Life’s Twisty Turns

He’s a half switchback ahead of me. Hanna is running back and forth between us in some attempt to either speed me up or slow him down, thus bridging the gap between us. She doesn’t like when her people aren’t immediately around. She stops halfway between us and gives me that look. “Really?” She sits, almost patiently, waiting. Her breath is little clouds in front of her wet nose. I’m not in a hurry though. I’m in a winter wonderland and enjoying every kind of sensory overload. The sun filters down from the tops of the aspens, through ice crystals and loaded snowy branches to meet me in dazzling brilliance. The air is crisp. Sparkling lights pop all around. It could be millions of little diamonds, and I’m a pirate drooling at my loot. I watch my steamy breath in front of me, more little clouds from the little engine that could. I think I can. 

We’re snowshoeing up a favorite trail, Elbert Creek, which is just a few miles south of Purgatory Ski Area. It’s a quite vertical two miles up to a Forest Service cabin. Cabin is a bit of a stretch. We’ll call it a Forest Service structure, our usual destination. This will take us an hour. For the moment there is a trail, but soon we will be breaking new ground. It’s early in the season and with only a few snows to date, the path is still fresh. Crunch, crunch, crunch. My aluminum shoes slap a rhythm. You would think I’d know exactly how many switchbacks until we hit the top and head up the valley, but I don’t. Maybe eight? This track feels a little off from the hiking trail, off-piste, but whoever gets there first gets to set it, and the rest follow. I catch a glimpse of his yellow jacket ahead. He rounds the corner. 

I like this alone time. It’s good noodling time. I watch Hanna. I think about making an animation of her running willy-nilly ahead, her little feet post holing every once in a while. She stops to smell something. I think about little characters that fall out of the sky around her as she trots along. First a snow bunny, she jumps and lunges at it above, then a Christmas present floats down with bubbles. A large cat stealthily crosses her tail, she sits comically quiet pretending it’s not there. I think about a large stag leaping over her head, and a little bluebird companion that sits on her head. Larger than life blue snowflakes drifting down, bouncing off of her. I have the entire animation scripted. I ponder an overlay of the actual trail, so I stop, take off my gloves and take a few photos. He’s another half a switchback ahead. 

Crunch, crunch, crunch. I continue up. A light breeze swirls around me and up through the trees. It lifts a dusting of snow, forming a faint white whirl through the remnants of dried autumn leaves. The whites and icy blues merge with the pale grey and white trunks. Black eyes peer out from each tree. I ponder the aspens. What an amazing tree.

Fun fact: Did you know that one aspen tree is actually part of a larger organism? An entire stand is considered a singular organism with an extensive root system, and there is a stand in Utah where an estimated 47,000 aspen are all part of one stand. It may be one of the largest singular organisms in the world.

I crest the top of the switchbacks and ahead I start to see the collection of aspens of unusual shapes. Some have a perfect loop in the trunk. One grows straight up then turns a 180 and straight back down. One can’t decide which way to grow and makes a zig-zag. He’s waiting for me at these trees, because each time we get to them we discuss what the heck. Was it a massive snow year, and the juvenile and noodly trunks were twisted this way and that? Were they underground, part of the root system then decided to be trees? It’s curious. We discuss how like life these insane trees are. One day you’re going straight ahead and then something happens that causes a course direction change. You get pulled this way then that, and again you’re moving in a straight direction. Or you’re doing one thing then have a complete reverse decision and head in an opposite direction. But guess what? You’re still a tree, and you’re still growing! You can choose to be the best at everything you do and just keep adjusting as you go. It makes me think about how we are truly all connected, all of us organisms. I smile, drink some water and put my gloves back on. We’re close to the turn around point.

Hanna is sniffing frantically under the snow. Does she smell the roots that spread across this hillside, all connected in one big happy life structure. We’re more resilient in packs. She knows this. It takes many of us a little longer to figure this out. As soon as there is movement, she snaps out of her reverie and is on her way with us, closer together. A little organism of three, but with roots that reach in many directions to the rest in our little pack. This makes me happy to think about. 

We’re on untracked ground now, and the going is a little slower. We stay together as we work our way up into the shadows. The sun has dropped behind the ridge and with it the temperature. The colors shift to darker blues and greys, my breath becomes more opaque. We quietly observe a variety of animal tracks. Maybe a rabbit here, a deer there. This one could even be a cat. We’ve seen frighteningly large scat up here before, and there’s no reason to think she has moved out. I assume this cat is a female, and this is her turf. The scat a little reminder to all who pass that she’s here and aware. On your way, nothing to see here. Keep it going. I wonder what I would do if she strolled across our path, and I run through my inferior knowledge of what you’re supposed to do. Act larger than you are? Wave your arms or do you play dead? I can never keep them straight. Strength in numbers.

We reach our destination, and I slog off through deeper snow to try and find a place a little more packed down to pee. Always an issue with us hydrators. He’s waiting for me, adjusts my constantly twisted pack straps and we’re off back down the trail again. The down will be quicker, but not that much. We pass the aspens of unusual shapes, we pass the tracks, we make it back to the packed trail, and down through the grove. The sun is off of this hill now and there are no longer sparkly ice crystals to distract me. 

My head turns to food and warmth in the near future and I pick up my pace. Maybe a little barn sour to get back. Hanna senses my pep and matches me, thinking I’m playing. She pogos up and down a few times inquiring if I have any snacks. I offer her water from my tube. We both trot along, trying to keep pace with the longer legs ahead that slowly are pulling away. She takes off after him, and for one more moment I am alone, breathing in new awareness of all we have. We’re billionaires.

Or if you’re into blue…

Personal gift picks for the outdoor/fashion girl… what do you think Oprah?Classic Blue is officially the 2020 color of the year.

White + Warren Rib Cashmere Beanie Buy Here
Can you have too many cashmere hats, particularly with fluffy pompoms?

Levi’s Sherpa Jean Jacket Buy Here
A classic everyone should own.

Garmin vivoactive 4s Buy Here
If you’re active, this is awesome. If you’re not, it looks cool.

Hydroflask Buy Here
Hydrate. We like this nifty straw lid, but if you opted for the traditional lid get some reusable straws below.

Steel Straw Buy Here
This is a great pack because it comes with the little cleaning tool. Very necessary… Do your part to save the turtles.

Ray-Ban Wings II Buy Here

UGG Fluff Yeah Slide Wedge Slippers Buy Here
Like sticking your sore feet into a cloud.

North Face Aconcagua Vest Buy Here
Being a layer-er myself, this is a great piece under your Sherpa jacket.

Oprah’s Favorite Things are great, but…

These are a few of mine. At least the pink and red ones! We’ll call this list the Top 10 Gifts for Girls (Pink & Red.) Are Oprah’s color coordinated?

Rebecca Minkoff Convertible Mini Julian Backpack Buy Here
I’ve talked about this little versatile bag before, but currently wanting the red version.

Byredo Hair Perfume, Gypsy Water Buy Here
I wear Byredo’s Flowerhead all summer. Their scents are complex and wonderfully different.

Chan Luu Cashmere Scarf Buy Here
I have three. Say no more.

Kyocera Ceramic Ballpoint pen Buy Here
Not only does this pen write bizarrely well, it’s beautiful. An often overlooked accessory.

Moleskine Classic Notebook Buy Here
I LOVE these notebooks, and keep them in a few places.

BB Dakota Big Time Plush Coat Buy Here
I haven’t yet jumped onto the teddy coat trend, but this looks like a great place to start!

NEST Scented Candle Buy Here
Scents are important. Nest makes fabulous candles and diffusers. You’ll be happy to come home to it daily.

Frye Sabrina Lace-Up Boots Buy Here
I could dedicate numerous posts to Frye boots. They just fit my high arches, are comfortable and damn cute.

UGG Nayomi Cashmere socks Buy Here
And these would feel really good inside those boots.

Butter Nail Polish Buy Here
Butter polishes have a wider brush which makes you almost pro at applying, and they stay glossy. Win, win.

And the Color of the Year is…

As a lifer in the design business, I have been a Pantone enthusiast from the start. I was as enamored with the color decks right out of school as I am today, and yes I even considered a PMS black box tat on my forearm around the time I launched my own agency. Pantone has been an integral piece of my professional world from the get-go, and there is no doubt that Pantone has created a major business around being the color authority. Trend forecasting is important for any business that relies on color as part of their sell. But seriously, what gives with all the hype building up to the “Color of the Year”? This unveiling has seemingly increased proportionately with the growth of social media. No big surprise there, but from the purely analytical or psychological POV, why is it so consuming to so many designers now? What has changed? 

A little history is in order. Pantone first began in the 1950s. Its original purpose was to standardize a color system so that regardless of where or how you printed something, there was consistency across the board. Brilliant. As any designer knows, yellow is not just yellow. This standardization extended to process color as well, or CMYK. The CMYK process is a method of printing using four colors- cyan, magenta, yellow and black to build many colors with overlaying dots. Think comic books. The Pantone system also helped create a matching system for Pantone colors to CMYK colors. As a side note, many of the Pantone colors cannot be simulated with CMYK. Pantone colors are described by PMS and their allocated number. For example, PMS 185 (a fabulous shade of red.) This is where the cult like status begins.

Designers love these little boxes of color and their correlating numbers. We always have. In 2000, the Pantone Color Institute declared a particular “Color of the Year.” It’s quite the to-do. Apparently twice a year they host a secret meeting of the top brass in the world of color to determine the following year’s color. And let the marketing hype begin. Apparently, it has worked if their Instagram posts are anything to go off of. Not only is a color chosen, but it is accompanied by a deep emotional dialogue of why this color was chosen. Was it uplifting for the times, well shit that would be every year lately, or did it represent the need for our world to turn to a greener lifestyle? It gives Sephora an opportunity to match a lipstick or eyeshadow and build off that hype. It allows for all sorts of partnerships in fact; fabrics, furniture, makeup. Color of the year is good for business.

So fellow designers…
how do you feel about this? 

I love color. I’ve talked about color over and over, and how important it is to me in my particular style. Am I influenced by a COTY? Not slightly. Does it make me want to buy a new sweater in it? Not really. Is it even a little bit important to my work? Nope. Yet I read the replies to the Pantone posts and I marvel at how many people are titillated and just dying to know what the 2020 color will be. I don’t get it. Please help me with this.

I agree that color trend is important, and it does drive numerous industries. This is not in question. SO perhaps the COTY is to maintain brand awareness within the design industry. I’ll buy that, but I would be hard pressed to believe that a young fledgling designer can pop out of school and NOT have awareness around Pantone. I’m certain that brand awareness among all designers is very high. We all know about Pantone, and we love you regardless of your reasons for developing a COTY. However, there is more to design color choices than this.

I would encourage any designer out there to consider what trends are doing year to year, but to maintain a sense of self with your design, and color is an important element of this. It may just be that Living Coral is not appropriate to your client’s project. Look at the bigger picture and need. Be aware, but don’t be influenced. Be brilliant and bold, but be original and perhaps who knows, you might influence the next trend.

I Might be a Thanksgiving Failure

I woke in a sleepy panic at 1:00 am last night. Which means, while I was rolling it all through my head, I wasn’t actually acting upon it. You see, I didn’t take the frozen-solid turkey out to thaw on Tuesday when I was probably supposed to. I was trying to recall anything I had read about quick thawing frozen things, and while I know you’re supposed to thaw in cold water, this was a bit larger than a chicken breast. You do use cold water, right? Oh god, what if I give everyone salmonella. Could I get away with a little warm water? I’m still snuggled deep under the covers. It’s 7° out. Let’s not be rash. Fifteen more minutes go by. I know it’s a cold water bath, but wouldn’t that make the water too cold to actually thaw anything in time. My mother will be here around noon, and we’re supposed to make a tamarind habanero glaze for the frozen fat bird. Can’t you just glaze it frozen. Surely by tomorrow it will have thawed. My eyes close. Clearly, I’m not too concerned. 

“You have 10 people coming for Thanksgiving.” My subconscious voice is whispering in my ear, “Get your ass out of bed and take the damn bird out already.” I drag myself out from under the covers, hoping my histrionics will wake my dear heart sleeping soundly and peacefully next to me. Clearly, he’s not worried or maybe he hasn’t thought of it. Why isn’t he tormented with this? Nada. 

I slip like a ghost into the kitchen. My dog didn’t even get up with me. Lazy. I pull the frozen rock out and leave it in the sink under the watchful gaze of the glorious stars shining bright. Back to bed. Is that enough? Will it thaw? Will it thaw too fast? I could always run to the grocery and grab a handful of Swanson’s frozen turkey dinners. I’m back out. It’s in the star’s hands now.

This morning, it’s a new day. The temp has come up to a whopping 24° and I’m online reading how to thaw out a turkey, fast. I fill the sink with cold water, and plunge the bird in. You’re supposed to refresh the water every 30 minutes, for every pound. This sucker should be thawed in five-ish hours. Emergency diverted for now.

On a larger scope, this could resonate like failure somehow. To be fair, Thanksgiving has never really been my holiday to put loads of energy into. I’ve always preferred the less traditional route; tacos or enchiladas, maybe Chinese, copious amounts of bubbles- not traditional. Yet, this year it just turned out that way, and that’s fine. The bigger picture I’m getting to is more about recognizing that it’s OK is a few disasters happen. Those beautiful photoshoots of perfectly coiffed tables, glossy brown turkeys and all the trimmings, beautiful people dressed beautifully with happy smiles and amazing makeup. Well, let’s just say that’s pretty far from most of our realities. Guess what? Perfect is boring. The world isn’t perfect, but perfectly imperfect. 

I believe the act of creating a meal for a large group of people is more about where your heart is and intentions. This holiday is about being with those we love, and those in our inner circle and celebrating a night together – breaking bread together as it were. It’s not about being perfect and impressing those people. They have seen you at your worse, and still love you. Gratitude and forgiveness are a package deal. 

Pat yourself on the back. Give yourself a high five. Tell yourself how much you love yourself, and forgive yourself for not being perfect. Nobody will care if you’re not perfect, or if your turkey isn’t either.

5 Favorite/Necessary Travel Aids

Are you traveling home for Thanksgiving? Or possibly taking off for Thanksgiving! Having just returned from two weeks away, I thought I’d share a list of my most necessary travel and packing items. I’m getting it down to something maybe slightly less than absolute packing mayhem, but not quite to pro-level. I can’t go quite as nano as my guy does, I just have more stuff I want to take. At least I can have it organized and not resemble something that looks like it was hit with a bomb.

  1. Packing Cubes!!
    Where have you been all my life? They’re the giant zip-lock bags that OCD packers dream of. There are quite a few out there on the market. Tending to over-stuff these little fabric boxes, I opted a nicer version with bomber zippers. I have multiple sizes, for everything I want to keep separate and use the larger version to store dirty clothes for the trip home.

    Eagle Creek makes a solid version. Sold here.

2. Backpack/Handbag
I actually use this all the time, and have a smaller version of this in a different color, but for travel I always use my large black leather one. Yes, I have a handbag thing. SO what. You can throw this on the floor, wipe it down, stuff it with extra shoes, and all your travel items that you need handy. And it looks damn good.

Rebecca Minkoff, Julian Backpack. Sold here.

3. Snacks
This is sort of a duh, but you’d be amazed how often we forget to pack some and then buy overpriced ones at an airport. My current snacking favorite are KIND bars. They’ve been a favorite for a while in all honesty, but they’re light, healthy and NOT messy when you open it squished between two people that maybe take up more room than you do. I’m partial to the Almond & Coconut and you can buy case packs on Amazon.

KIND bars. Sold here.

4. Sleep Aids
If you’re blessed with amazing sleep- good for you. When I’m not in my own bed, sleep can elude me. I’ve tried a number of mild options, and most leave you feeling slightly hung over. I love this CBD micro-mist from Nuhumun. It’s easy to use, not a bottle of pills to lug around and works perfectly for me, and I like the science behind what they’re doing.

Nuhumun Vanilla Micromist SLEEP. Sold here.

5. Moisturizers of ALL kinds
I don’t care where I’m going, or what the climate is, I need moisturizer. Lip balms, lotions, face creams etc. I could dedicate many pages to my research of this, but I’ll give you my all round favorite source for all of the above.

I’ve been on the Osmosis Skin Care train for some time now. I live with the Quench face lotion, and Replenish serum. They also make an amazing lio balm!

Osmosis Skin Care : Quench. Sold here.
Osmosis Skin Care: Replenish Sold here.

Gratitude is a Full Time Job

Gratitude is not for wimps. Given that we are fast approaching the holiday of gratitude, it’s going to ramp. We hear a lot about showing gratitude lately, or maybe it’s like when you get a new car, and suddenly you see that same car everywhere. I personally have had gratitude on my mind quite a bit in the past year. I have much to be thankful for, but I’ve noticed that the practice of gratitude doesn’t always come quite so smoothly. I am crystal clear on the idea of manifest reality and creating more of the good stuff in your world through setting intentions, and gratitude to the universe. The reality is, when you’re having a stressful time, or things aren’t quite grooving along, it’s easy to let your grati-guard down. Dig in deep. This is when it gets real. I believe many of us have techniques for managing this, but I’m going to share a few of my own. I hope something in here helps you when you need it.

  1. Before I roll out of bed, first thing when I wake, maybe even slightly before I’m fully wide eyed and bushy tailed, I take a long slow deep breath and draw awareness of the warm bodies next to me- the love of my life, and my furry little nugget of a pup. These bring me a great sense of calm and comfort. I’m quite thankful for their warmth particularly on chilly winter mornings!
  2. As I get up and start my morning routine, I take a moment here and there along the way to appreciate the little things. This is similar to adding “brushing your teeth” to your task list for the day. You need the no-brainers to check off and help that sense of accomplishment. I love hot water. Wow my coffee is delicious. I adore my insanely wonderful perfume. My back feels great this morning. Listen to those birds going berzerk!…easy stuff to have gratitude for, and just as important.
  3. Find something every day that makes you smile. I have preached this to my girls their entire life. Each and every day, find one little thing that you find beautiful, or adorable, or stunning, or funny- anything that makes you stop and smile. Being a color-centric person, this one is easy for me because I often stop and take in nature’s palette.
  4. When I’m faced with a particular challenge, and fear starts to grip me I look deep inside for that elusive thing called faith- complete trust and confidence that things will work out. This one is important to me. I now view these challenges as little or big tests to see what meddle I am made of. Faith is leaping into the day and knowing a net will appear. It forces me to be bold.
  5. Just like the start of my day, the end gives me a pause to take quick inventory and a quick mental list of how great the day was. Yes I was crazy busy and maybe dealt with some challenging clients, or spilled coffee on myself – whatever. That’s life. The day was still filled with beauty, I spoke with both of my girls, I laughed with my mom, I accomplished quite a bit and wow look who’s eating dinner with me! Winner!
  6. Show a lot of gratitude to yourself. Loving yourself, and being kind to yourself might be the top of the order. Without self-love, you really don’t get past Go. So, collect that $200 and get on your way down the Boardwalk. You are amazing! 

Does Color Make the Designer

It snowed for the first time this season today. I awoke to it. Standing in the front doorway I stared out in wonder, maybe even had my mouth open. The palette of my world changed overnight, and it brought me something new and beautiful to look at. It happens every year, the first snow. And every year I’m just as giddy about it. For me, it’s about color, and how light plays off of the crystals, the greys in the sky, the browns and golds under it all. It’s an ermine cloak laying on the branches, with little specks of black peeking through. It’s the patterning of white and brown across the meadow not unlike a herringbone. The softening of everything. The brightening of everything. The world is on a blur filter.

I’m standing there, and in rapid fire, my brain is making graphic shapes in repeating patterns, designing a snowflake, a wintery palette for a silk print or wallpaper, a texture to be used in something. Nature has done it again, I think. She’s got it going on. Is this how it all began for me? Did my reverence for color and shape in nature turn me into a designer or did I notice it after I was labeled such? I remember always loving color, maybe even nibbling on a crayon or two, but did that drive me into the creative I am today? I think perhaps it’s a bit of both. 

I knew pretty early on that graphic design is what I wanted to do. I recognized that design is in every aspect of our lives, whether made by nature or man. It’s there undeniably and I wanted to be a part of that world. As a young child in New Orleans my mother would take me with her to this glorious fabric shop. To call it something as mundane as a fabric shop doesn’t do it justice. This was my personal Mecca. This was heavy silks in floral prints, jeweled toned velvets and the equally fascinating selvage, crisp poplins in crisp colors, striped and textured seersuckers, and then there was the wall of silk cords. Silk cords in every color you could ever want in a wall so high I had to crane my head up to see it all. She would let me pick out a few colors and buy me a small piece of each, that I would braid, pet and play with until they unraveled. Then I realized that fabric was something you could design! Then it was book illustrations, then posters and album covers. As a teen I wanted to make all of these. I became enchanted with building complete systems! This evolved into learning more about marketing and the psychology behind what I did and how it affects the audience. And so it went. Yet, it remains that under all of this, color and pattern was still the core of what I love. 

As a designer taking a cue from what nature is doing is a powerful start to your concepts. Certainly, it’s a form of inspiration at a minimum. It brings humility to your work, something profound, organic and decidedly not perfect. We live in a precise digital world; nature brings us back to something somehow friendly. As children we drew trees with simple leaves and red apples. We drew orange stripy cats with huge ears. I drew my mother with wild curly black hair bigger than her head. We took our world in a very simple pure form, on pure emotional response. Then we get older and we are trained to be creatives and how to use the plethora of tools at our fingertips. We get better at what we do, more skilled, and refined, but we’re still observers. Us designers. Or at least, we should be. 

I recognize not everyone swoons over color the way I do, and I now understand that’s one of my superpowers. I’m proud to be a graphic designer. I think I’m really good at it too, and as a designer I believe in sharing what’s so incredible about the way I see our world. Next time it snows, or flowers pop up, or anything natural that catches your eye, stop a moment and really see what’s going on. Look at the combination of colors, or pattern and texture. See how it moves and the shapes it holds. Whether you’re a designer or not, I think you’ll see something for the first time, every time, and my hope is that makes you smile. Our world is cool.