Meow Moment

It's a bit terrifying for me to think about my cat growing older, because it means that I'm also getting older. When I adopted Shep, he was just a few weeks old and he was so very itty bitty (the runt, how adorable / appropriate for me)! Now he's getting to be full-grown, and it's really started hitting home that I can't remember life without his little furry butt. When I first met him, I had to take a subway and two buses out into Queens - so far out, I thought I might need a passport to get back into Brooklyn. But as soon as he was in my arms, he started purring and kneading the air, and it all just kind of... clicked. I'm 98% sure I was squealing the whole time.

He's going to be three years old in October, which means he's officially no longer a baby (although he still acts like one from time to time). So, for Throwback Thursday, I decided to go back through the vault to find some of the pictures I took of our first few days together. It's such a trip to see how he's grown into his big bat ears, his eyes turned from dusty blue-green to vivid green, and his nose went from dark and tiny to not-quite-as-tiny and pink. Even with how big he's gotten since three years ago, he's still got the same 'tude that he had when I first brought him home and he settled in directly on my face to take a nap. How considerate, Shep. It's not like I need to breathe or anything. 

The first moment we met.
Our first day home together.
Tuckered out.
It's funny how pets can make your heart open up to things you never knew you were capable of before, and how - even though you can't have basic conversations with them - they quickly become an integral part of your family and your day-to-day life.

I wouldn't have it any other way.


Currently Coveting: Etsy-Found Handmade Ceramic Pottery

Etsy is very much a part of my life. First, because I love shopping. But also because it's the perfect online destination for finding everything in your life that you never really knew you needed (in other words: suuuuper dangerous for your wallet). When I first began decorating my Brooklyn apartment, I would scour Etsy for hours to find that next little trinket for my home that would bring everything together. It's a site that's good for so many wonderful things - one of them being (my favorite) handmade ceramics. I don't know how or why I've developed this obsession with pottery, but without fail, each and every time I see a handmade ceramic dish or mug, I find myself instantly considering how it will aesthetically add to my steadily expanding collection. Do I need these things? Meh, *probably* not. Do I want them? You bet your butt I do.

One of the main things that appeals to me about pottery (specifically, handmade pieces like these ceramics) is that they're all very truly one-of-a-kind. Sure, some of them might be from cast or printed, but when you get down to the beginning of it, the piece is unique in every way. Someone - another real human being - actually used their hands and took the time to specifically create that mug that you hold in your hand or the plate you put your jewelry on at the end of the day. And, if you're really ambitious, you can actually look up who made it, where it was made, and when. I think that's something really special in this day and age, don't you?

Baskakova Jaguar Tea Cup ($77) is a clever creation from London. These are a limited edition run, and I chuckle at the idea of having a cat (usually terrified of water like my own feline) being juxtaposed in something like the inside of a cup filled with a liquid. In this instance, the cup was thrown on a wheel, then cast to repeat - but each stage of production is done by hand.

Wacamole Ceramic Pots ($52 - $62) are quirky and adorable planters that are modeled and decorated by hand in Spain. How much do you love these guys? The tabletop planter with his legs sprawled in either direction is an ideal (and totally unpredictable!) way to add some character to a room.

Kismet Pottery Ceramic Spice Bowls ($35) are for the domestic diva in all of us. As I watch the Food Network at night (as I often find myself doing, no judgement), I notice how many cooks have amazing spice bowls to keep their salt, pepper, and various herbs in. The minty interior of this handmade set of three dishes from New York keeps the things decorative while still being totally functional for the kitchen.

Claylicious Ceramic Gold-Rimmed Vases ($35) will keep a desk at work looking super chic. The metallic golden rims of these four-inch-tall mini vases make them the sweet little nothings that will have everyone jealous. Hand-painted and wheel-thrown in Los Angeles, they're each especially unique, so snatch a few and give them away as housewarming presents!

Avesha Michael Ceramic Jug Vase ($85) will add some major character to any tabletop. This rustic-but-modern jug-shaped vase features a hippie-friendly brown speckled glaze, is hand-sculpted in Los Angeles, and is a statement addition to a room with just a few little branches inside. The carvings on the outside are reminiscent of log cabins in the mountains, which makes my heart sing (obviously).


Day Trippin': Harriman State Park

Another summer weekend, another day trip. As the summer comes inching to a close, I still find my wanderlust in overdrive. I wanted to go somewhere a little further off the radar this time around. Not necessarily further away, per se, but a trail where I thought other people from the city might not venture. I've done more than a few trails in the area this summer (all infinitely shorter and easier than this), and while I enjoy getting out into nature, I find that I am more at ease when there are fewer people around, and I can really take in the environment on a different, more individual level. 

So, we trekked out to Harriman State Park in upstate New York. There, we hiked approximately 9.5 miles into and out of the rolling green mountains: following the Seven Hills Trail to the ridge of the Ramapo Torne, on through to the Sebago Trail and finally past the lovely Stony Brook on the Pine Meadow Trail before catching the train back. This not-so-little loop is in the south of the park (there are far more trails north, but you need a car), but nevertheless climbs up to some incredible panoramic views. This trail guide says it's 6.5 miles and takes about four hours. Now, I'm no expert by any means, but the loop that we took was infinitely longer because of the walk between the trailhead and the Sloatsburg train station. In other words: reserve your whole day for this!

After about a mile and a half walk to the Pine Meadow trailhead, we skipped over the babbling Stony Brook to hitch up with the Seven Hills path. This took us steadily upwards to an intersection with Hillburn-Torne-Sebago trail, and then across the ridge of the Ramapo Torne to the summit. At the top of Ramapo, there's an unreal panoramic view of the Torne Valley and Hillburn, which was amazing for a picnic lunch in the sun. We then headed back down (into and out of a few peaks and valleys via stone steps and wooden bridges) before meeting back up with the Pine Meadow Trail and Stony Brook at the end. More than just a walk in the woods, but the forest and mountain mix was a pleasant find for being so close to the city.

More links if you're so inclined:


Five Things: Another Week In Sunsets

I get it. I was not the first person to discover sunsets. And I know I've already expressed my undying love for them. But, can you blame me? The summer sunsets here in Brooklyn have really been putting on a show this week, and it somehow never ceases to amaze me: each new color scheme, each new pattern in the clouds, each sunset has something that no one's ever seen before. Something about it is so tragically romantic to me, and that's why each day at dusk my heart starts thumping just a little bit faster, and my thoughts immediately beg for me to head to the nearest peak, coastline, or river bank so I can see that little ball of orange sinking slowly down over the horizon.

So, here's another week in sunsets. First of all, because I can't get enough of them, and secondly, because we all need to take just a little bit of time to be more present at the close of the day. There's magic in the sky as the sun goes down! Someone needs to document these kinds of things, and iPhone photos and Instagram filters will only go so far. So, I started taking it upon myself with my little Canon camera, and clearly I take the responsibility very seriously. This week featured unique cloud cover outlined in pure gold with deep purple underbellies, cotton candy pink backdrops, and shades of yellow streaks that I swear I've never seen before. 

“Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgandy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”
   -- Jack Kerouac, On the Road


Tidbits: Tapping Into Your Creative Side

I spend a good chunk of my day focusing on letting the creativity inside of me bubble up and out into the world. I really, truly enjoy it. There's nothing quite like gathering up all that pent-up energy inside and making something beautiful out of it (like a moodboard!). There are some people out there who thrive under pressure, people who actually seek out competition, and still others who depend on routine. But the people that I like to be around - the ones I identify with the most - are the creative types that are spontaneous, down to share and relate their experiences, as well as being eager and able to have new adventures.

If you're a right-brainer (note: before you jump all over me, I know this is not a real thing; I'm describing a personality more than anything else) like myself and many hippies here, you're always down for tips that will help to expand that creativity. So,when I stumbled onto a few articles about the topic, I found it not only incredibly interesting, but also kind of exciting (#nerd). Detailing out lovely little ways that you can flex your mind muscles to try and get the most out of your brain, I was inspired to do a little more research to find out how you can start being more creative in your day-to-day life, which can help you be happier, more productive at work, more intuitive when it comes to crisis management, and a better problem-solver.

So, briefly, here are a few things you should know about creativity the next time you're trying your best to think outside the box:

1. Your brain is more creative when you're sleepy. When you're being analytical in your problem solving, you want to be focused and awake. The opposite is actually true when it comes to being creative - your best insights will come from letting your mind freely wander and walk down those tangents that you otherwise would ignore. While the brain struggles to filter out distractions because it's tired, it wanders and explores random thoughts making connections we otherwise wouldn't during busier times, like in the shower after a long day at work.

2. Subject yourself to some coffee shop ambient noise. You may think that deep concentration might be better for brainstorming and being creative, but when you've got a moderate level of noise in your environment, you're able to come up with more abstract ideas that you wouldn't otherwise think of. So put on some light music, turn the TV on low, or actually sit in that coffee shop for once instead of just grabbing a cup to go. But be warned - too loud and you can't concentrate, too low and you risk being too focused, but right smack dab in the middle is a sweet spot for those creative juices to flow.

3. Keep that temperature cued up to 76 to 78 degrees. Studies have shown clearly that employees who spend too much of their physical energy focusing on keeping their body warm make more mistakes than those who work and spend time in a higher temperature room. It's another situation to be wary of, however; Make it too hot in the room and that productivity and creativity goes straight out the window again. Keeping the room and body temperature in a lovely window of right around 77 degrees ensures that all your body's energy is all going into that creative process.

4. Turn the lights down, get a little moody, and allow yourself time to decompress. When you're working on a project that's requires full attention and focused thinking, turn the lights up for raised concentration. But if you want to get a little dirty with it and start brainstorming ideas rather than focusing on a task, dimmed lighting helps you to feel free from daily constraints. Hell, it's even encouraged to take a nap - by sleeping, you allow your brain to essentially shut off for a brief moment, which in turn helps your short-term memory to improve, learn more efficiently, and properly store emotional and physical memories from the day. Any time that you set aside, make sure that you allow for yourself to decompress beforehand - trying to be creative while you're anxious and stressed out is asking for a failure.

5. Give yourself a space to be creative in, and keep a notepad with you at all times. It doesn't seem like something that would be important, right? Cleanliness is close to godliness, or whatever that ridiculous saying is. I'll always remember walking into my father's office for the first time and seeing stacks upon stacks of papers on the floor - "organized chaos" is what he called it. If you don't give yourself a space that's free from anxiety and obsession, you're never going to allow your mind to be truly creative. By having a messy play space to work in, you allow yourself the leniency for the mind to think abstractly, outside of it's paranoia / obsessive box. The other side of that is remembering everything you come up with in these moments where you let go - which is where the notepads come in. 

6. Try overwhelming yourself with something that seems like an impossible task. It may seem counterintuitive, but the most creative ideas can come out of a situation that you think is hopeless. By overstimulating the brain with a big task, you're more likely to work to abstractly think your way around the situation. It allows for the expansion of the mind, while producing a whole slew of solutions to other problems. It takes a million bad ideas to finally find one good one, yes? It also increases your brain's capacity in the long run. You're welcome.

There are, of course, other things you can do - like meditation, exercise, or just simply distracting yourself from the task at hand. All of these things will nurture creativity and help to decrease stress levels in the brain. Sometimes I think the easiest thing to do is just disengage and try to find inspiration in doing a new task. We tend to fixate on solutions that we know won't work, and in the midst of obsessing over that fixation, we tend to ignore the open window next to the closed door. The real trick, though, is being able to capture creativity when it strikes, and setting the mood for it to do so.

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