I live in lent the perfect bones to create a spooky dwelling. I’ll admit that I got carried away with all the decorations. I know, I went overboard. But when your favorite holiday is looming and you are fulfilling a longstanding childhood dream…there is no such thing as a budget or “too much”.

The Gallery Wall of DEATH!

For the party every inch was bathed in orange light. Our drink table was overflowing with the most “deadly potions and brews”. Cob webs hung from every stationary surface and spooky ripped  gauzy cloths draped over the mantle and the staircase. My personal favorite “scene” was my specimen table filled with human body parts in bloody specimen jars and labels that I created which described each body part (example: the brain of a madman, the heart of a killer, eyes of a peeping Tom) and behind each of the bloody jars were long tapered candles that bled when you burned them! Another feature that I loved was our Creepy Gallery Wall of DEATH! I went online and found a ton of turn of  the century post-mortem photographs and also some Victorian “horsemanning” photos and printed them out and placed them all over the house to enhance our Haunted House effect.

My Halloween Costume

On top of the party decor, I decided to go all out for my costume. In the October edition of Top 5 Tingles, I dedicated one of my tingles to the authentic Calavera makeup look. I had come across a wonderful and romantic photo of some of the sugar skull makeup faces and I immediately knew then and there that I had to try out this look for my Halloween Costume.  I watched a plethora of YouTube videos and looked at a lot of photographs before trying out my own Dia Look. I’m so glad that I did my due diligence because in the end the look was fantastic and everyone seemed to really like it! I’ve always wanted to represent my Latina heritage (which has remained dormant inside of me for many, many years). One of the things that I discovered in researching these sugar skulls is how diverse each one is. There is so much room for freedom and creativity and I love looking at everyone’s different looks to see how each face can take their own direction while still remaining true to the spirit of the Dia De Los Muertos calaveras.

In fact I have to admit that I loved this makeup so much that I wanted to try out the look out again! A few days after Halloween was the official “Dia de los Muertos” (November 2, 2011). To celebrate I attended the Mission District’s annual procession with one of my co-workers and his family. They were incredibly good sports and let me do their makeup so that I wouldn’t be the only person walking around San Francisco with a face full of Mexican Skull! Their little 3-year-old son Kai is super-duper cute! I loved going to the procession with him and seeing everything through his eyes. All the colors, sounds and smells must be so magical for a child! And I was also so impressed with the general spirit of the march. There was so much positive energy floating around. What a special evening. If you haven’t already attended the Dia De Los Muertos procession, I highly recommend it! A must see for every San Franciscan. While it may sound crazy to some, I can’t wait to do it all again NEXT YEAR!!!

In the Air

Julian Bialowas

Change is in the air. I can feel it. I can smell it. I can almost see it.

It’s that exciting promise of something new, something that will change your expectations and open up your eyes to a new reality. In the next few weeks I’m taking initiative and action to change my life. To turn myself into the proactive person I always aim to be. It’s so exciting, but also scary to venture out into the unknown. I wish I could be one of those people who leaps forward with total enthusiasm. But instead, I am anxious. But I feel that this anxiety is a good thing. It lets me know that what I’m feeling and the changes I’m making are actually real. Wouldn’t it be amazing to actually go after the things you’ve always wanted and find out that you can achieve them? At night this thought rolls over me like a warm blanket. And I fall asleep thinking, “I can’t wait to see what the tide will bring in…”

Floating Angels

Lorena Feijoo in front of City Hall

7×7 is showcasing some absolutely breathtaking photos of SF Ballet dancers Sarah Van Patten and Lorena Feijoo proving why they are stars in their own right in different parts of our fair city. I’ve always admired Sarah Van Patten and now I am even more enamored by her grace and sophistication. This pictorial stops my heart completely. I’d give anything to be an angel floating on the tops of buildings today…

Sarah Van Patten on the rooftops in Downtown SF

τρελό Ελλάδα

The Girls at the Acropolis

A part of me has been putting off this blog entry because I know that once its complete and posted, then the trip is truly over. By delaying this last step, a part of me can keep one foot in Greece, the cradle of civilization, the home of gods and monsters, and the place where I feel like I was reborn. My trip couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. In fact, if anything Greece was an escape. A getaway in every sense of the word. I needed to be able to leave behind everything. Everything that was familiar and that had become mundane. I needed an adventure. And the best part about my 2 weeks in the salty Aegean, on the rocky cliffs, in the baking sun – was that I got to be with 3 of the most inspiring, fantastically beautiful and intelligent friends anyone could hope for.

Looking out onto the Parthenon

Our trip began in Athens. Amidst all the news of the riots and chaos going on in the city in recent weeks, we were all actually pleasantly surprised to discover what an amazing city Athens was. It was energetic, ancient and buzzing. But more than that, every person we encountered was so intensely friendly it was almost shocking. We couldn’t go into one store or restaurant without a HUGE greeting. “Kali Méra!!” everyone seemed to say with huge smiles. Even though we were insanely exhausted from our flights from the US, we decided that we could sleep when we were dead and instead opted for a fabulous dinner and a night out at the clubs. Even though most of us hadn’t slept in 48 hours we stayed up dancing until 5am after landing at 9am. I’m always so pleasantly surprised to remember that most everywhere else in the world doesn’t have bars that close at 2am like San Francisco…when do you think we’re going to catch on??

On our rooftop bar looking out at the Acropolis at sunset

The next morning (or same morning depending on how you want to look at it) we took our necessary and highly anticipated trek up to the Acropolis. To say that it was different from what I had imagined – but not in any way disappointing, is the absolute truth. I had been studying the Parthenon since I was in high school and in my mind I had created the temple to be larger than life. Historic structures never are, their myths and legends always end up being larger than the structures themselves. While I imaged the Parthenon bigger, I hadn’t been quite prepared myself for the view from the top of the acropolis. It opened out to a stunning built up, chaotic and ancient city. I wish I could write forever about that experience of standing in the middle of something so archaic yet so significant to so many religions and beliefs for over two and half thousand years. To think that something could stand for that long is unbelievable. And I was right, seeing the porch of the caryatids was almost too much to take in at once. I could literally feel my heart tighten up it was so beautiful.

The sunset from our balcony in Mykonos

After our trip to the most holy of all architectural sites, it was to time to fly to Mykonos, the first of our island Paradiso experience. Aside from already being in love with the island for years through Fleet Foxes Osmosis, I have to say that Mykonos more than lived up to all my expectations and I fell in love with the land for real this time. After one of the shortest and most eventful flights I’ve ever had  –  including sitting behind a gaggle of the most disgusting and appalling Australians I’ve ever come across (well maybe second worst) it was time to hop over to our hotel. UNFORTUNATELY, when we got to our hotel we were told that they were sold out and that there had been a misunderstanding when we had booked our room online weeks prior. This is not what you want to hear when you have been traveling for 72 hours with 5 hours collective sleep. While at first our hearts sank and we felt like this was the worst news possible, we were quickly informed that we were being given a free upgrade to Appollonia Bay, a  5 star resort. OH HAAAAAYYYY! After feeling so deflated and so heartbroken that we couldn’t stay in the hotel of our dreams, we immediately left behind any of that regret as we stepped through the doors and into the reception area that was *literally scattered with candle lit lanterns (melt). Being led up to our hotel rooms felt surreal. Did this really happen? How did we get here? No really…this must be a dream.Our rooms were not only spectacular but had adjoining balconies that over looked the moonlit water. I can’t tell you how much my heart swelled and swooned at the sight of a black calm sea with one perfectly white moon reflecting on top of another one.

Grecian Ladies

Mykonos was one of the best times I’ve had in my entire life. To say that we lived each moment to the absolute fullest is no understatement. In the 3 or 4 days that we were there, all of us must have slept for only about 10 hours in all those days combined. I could never accurately describe how incredible those days were with any form of accuracy, so I won’t even try. I’ll just say that I’ve never swam in clearer aquamarine water, I’ve never danced harder, drank more, eaten so good or laughed so hard. All those days were filled with nothing but cocktails, HUGE belly laughs and lounging by the pool and swimming in the ocean. One experience that I will cherish forever and always remember Mykonos for is the all night dance party we went to while standing front row for DJ Afrojack at the outdoor club Paradiso. I have never danced and partied outside until the sun rose. Watching the sun rise above the ocean while listening to one of the most amazing world-famous DJ’s is an experience I’ll never forget.

From our room in Santorini

After all the hard partying in Mykonos the calm whitewashed buildings of Santorini were an incredibly welcome sight. I can’t emphasize enough how exquisite Santorini is. Again, every place we visited was so beautiful it almost hurt. But Santorini and Oia has a magical allure that only comes from thousands of years of this kind of calm appreciation. Overlooking the caldera from our cliff side private balcony and watching the sun go down over the ridges of the volcanic faces was not only breathtaking, but in many ways miraculous. The beauty and splendor of it all was so enchanting and mesmerizing. The one thought that kept going through my mind was how spiritual this land was. Not only did I feel like I was more in touch with my own spirituality, but I really felt like I could see how the ancient Greeks would invest so much of their faith into the gods. When this ethereal landscape is placed right at your feet, how can you not believe in something larger than yourself? In the face of all that majestic beauty you are compelled to believe in divine, unseen forces. It is so easy to see how a whole country and a whole culture could place all their faith in the hands of gods who ruled the land, the sea, the sky and all other aspects of life.

Santorini

Santorini felt pure. Everything was stripped down to the basic undeniable foundations of life. There were no pretenses, everything was so true and clear. The food was fresh, the water was unpolluted and transparent, days seemed longer and the sun shone brighter than I have ever witnessed. One of the reoccurring thoughts that I will always remember, is the feeling that I had never been so close to the water and the sun at the same time. The sun and sky seemed to dip down and kiss the caldera each day.

Reborn under the Grecian Sun

It is here that I found myself again. Here where I believe I was reclaimed. For so long I have been getting wrapped up in all the customary and mainstream petty stresses of life. Jobs, money, bills…everything. It all had me so weighed down and distracted from everything  – that I had lost sight of how to relax and enjoy the small moments. To recognize and appreciate the kairos. Here in the Grecian, ancient land and under the burning sun, all those stresses completely melted away and I felt utterly stripped. I found a way to get myself back to neutral. Get back to basics. Get back to the person I have always meant to be.
Efcharistó Elláda.
Efcharistó Polý.

Perfect Timing for a Grecian Getaway

Dreaming of this gorgeous Santorini Landscape

Ever since I stumbled upon one of my most favorite blogs on the world-wide web, Mr & Mrs. Globetrot – I have been desperately trying to find a way to travel again. I can’t believe that the last time I went on a vacation was in 2008. Sad to say (even sadder to think about). Thanks to the most inspiring travel photos (as well as power couples) I have ever seen, I have been trying to fight this incessant travel bug. But thank god – I don’t have to resist any longer. Tomorrow I am soooo excited to leave behind the city by the bay and head for the Cyclades!

I have always wanted to go to Greece. In fact ever since my mom went there with a friend in 1997, Greece has always been this place in my mind that is not only magical but supremely ethereal. A land of marble columns, airy tunics, succulent olives, and of course powerful gods. I imagine everyone eating feta all day long, while lounging by an infinity pool and wearing as much gold as their bodies will allow.  And of course, as an Art History student having studied the Parthenon for the past 6 years – the thought of finally being able to see this monumental historic structure is almost too much for me to even wrap my head around. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I see the Caryatid porch from the Erechtheion in the Acropolis. Swoon?!

Swoon

I feel so lucky to embark on this fantastic adventure not only with 3 of the most amazing women I know, but with some of my best friends in the entire world. I can’t imagine ever taking this journey with people less dear to my heart and soul. But of course, this trip isn’t only for our own enjoyment. My best friend lost her mother to liver disease two months ago. I have never seen such courage, strength and grace come from two greater women than Alexandria Brown and her mother Ladye Susan. One of Susan’s last wishes was to visit the Greek Isles before she became too sick. Tragically, she was never able to make this trip. I feel so honored to go with Ali to the place her mother wished to visit most in the world and be with her as she scatters her mothers ashes into the ancient Greek Caldera. I truly can’t think of a more poetic and beautiful farewell for anyone.