Wednesday, March 31, 2010


In a few hours, it will be April, 2010. APRIL! How is this possible?

Tomorrow heralds the homestretch. Over a month ago, I sat at a cafe in Portland and contemplated my move, my move from Portland to Los Angeles, and my move out of Los Angeles to Phnom Penh. I hugged friends goodbye, cried a little, and moved.

Since then, the peaceful lull has lured me in, made me lazy. While I've set many things in motion this month, there is still much to do in the final weeks. I'm not a long-term planner by nature; I work best under imminent deadlines that require hurried bouts of intense focus. That said, this has been an interesting experience.

I remain optimistic.

Extraordinary, Indeed

My goodness, I do appreciate a beautifully bound book. It's too bad that my two suitcases, which will surely be overstuffed with only "essentials," aren't as appreciative.

Russian Wedding Cake

The joke among travellers is that the Moscow Metro (or, Московский метрополитен) is a worthy sight on its own--that is, if you did nothing else in Moscow but ride through the metro's expansive grid, you'd still manage to see one of the country's finest architectural wonders. Someone also told me that the system was the busiest in the world, that it carried the total of London's AND New York City's systems put together. I don't know if that's true. It may be.

What I do know, with absolute certainty, is that the Moscow Metro is huge, magnificent, and stunning in its heavy-handed use of marble, mosaic, stained glass, and other Russian "wedding cake" architecture. I spent an inordinate time there, bewildered by the magnitude, (unsuccessfully) deciphering Cyrillic, and relishing the succession of sights with each passing station. Oh my.

On this morning, the news of the metro bombings saddens me; it makes my heart go out to friends in Russia and to those friends with loves there.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Blogging (reading and writing) is one simple pleasure of mine. I savor the inspiration I get from viewing other blogs, the piecemeal glimpses it affords into people's lives. Surprisingly, I've found that beginning my day by writing an entry, with cup of coffee in hand as morning streams through the window, is a precious salve.

Lately, I've found more delight (if more could be possible!) from The Sartorialist, who has posted a contest involving vintage photographs. I forget what the prize is, but the crux of this competition is what I enjoy most about blogging, fashion, and fashion blogging: stories of faraway times and places captured in sepia-toned images, dress steeped in memories, and cultural studies filtered through the lens of dress.

The photographs and accompanying stories are heartfelt and inspiring! Take, for example, this picture of a reader's father who lived in St. Petersburg, Russia at a time when jeans, among many other things, were banned and only procured through illegal means (hello, black market). To acquire such a treasure, as the father did, was an act of rebellion, an act of love. You can read the full narrative here.

Also, doesn't the melancholic tint of this picture just capture the spirit of St. Petersburg? Beautiful and tragic, really, in light of the recent bombings in Moscow.


Portland's finest coffee purveyor, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, is setting up a pop-up shop in Amsterdam, you say? How lovely and how very fitting -- we, by which I mean Portlanders, do have the best coffee. (I may be biased.)

P.S. A little Portland fact: Portland was nicknamed Stumptown in the mid-19th century, when a boom in population caused quite a bit of land to be cleared (and trees to be cut down).

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Glimpse

Caitlin Mociun's fall 2010 collection . . .

Afternoon Antics

I never tire of afternoon tea. Over steaming cups of cardamom-and-vanilla-infused chai and berry teas, Cherlou and I recalled the tea house we visited a few years back, the one tucked away in the hills of the Oregon countryside, up the meandering dirt road lined with christmas trees. This time, there were no dirt roads to navigate or christmas trees paving the way, but there was certainly good tea. The tea house was Chado Tea Room, which was adjacent--or was it inside?--the Japanese American Art Museum in Little Tokyo. I must say, Alex was such a sport for putting up with the two of us and our conspiring ways!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Countdown

via Ache

No goodbyes, yet, Los Angeles. But, in one month, in less than thirty days: the move. Heart palpitations.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Flea Market Florals

My flea market day with Cherlou and Alex was of the nap-inducing variety, sun-drenched exhaustion at its best. And, even better, my dress finds that day were all floral, all cotton, and all Cambodia-bound.

Also Cambodia-bound: These red sandals. I altered them (yes, I did) by cutting one strap off to open them up and by taking in the sling, just a bit.

And little baubles:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Statues, Smiles

(In order: Soja, Japan; Siem Riep, Cambodia; Champasak, Laos, last two photos.)

Dressed up Buddha statues, as you often find in temples, wats, and monasteries throughout Asia, make me smile.


via 3.1 Phillip Lim (Jinny)

Do you have it in for me, Phillip? Because your new collection is killing me, and you KNOW I am paring down for my move. This is cruel.

In all seriousness, I really need to stop looking at the new collections and start packing and/or using the Khmer language CDs Mami bought for me. Yes, tomorrow, I will start.

The Unbearable Lightness

via the ever-inspiring BodyVox

My last apartment in Portland was directly across the old BodyVox dance studio, occupied by the troupe before they moved to their more spacious location a few streets up. On certain evenings, you could sit with your meal and look out the window, at the old brick brewery building across, and watch the movement, the decisive fluid expressions, of the dancers as they rehearsed. It was entrancing and on balmy summer nights, a simple pleasure to behold.

I am fascinated by the idea of dance, moved by its stewards. My fascination, with literal and metaphorical dance, comes from my utter lack of coordination. Wish as I may, I've never ever been a graceful creature. In fact, I've often joked that the most ill-suited job for me would be a ballerina! Yet, once, a time not long ago, under the moonlight and within the consuming silence of the Mongolian desert, I danced, with a stranger who told me, among other wise things, that I should dance with myself. Now, if that isn't a wonderful exclamation point to my growing fascination, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Green Tea

via Fashiontoast

Today, I am craving green tea donuts and green tea Kit Kats. Yes, they do exist (though rarely stateside), and when I discovered them a few years ago, I was at first skeptical, but shortly convinced, of their yumminess. (Confession: Each time I'm in Narita Airport, I stock up on the green tea Kit Kats, but they never make it home.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Floral Fixation

via No. 6 (La Garconne)

I'm both tickled and annoyed that florals, good florals, are so easy to come by these days. I love them and their saccharine promises, always have. I have lived in them, in some iteration, since I was five. I think my first case of heartbreak may have occurred in a floral jumper. Years later, my first trip to France would nurture this childhood affection. And, today, a Phillip Lim number sits waiting in my makeshift closet. Unfortunately, my upcoming move won't afford me many more. For now.

But the wandering eyes, well, they cannot be stopped, try as I may.

No. 6, I've got my eye on you.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Actually, it was a Spanish terracotta clay roof, and it was more warm than hot, but you get the picture, right? Sometime last evening, this "little" guy escaped out of a second story window and onto the roof below. I waited by the window, arms outstretched, cooing and coaxing his return. I even tried throwing around a bag of his favorite treats, to tempt him. No success. After he meowed and cried for what seemed like eternity, I realized that he was probably too pleasantly plump and too scared to jump back up, into the window. So, out I went, crawling onto the warm clay roof, in the cool darkness, to rescue him.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Gunver from the Ger

As luck would have it, my friend, Gunver, and I will be in Myanmar at the same time, so I may have a travel friend for a part of that journey!

Two things about the lovely Gunver: First, we met in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, on a day when the sun deceptively hid winter's sharp bite, two women travelling alone -- one headed east into Tibet, the other, west into Russia. Shortly after meeting, we devised a plan to hire a guide and rent a Russian jeep to explore the Gobi Desert. But before that, we agreed, additional travel friends were needed to defray costs.

After posting signs at expat cafes boasting of good coffee (i.e., tourist coffee, non-NesCafe coffee), we found others to join: Damian, a chap from Manchester, who biked from his home to Moscow, over the course of 79 days, to catch the Trans-Siberian Railway and who, given the opportunity, can move you with his stories of espresso-croissant mornings spent biking through the French countryside; and Anette and Gerald, a couple from Amsterdam, who saved, saved, saved, then quit their jobs and rented out their home for a year while they wandered the world. We found a guide and a driver, too. Off we went. (More on that someday.)

Second, though very sweet, Gunver is intimidating, with a logical Dane sensibility, unapologetically grounded in ration, strong, prepared. She is also an adept traveller, physically able-bodied. She runs marathons, plays football (i.e., soccer), has trekked through Nepal and navigated the Uyuni Desert, alone. In contrast, I prefer sipping on cappuccinos, making my way through the jungle of racks at Barneys or at Rosebowl Flea Market, and engaging in activities best enjoyed in pretty dresses (preferably Mayle). Needless to say, as I was savoring unintended falls into Siberian lakes and streams, she was racing the descending sun, up the sand dunes -- believe me, no easy feat under the ever-shifting ground.

I just am not, nor have I ever been, an über-adventurous, outdoorsy type of gal.

As a travel friend, then, she is a strong counterpoint to my haphazard travel ways, of which I've grown rather fond and reliant. And, she inspires me to leave behind some of the fear--manufactured or homegrown, supported or not, of the unknown or known--that often hinders.

le printemps

I spy spring. And, yes, it kinda makes me feel like this.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Danger. Danger.

Literally. Surely, this necklace will get me mugged. Yet . . .


My list of tasks last week: (1) Register for travel clinic vaccinations at new hospital; (2) Send out passport to get additional visa pages (I used up all pages on my passport, but you can get more, for free); (3) Cut down the growing pile of "Cambodia" sandals (for now); and (4) Research travel costs to Myanmar.

Check, check, check, and check!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Note to Self: Hitchhiking

It was somewhat reckless. I won't do it again, even though the Thai and Laotian matrons, with brows furrowed in concern for the young (ha) woman travelling alone, told me it was safe, customary even, to hitchhike in Laos, AND I was stranded in a remote village because, in that part of Laos, buses only run in the morning. No, I won't do it again despite the fact that the 80+km ride on the back of the motorbike, against the glowing crimson sunset, slowly encroaching, and with the wind whipping through my hair, was incredible. Incredible.

(Sorry, mum, if you're reading this.)

Lights. Camera. . . .

Maybe, just maybe, I have an overly romanticized view of my life abroad. Reality tugs at me now and then, forcing me to acknowledge that life will be very different, more difficult and yet more simple; that my work will likely be heartbreaking; that all manners of attention to dress may fall by the wayside, just a bit, temporarily. But for now, while I entertain an imaginary life lived in the ease of washed-out chambrays, stripes, and rolled up pants, I want this collection. If only the U.S. dollar would shape up.

P.S. They ship to Cambodia.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Shadows. Silhouettes.

(In order: Luang Prabang, Laos; Kyoto, Japan; Gobi Desert, Mongolia; Olkhon Island, Russia; Gobi Desert (again), Mongolia.)

Sun-Soaked Days, pt. 2

via Cherlou's iPhone

There are few things more perfect to me than a proper cup of coffee, enjoyed early on a Sunday morning, under the warmth of the sun, as I meander through the Rosebowl Flea Market. Wonderful friends Cherlou and Alex joined me in this antidote to my Portland blues.

After Cherlou and I declared that we had sufficiently scored at Rosebowl (more on that later), she and Alex indulged me in a game of tourist. They introduced me to Wurstküche, a beerhall-esque, must-go purveyor of artisan sausage and truffle-oiled frites that is tucked away in a backalley in the small Arts District and serves bratwurst varieties ranging from vegan, to Filipino, to the more exotic rattlesnake-rabbit.

Then, after having had our fill, we jetted off to Bodega Louis, a new patisserie in downtown Los Angeles with a cavernous space and bright airy confections. I sampled a canelle and a red velvet cupcake and bought some fromage d'affinois, a favorite. (Becki, you would approve.)

Oh, exhausting, happy, sun-drenched days ...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sun-Soaked Days, pt. 1

via GiaGia

The past few days in and around Los Angeles have been ridiculously gorgeous. Think eighty-plus degrees, sun ablazing, warmth tickling your skin, shorts-sandals-gossamer-layer-inducing days. These are the sort of days you wait for--you and your white frolick dresses dream about--and, if you live in Portland, you are lucky to have 60+ days like this a year, maybe.

Yes, it would appear that Los Angeles is casting its spell on me, slowly. They are growing on me, the ubiquitous donut shops, the churro/tamale/taco ladies who peddle their delicious wares with warm smiles, the compulsory sunshine. Even proper coffee was found. Things were looking up.

But then, I received a wake up call in the wee morning hours via earthquake. An earthquake! I forgot about these things, about the earthquake drills in elementary school when I was glad for some excitement, but ultimately annoyed by the time we shuffled back to class, in alphabetical order, or when I was forced to hide underneath the desk, invariably plastered with multi-colored, germ-infested gum.

I do not like earthquakes.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Slow Like Molasses

At six o'clock in the morn, and after a sinuous overnight bus ride from Bangkok (set to the tune of Thai karaoke music), I arrived in the hinterland of Chiang Kong, Thailand, crossed the Thailand-Laos border via a short boat ride, and boarded the famed "slow boat" to Luang Prabang, Laos. The slow boat was just that--two days of slow on the mighty Mekong River, a lesson in the beauty of cramped spaces, leaden movement and patience.

Laos is the sort of country that embraces you in its sleepy haze and then makes you walk precariously placed gangplanks, in complete darkness, to get ashore. Really. Somehow, somewhen, somewhy, you surrender and learn to enjoy the process.

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