LOVE + EVOLUTION in Madison

Thursday night, I headed out into the Wisconsin chill to see To The Best of Our Knowledge‘s live radio show called LOVE + EVOLUTION at the Majestic Theater. I was introduced to the glories of radio in college and have discovered so many amazing shows over the years so, of course, I had to support me some local Wisconsin radio! 💕

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The show was structured like many podcasts: several stories, comics, interviews, and lectures on a common theme. The night’s theme was inspired by Valentine’s Day, but with a bit of an intellectual twist: the show explored the connection between love and science.

Are we biologically programmed to love? Is love just a means to procreation? If so, how does non-heterosexual sexuality fit in? Is altruism an extension of love? You know, real casual stuff…

But the one question I kept returning to is one that I’ve been grappling with for years: can science really explain the experience of love? I used to get so upset when people would say that “love is just chemicals firing in your brain” and “love is just biological programming to keep the species going”. And obviously those things are very true! But to break it down into a formula or a genetic code makes love feel fake to me – like you could engineer it in a lab or cook it on a bunsen burner.

One biologist answered my question (and I’m paraphrasing): It depends on your definition of explain. Yes, science can offer a subjective explanation of love and how it came to be evolutionarily, but can it explain the experience and sensation of being in love? No. He likened it to humor – you can study humor and what makes something funny, but you can’t explain to someone what it’s like to laugh.

Needless to say, the whole night pulled at my mind and my heartstrings and I really hope they do another show like it soon!

In the meantime, I’m excited to listen to this episode on why it’s good to be alone (lol happy valentine’s day!) and to ask my next date these 36 questions… I’ll be sure to post the podcast when it comes out.❤️

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What’s Your Morning Ritual?

I know it’s a little late for New Years resolutions, but I’m starting to feel settled at my job and finally have more energy to dedicate to life outside work (whaaaa?). I’ve been an aspiring morning person for a long time so I picked up Laura Vanderkam’s book What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast for a little advice…

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In it she talks about using mornings to focus on personal growth through activities like exercising, writing, or meditating and sustaining them over long periods of time. She claims the benefits of morning rituals: people feel more fulfilled, have long-term career success, and are more focused and productive during the day. Her reasoning is interesting:

“Getting things down to routines and habits takes willpower at first but in the long run conserves willpower… Ultimately, self-control lets you relax because it removes stress and enables you to conserve willpower for the important challenges.”

I like the idea and, in turn, have been getting up early to write for an hour before work (almost) every day. Here’s what I’ve liked and disliked so far…

Pros

  1. I feel like a superhero! I’ve gotten up, eaten breakfast, caught up on email, and written for an hour before most people in my building are even awake.
  2. I like investing in my creative life. My job is really technical and it’s nice to still flex my artistic muscles even if its not my main focus right now.
  3. It makes me more focused at work. I’ve had a chance to brainstorm and daydream before I even get to the office so I’m not so distracted.

Cons

  1. Waking up is hard. I love sleeping, hate mornings, and it’s so easy to get derailed.
  2. Writing now feels like a chore, which duh is the point, but I’m surprised at how quickly I burned out on something I love. It make me wonder if I’m fostering my creativity or forcing it.
  3. It’s another thing to push through. Sometimes my writing goes great and I feel awesome, but other days I feel frustrated or disappointed, which is a tough way to start the day.

Looking at my list, I definitely feel like it’s worth it to keep up my writing ritual (it was actually kind of tough to come up with cons!), but it makes me wonder if I’ll eventually lose my love for it because I’m forced to do it everyday. Or will I just love it more because I do it everyday? The jury’s out.

So, I’m curious: do you have morning routines? What do you do? Is it something you love to do or something you feel obligated to do? Any tips on keeping it up? Hit me up!

Favorites from Spring 2017

As fashion month comes to a close, I always like going through all the looks from the big shows and finding my favorites. I’ve started to really hone in on which designers I love (Gucci, Mary Katrantzou, Rodarte), but I love finding new brands that are surprising and beautiful. I’m obsessed with the Molly Goddard collection for its off-kilter gauzy, neon awesomeness and am really digging Dice Kayek‘s tailored volume.

I’m also really loving the sort of ’70s professor meets Marie Antoinette’ vibe happening in a lot of collections for Spring. Ultra luxe fabrics, voluminous sleeves, and suiting = count me in. This means I’m obviously obsessed with Gucci this season because tulle ball gowns, pink plaid, and gold suits… come on! Anyway, I’ve included my faves below and pinned my other favorite looks here on Pinterest, if you’re interested. Enjoy!

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[Coach, Reem Acra]

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[Mary Katrantzou, Fendi]

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[Gucci, Maticevski]

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[Giamba, Molly Goddard –> my favorite look of them all!]

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[Gucci, Delpozo]

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[Dice Kayek, Antonio Berardi]

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[Marco de Vincenzo, Gucci]

I’m also apparently really into long-sleeved dresses and dramatic blazers, which isn’t wrong. My workwear come spring is going to get very interesting though lol. What’d I miss? Which collections are your faves? Fashion month can be completely overwhelming so I’m positive I’ve missed some badass stuff. Please direct me to it. Much appreciated.

Leonardo da Vinci at the National Gallery

In my last post, I mentioned several of Dublin’s fab (and free) local museums, including the National Gallery of Ireland. Although the museum is small, down to only 2 galleries during renovations, it has some major gems right now. I came for the da Vinci, but stayed for the, well, everything else…

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After seeing ads around town for months, I finally got my shit together and checked out the Leonardo da Vinci drawings exhibition in the main gallery. Tickets are (say it with me!) totally free and, even though its the last weekend, seem to be pretty easily available. I booked last night and had my pick of times.

But onto the art: the exhibition is made up of 10 original da Vinci drawings on lend from the Royal Collection in England and although that might not seem like very much, they really make the most of the pieces. The exhibit includes historical context of each piece, discusses da Vinci’s process of study, and even presents a video explaining the way da Vinci created the paper, ink, and pigments he used to create the drawings. There was an interesting mix of content, as well: some studies of famous paintings, early representations of scientific theories (like the anatomical drawings below), and even, above, a map of the Arno river in Florence.

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But what I loved the most was how unusual it felt to see works-in-progress exhibited on their own, instead of as supplements to the finished pieces. It felt like seeing the dress rehearsal of a play with all its stops and restarts and unpolished realness. I’ve always loved looking at people’s beautifully haphazard class notes or finding old annotated books, so this felt like the ultimate journal porn. What also struck me was how amazing it is that these pieces even still exist; the exhibit talked about how the drawings were passed from artist to artist and then across Europe, eventually, making it to England where they were preserved by the royal family. But at any point over the last 500 years they could have just as easily been destroyed as a bunch of useless, unfinished papers. Sort of amazing when you think about everything that’s happened in Europe since da Vinci’s time…

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The National Gallery is also a beautiful space to grab lunch or coffee with a big light-filled atrium and lots of lunch choices so it makes a great midday break. And check out their other exhibit on early 20th century European painting, it’s actually so good. I ducked in after seeing the da Vinci and was seriously blown away by some of the pieces they have tucked away in there. Like I said before, small but mighty museum.

Needless to say, if you’re in town this weekend and have a free half hour, pop over to the National Gallery. Things seemed pretty slow so even if you don’t have tickets, just show and see what happens – it’s totally worth it to get a little glimpse into the mind of one of the world’s greatest thinkers.

Love or Hate: The Neon Demon

Last week, my friend, Aoife, invited me to see an early screening of the movie The Neon Demon. I was excited to see a sharp critique of the modeling industry and beauty culture from the director of Drive. But what started as an interesting commentary ended up being something entirely different…

Warning: there are a few spoilers in this post – if you’re planning on subjecting yourself to this film then don’t read any further! Just know you’ve been warned.

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Continue reading

London Travel Journal

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If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that last weekend we did a quick trip over to London! I have to say, we really made the most of our three days there: hitting up museums and local markets, spending an afternoon in the country, and drinking and eating our way through several parts of the city. Of course there was so much we didn’t get to do, especially sight seeing wise, but we ended up having a totally lovely weekend. So often quick trips feel like more work than vacation, but we really hit the right balance this time.

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Our first stop once getting into the city (from Stansted Airport) was the South Bank where Ian had a quick business meeting. While he chatted fantasy sports, I took the opportunity to do a speed tour of the Tate Modern’s newly opened Switch House! The gallery spaces are mostly dedicated to conceptual art and preserving past performance pieces – there was even a small performance going on during my quick visit, which totally rocked my weird art world.

My overall highlights were original photos of Marina Abramovic’s Rhythm 0, a Cy Twombly-esque piece by Julie Mehretu, and the artist room of Louise Bourgeois, who is definitely my fine art spirit animal. Also, a conceptual work that was literally a piece of string intended to be held by two people and exploring concepts of intimacy and space – too good😂. I could go on forever about this sort of thing, but I’ll spare you and just say that if you’re interested in conceptual art or performance art from the last couple of decades then the new Tate Modern building is a must.

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Marina Abramovic’s Rhythm 0 exhibit. Photo from here.
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Part of Louise Bourgeois’ 10AM is When You Come to Me. Photo from here.

The rest of the afternoon consisted of wandering around the South Bank and making our way through the city to Covent Garden, where we chowed down at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Union Jacks.  Along the way we stopped at the South Bank Centre’s food market for Pimm’s cups and duck fat french fries with garlic mayo (thanks for recommendation, Burke!) and took a ride on the London Eye. The views were fabulous, as you can imagine, and, despite the price, it was fun to get a little touristy while we were there. Afterwards, we walked by Big Ben and the Parliament Building and made our way along the Thames to dinner.

After a much needed meal of gourmet pizza (can you say braised brisket & artisanal cheese?), we headed home for an early night of late night British TV and room service in preparation for our trip out to the country the next day. The weather was a little spotty our first day in town, but we didn’t mind the incredible rainbows that accompanied the on-and-off showers. Seriously, they were the most vivid ones I’d ever seen – photos didn’t do it any justice!

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Day two started out with a train ride out to Bicester for an afternoon of driving. Well, Ian driving and me timing laps and taking photos… But all the same, the countryside was totally beautiful and the lambos were pretty alright too. 😉

If you’re in Europe or planning to visit and want to do some sort of driving experience, I would recommend TrackDays. They’re really the only company that does one-day test drives with driving instructors, which is what we were looking for. There are a lot of other companies who will rent out sports cars for full track days or do super luxury weekend long driving trips (😍), but if you’re looking for more of a casual thing this totally fit the ticket. Well, as casual as driving a Ferrari can be…

After lots of planning and attempting to keep the trip a secret (as it was a surprise graduation gift from Ian’s lovely parents), it was so great to see the whole thing come together. Even as we were driving up to the track, I was so nervous it wasn’t going to be what I had thought, but it really turned out to be perfect. Seeing Ian get to blow off some steam after working his ass off for a physics degree was awesome – so grateful it all worked out!

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I will keep the grainy, embarrassing, proud-girlfriend photos to myself but seriously the whole thing was so cool! I thought I would be bored watching, but I actually got super giddy seeing him fly around the track in each of the cars. I even got to ride in the ‘hot lap’ car at one point, which was driven by a pro – I felt like I was on a roller coaster those things get so much speed! Ian’s report card: the Lamborghini got the A for drivability and top speed.

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We ended our day by heading back to the city in time for happy hour, grabbing a bottle of rosé for our hotel room as we got ready. We got a quick dinner at the hotel restaurant, which Ian totally won by ordering the grilled tiger prawns, and headed out for drinks.

We were feeling fancy so we hit up Gong in The Shard for cocktails. The whole thing was an experience – from the 45 minute wait in the lobby to the heated toilet seats in the bathroom (I have seen heaven) to the drinks that come in birdcages – but be ready to have a good sense of humor about the whole thing. It was pretty pretentious and the cocktails themselves were, like, fine, but it’s really nabbing that window seat that makes the whole thing worth it. So dress to impress, be persistent, and steal a Vogue magazine from the toilets.

If you want the same view without the hassle, I believe you can book in advance at The View from The Shard, which is a champagne bar at the top. I think it’s a little more touristy, but has student ticket discounts and you will have a reserved time so you don’t have to creepily wait around the lobby…

From there we headed into Soho for some late night bar action and I honestly couldn’t even tell you where we ended up. I basically remember being creepily hit on by an old dude, hugging the bathroom attendant, and freaking out when Toxic by Britney Spears came on. I remember 4am samosas and chips were involved and I was coherent enough to take this photo of the sunrise from our hotel room. If you have more information about my night, please contact me.

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Sunday obviously began with sleeping in, a long hot shower, and a real solid hangover. But we didn’t let that get us down – we spent the day wandering around Marylebone and exploring some of my favorite little spots in town. One of my oldest friends, Janine, used to live in the area in high school and I got super nostalgic walking around the streets she used to take me down, showing me all the little shops and the best places to eat. I remember the whole neighborhood seemed to have some sort of magic to it and, even thought I’m old and jaded now, it still sort of feels like it does.

We were luckily enough to be staying in the middle of the neighborhood at The Marylebone Hotel, which we loved. Our room was small, but the service was outstanding; seriously, one of the best hotel experiences I’ve ever had. They just had all the little things that make a vacation feel luxurious, from turn down service to fuzzy slippers, and were so helpful throughout our whole journey lending us umbrellas and holding our bags the day we left – even charging our phones while we were out. Total pros, highly recommend.

We got Daylesford suggested to us for brunch and it was certainly worth the wait with their light, refreshing bloody mary’s and delicious eggs benedict. The whole place is really into all-natural foods and has a pretty incredible little food shop attached to the restaurant. Seeing all the fresh veggies, beautiful cheeses, and cured meats made me want to have a picnic real bad.

My next go-to was my favorite of all bookstores, Daunt Books, on Marylebone High Street. A little independent shop organized by region with just the most beautiful architecture; I could literally stay in that place for hours. I picked up this book while I was there and so far I’m loving the lyrical prose and the way the whole narrative feels steeped in regret – will keep you updated once I finish it.

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The rest of our afternoon consisted of sitting outside drinking cocktails and beer and watching the world (and the fancy cars) pass us by. Then before we knew it, it was time to catch our train back to the airport and our flight back to real life, but not without a stop at the Liverpool St. Station Krispie Kreme first…

A huge thank you to Ian’s parents, Kathy and Jim, for making our weekend so totally special. We couldn’t believe how much of a full vacation just three days away felt, especially only a 45 minute plane ride away. Just goes to show that you don’t have to go too far to really get away. 😘

Out of Context

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Before I left for Dublin, I got the chance to see an art show by my wonderful stepmother, Jill, at the College of Dupage. She took a welding class at the college and let’s just say she got pretty into it. After watching her lug giant hunks of metal around for the better part of a year, I was really excited to see her work.

I love the way it uses industrial elements in ways that aren’t mechanical. The pipes aren’t perfectly parallel, the chains are movable, the chrome isn’t spotlessly shined. It makes the material seem almost organic. Plus, she’s got some pretty clean welds, as one COD student admired.

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But what I loved most about the exhibit was how much joy and fun Jill has with her work. Even when things are hard and it feels impossible to lighten up, she always tells me “It’s just life, enjoy it.” and I watch her do that everyday. Sometimes I think the only thing she takes seriously is having a good time…

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Beautiful show, Jill! Excited to see what you do next.