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Three of Maroon’s Must-Read Books

31 Mar
Robert Mapplethorpe & Patti Smith

Robert Mapplethorpe & Patti Smith

Dear Yolo,

I tend to go through periods where I read voraciously, annihilating stacks of books, sometimes waking up in the middle of the night to read. This is usually followed by a month or two where I read nothing at all aside from the plays I’m required to read for scenes in class.

These are my 3 favorite books of the last 6 months: Just Kids by Patti Smith, Lessons in Becoming Myself by Ellen Burstyn and The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson.

I didn’t realize it until I put this list together and I didn’t read them back-to-back, but not surprisingly (considering my current state of mind and my personal pursuits) these books share many, many similarities. All three books are about artists and about making art.They are all the sorts of books that make your heart bigger and make life seem richer. One of the books is fiction while the other two are autobiographical but all three lifted my heart and inspired me, expanding my sense of the world and my own personal strength and potential as an artist.

Are you still with me after that last sentence? Ok, good. The two non-fiction works were especially poignant to me. Ostensibly, Ellen Burstyn and Patti Smith couldn’t be more different, yet they are both incredibly powerful and unique artists and women. I hope you get a chance to read these too if you haven’t already. It will fortify your own sense of badass-ness.

1. My favorite of the three is Just Kids by Patti Smith. It’s easily one of the top three most important books I’ve read in the last 10 years. I knew beforehand of Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography and I knew that he died of AIDS, but I knew of Patti Smith was that she was a rocker-type lady?

It’s the late 60’s when a teenage Smith moves to New York from a small town in Pennsylvania, living on the street briefly before finally getting a job at a bookstore and meeting a young Mapplethorpe. The story is theirs, of artist and muse, of lovers, life-long friends, and a love and mutual respect deeper than I think most of us are ever priviledged to know on this earth. Their paths cross and intertwine with so many other artists, musicians and writers that define the era. William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsburg, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Sam Shepard (and many more notables) make cameos in Smith’s tale.

And while the narrative is incredible, I was even more affected by Smith’s poetic prose and intimidating literacy and skill as a writer. The writing is painfully beautiful, and there is such purity in her words and it leaves trailing behind it such a gorgeous and gallant suggestion of  now, and of mortality.

Just Kids is a work of art. I’m hardly the only one who feels this way;  Smith has a was named a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture in 2005 and received a National Book Award for Just Kids.

NPR Books Logo  Click here to listen to Patti Smith’s 2010 NPR interview.

Lessons In Becoming Myself by Ellen Burstyn2. I also adored Ellen Burstyn’s Lessons in Becoming Myself.  I feel so grateful to both Burstyn and Smith that they bare so much of themselves in these books. They are both so inspiring and so strong and so different. Born in Detroit, Burstyn arrives in New York in the early 60s to study theater after making stops in Texas where she worked as a model and Montreal where she was a chorus girl. That’s just the very beginning. I don’t think anyone in history would be able to accuse Ellen Burstyn of not living a full life.

Burstyn struggled a lot early on, often depending on the kindness of others or going hungry unless she had a date. But even after there was significant momentum behind her trajectory in becoming one of the most respected and successful actresses in the business, her struggle was a spiritual one to find herself.

Born a Catholic, Burstyn eventually converts to Sufism.  The spiritual aspect of her story was especially fascinating to me. She falls in love with a Sufi monk, she experiences a catharsis at a spiritual retreat in the French Alps and spiritual exploration and her search for herself take her to the Middle East. She produces (though she failed to claim the credit, she ruefully explains) a movie called Resurrection, (you’ve probably never heard of it but it’s very good, and I recommend watching it) in which she also starred as a woman in the rural midwest who has the power to heal people. Sam Shepard (both Ellen and Patti have great taste)  is handpicked by Burstyn to play opposite her… the list goes on.

Tons of luminaries of the stage and screen make appearances in her story and whether or not you are familiar with her work, are an actor, artist or interested in spirituality (though at least ONE of those has to sound sort of interesting if you’re warm-blooded), I think you’ll still find the story of her life’s triumphs and tragedies fascinating and inspirational.

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

3. Ever wondered life would have been like if your parents were performance artists? Then this book is for you! The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson is totally one of the most enjoyable, quirkiest, and funniest books I’ve ever read.

Performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang have two children Annie and Buster, also known as Child A and Child B. They video tape “happenings” that they create as a family. Growing up in the Fang household, Buster and Annie are assigned parts in creating these “happenings”, but they rarely know what their parents are really up to. The “happenings” are… AMAZING. So funny.

The story alternates between the present where Annie and Buster, now both adults are struggling in their lives. Annie has become a successful actress in Hollywood but she has started drinking excessively to address her apathy and dislike of mostly everything in her life. Buster is struggling freelance writer working on a feature for Esquire about potato guns. They both still live in the shadow of their parent’s creations. In between episodes from Annie and Buster’s adult lives we learn about their childhood through vignettes titled with the names of Camille and Caleb’s art.

It’s a hilarious story, but touched with the pain we all bear discovering the mortality and fallibility of one’s parents and coming into your own right as an adult and a creator. I feel like I’m not doing it justice with that last sentence. It’s lovely. I couldn’t put it down and read it in a day.

(There are rumors The Family Fang is being adapted into a film with Nicole Kidman attached to the project.  Nicole Kidman is kind of like brussel sprouts. (What? You’ve thought that before too? Let’s be friends!!!)  People either love or detest her. I’m a fan, but if you’re not– don’t hold it against the book.)

Love,

Maroon

Yolo’s Skin Cancer & Sun Damage Survival Guide

28 Mar Best Product for Your Skin to Prevent and Reduce Sun Damage
Best Product for Your Skin to Prevent and Reduce Sun Damage

Yolo's Picks for Sun Damage Prevention and Treatment (click to enlarge)

Dear Maroon,

I am coming up on my  six month check-up with my medical dermatologist to see if my cancerous removed mole has in fact removed all of the cancerous portions of itself from my body. I noticed a weird and somewhat smallish mole on my lower back a few years ago. I honestly forgot about it for awhile since it was certainly not an area that I normally see, but after solicited advice from friends and loved ones that ranged from “that’s just a mole” to “um, you should probably have that thing looked at”, I decided to seek medical advice. I went in and had the whole thing removed for biopsy to be sure. Turned out it was a basal cell carcinoma – the most common type of skin cancer that usually doesn’t metastisize (spread to other parts of the body). It can however, spread to other parts of one’s skin if unchecked. I’m going in next Monday to have my dermatologist check all of my myriad freckles and moles.

I am, as you know, a bit of a skincare product and makeup whore (oh, how I miss the days of college beauty routines).  Like so many people I scour blogs and test things out to find the best possible products I can put on my face and body, not to mention homemade recipes with the things I can find in my own fridge. After a childhood and adolescence of sunbathing, hiking and junior lifeguarding, I have accumulated a fair amount of sun damage and I wanted to put my product whoriness to good use. I became obsessed with suncare a few years ago and while I miss my tanned limbs, I feel a bit more secure in my choices nowadays regarding sun care.

For a long time I have been using Vivite SPF 30 ($22). It’s pretty awesome as a daytime moisturizer/sunscreen. It has glycolic acid in it, which is fantastic for sloughing off dead skin, but I’ve had some IPL treatments which forbid the use of any retinoids or glycolic acid for awhile before and after treatment. I’ve come to rely on Elta MD SPF 30 ($25) as my go-to sunscreen now. It’s light and feels kind of amazing (I have oily skin so I hate heavy products). For days when I know I am going to be in the sun, I use Solar Protection Formula SPF 58 ($21). The downside is that the zinc in it makes you look kind of sickly, but it is awesome at protection from the sun (don’t use if you have a day date).

If you already have some sun damage, I highly recommend using some Niacin products. Nia24  is the best on the market that I have found for reducing sun damage. Their exfoliant cream cleanser is amazing as is their night damage cream.

A lot of sunblock and sunscreens can be good for sun protection but bad for your skin’s well-being. So many products on the market focus solely on sun screens but can be super-harsh for your skin. After reading a post on IntoTheGloss.com (I love that site).  I discovered the best database for figuring out protection factor versus skin-harmfulness: EWG.org.  If you have any doubt, check out the products you want to use on that site. So brilliant.

The lips are often a neglected area when it comes to sunscreen, but I really love Dr. T’s Supergoop ($8.50). I like La Mer’s Lip Balm ($50) at night, but honestly I use Vaseline more. During the day, you really cannot find a better product for lips than the SPF 30 of Dr. T’s Supergoop (I like acai better than mint)  . This stuff has saved me from insufferable California sunshine so many times (it’s only insufferable when hazy, but I do miss seasons). I had a large freckle on my lip a few years ago that has since gone away after using protective lip balms/glosses. Protect your lips.

Another note for you: apply that sunscreen to your neck, decolletage and hands. A simple homemaking tip is to get a lovely lotion jar and fill it with half lotion/half sunscreen. There are some awesome apothecary jars out there for just such an occasion. Find or make them, but regardless and whatever your age, protect and then do it again. Sunscreen wears off after four hours (every sunscreen does) so reapply and know that it is just a thing you have to do. If you have questions, ask and I am more than happy to help out.

Love,

Yolo

Best Products For Your Skin to Prevent and Reduce Sun Damage

  1. Solar Protection Formula SPF 58 $21 at Amazon.com
  2. Elta MD SPF 30 $25 at Amazon.com
  3. Nia 24 Gentle Cleansing Cream $30 at Dermstore.com
  4. Nia 24 Intensive Recovery Complex $110 at Dermstore.com
  5. Vivite Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 30 $22 at Amazon.com
  6. Dr. T’s Supergoop Acai SPF 30 $8.50 at Nordstrom.com
  7. La Mer Lip Balm $50 at Nordstroms.com

Art credit: Long Beach by Mark Spain

Maroon’s Mini Herb Garden

26 Mar Heirloom Herb Seeds

Maroon's Mini Herb Garden

Dear Yolo,

For a number of reasons, I now have two little mini-greenhouses with tiny plants in our apartment.

  1. As much as I try to fight it, I am a native of the Evergreen State so living in the concrete jungle of New York is especially hard on my aesthetic sensibilities.  East Coast deciduous trees make winter look especially bleak.
  2. Plants are cute!
  3. I hate buying herbs. It just pisses me off.
  4. Both of my grandparents had/have lovely gardens where they grew vegetables, herbs, flowers and all sorts of things. I loved working in their gardens with them when I was a kid. I felt a lot of affection for earthworms because I knew they were good for the soil and help plants grow and named each one I found “Charlie”. I liked to pretend that each time I found an earthworm it was the same one.
  5. It is socially acceptable to hoard plants. Many people even admire this sort of behavior.

During our last trip to Ikea, I bought two little mini-greenhouse type structures. Not really necessary, but being part Japanese means it’s hard for me to resist anything in miniature scale. I dragged back a bag of soil from Target and have been using jars, a mismatched wineglasses and little pots mugs or planters picked up from Goodwill to give my little garden a home.

One of the mini greenhouses is more or less dedicated to herbs while the other is a home for my succulent plants. I love succulents because they are difficult to kill (they basically require neglect) and they’re so cool looking.

Also, we eat a lot of guacamole so while I don’t put all the seeds to use, I do have two one-year-old avocado trees thriving with two more I have just started in small jars and am waiting to sprout. I think they will actually make nice housewarming gifts for friends because most people who come over stare longingly at the tiny trees.

Maroon's Mini Garden

I feel like I’m 10 years old again, because I find it pretty exciting to plant some seeds and then see them sprout a week or two later.  I’m sure this sounds totally stupid to some people, but as a person who has lived in urban environments for many years, seeing a plant grow is (sadly) really cool!

So far I have basil, cilantro (I know, sorry– you hate it), parsley and rosemary growing. I also have some seeds for thyme but I need to go get more soil. Not looking forward to that because the bag is heavy.

I’m especially excited about the purple opal basil I planted. The little sprouts are kind of greenish/purple right now, but they’re supposed to become this brilliant purple when full grown. More food should be purple. I’ll have to update with more pictures.

Tata for now– someone has to go to the doctor’s office so I’m filling in for a few hours at the wine store this afternoon and I need to get ready. Also, sorry my pics are kinda sucky. I left my phone at a restaurant on Friday and it looks like someone took it. Haven’t done that for YEARS. So pissed about it.

How was your weekend?

Love,

Maroon

Maroon's Mini Garden

Clean and Update Your Closet Selling on eBay: 7 Tips

16 Mar

Dear Yolo,

Have you seen Smash yet? That show with Katharine McPhee about becoming a Broadway musical star thingy? I like it for the same reason I like Hoarders. It makes me feel more normal and hopeful about my life when I watch it. I will leave my explanation at that.

Now that I’ve lived in New York for a while, I get so pissed whenever I watch a TV show (like Smash or Friends) or any movie where the characters living in New York. The apartments the characters live in are so unrealistic it’s funny in a bitter, “I grew up thinking I would have a flying car by this point in my life” kind of way. There is just no freaking way Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox could possibly afford an apartment like that on their barista/chef salaries. A two bedroom apartment like that in Manhattan would be at LEAST $6000/mo.  And in real life, their apartment would be furnished with craigslist and curbside found objects and shoes, books and clothes would be piled everywhere.

Since I’m an optimist, I will say that one ancillary benefit of living in a tiny New York apartment is that it forces you to be creative about storage and (actually, this may be a benefit of watching Hoarders) it forces you to only keep things that you really want or need because you simply don’t have room for things you feel iffy about. Enter eBay.

I started using eBay again after an 8 year hiatus because I was interested in finding unique vintage pieces. Specifically, I like searching eBay for interesting vintage Valentino, Christian Lacroix (amazing accessories from the 90s),  Sonia Rykiel (I adore her sweaters) or Halston (just bought an awesome leopard print pony hair crossbody bag for $16) clothing and accessories at good prices.While it’s fun to forage for these things in New York, it’s tiring and time consuming and New York city prices can make some used and vintage items as costly as brand-new purchases.

So after I had started buying on eBay, why not try selling? I have an embarrassing number of clothes and shoes I’ve accumulated in the last few years that were too expensive for me to feel ok about donating to Goodwill but that I no longer wear or don’t fit me. It was time to purge all the un-used and unappreciated items from my closet.

Selling on eBay allows me to make some money back on the clothes and shoes that are now just taking up valuable space in my closet and I like knowing that these items are going to enjoy a second life and make someone happy. Most the money I’ve made on eBay has been reinvested in eBay or Etsy wardrobe purchases so maybe not that much extra room has been freed up, but on the upside, I’ve traded my unwanted stuff for things I like: instant wardrobe update.

In case you you haven’t already tried it yourself, I wanted to share some tips for selling on Ebay. It’s simple, but here are seven tips that would have helped me starting out. These tips are things  I learned the hard way (like getting burned on postage fees) and then i’ve  added some know-how from my days in Digital Marketing.

  1. Sell The Right Thing. Sell things you think people will actually search for/want to buy on EBay.  Selling does take some time and effort so make it worth your while and resist the urge to make  $2 on a worn sweatshirt from Target. Donate those items to Goodwill. Someone will get use out of your donation, it goes to a good cause and you can write it off on your taxes.
    Also, consider the season or when someone is in the market for your wares. For example, most shoppers are thinking about spring and summer right now. If you have a winter parka you want to sell, you may want to wait until fall to list it.
  2. Make It Look Good. Pick a clean, well-lit place with a simple background to photograph your goods so you can represent them accurately and in an appealing manner. You don’t need fancy equipment or Terry Richardson’s eye. I actually use my iPhone to take my pictures.
    Keep your light source behind the camera for the best images. Since the color isn’t always true to life, I use Picasa (free to download) to adjust and the image if needed. You can also make other edits in Picasa if you need to crop or straighten. (There’s also tons of effects– it’s a great program.)
    If it’s a simple striped shirt, you can probably get away with posting one image (the first image is free, 3 additional images are available for $0.15 each). Make sure you capture interesting or unique details. Lots of items, shoes especially call for images taken from multiple angles. You can also do a Google image search to get professional imagery or the item worn by a model or a celebrity which will be sure to draw a shopper’s eye. Terry Richardson may have actually taken that photo, and it’s likely to be more compelling than your home photograhy so use it as your featured (free) photo that people will see when they’re browsing listings.
    If you have a lot to sell and/or want to get serious about selling on EBay, check out Auctiva (it’s free) a  service that provides EBay seller templates, scrolling galleries, image hosting and other marketing tools.

    Vince Camuto 'Suni' Boot 9.5M in Distressed Nubuck

    Vince Camuto 'Suni' Boot 9.5M in Distressed Nubuck

  3. The Title Brings Them In.  Buyers on eBay typically use the search function when shopping, so create a title that is search and customer friendly. There is no need to be too creative. Simply list the most pertinent information about what you’re selling. Just as I’ve done with the titles for these bullet points, capitalize the first letter of Each Word in Your Title. Like headlines in a newspaper or marketing emails in your inbox, it draws the eye and makes your title stand out.Info to Include In Your Title:
    Brand Name. People shop for brands, so if your item is  J. Crew, Zara, H&M or Max Azaria or was purchased from a store like Fred Segal, Anthropologie or Free People, mention it in the title.
    Example: ‘Silk Paisley Halter Top with Beaded Detail – M Anthropolgie Free People’
    Style, Color, Size.
    Other info for your title. If applies: NWT (New With Tags), NWB (New With Box)/NIB (New In Box), Rare or Sold-Out (if your item is hard to find or sought after.
  4. Pricing. You can sell two ways on eBay: auction style or simply list your price for the item. If you opt for auction style, you can choose the base price for bidding. This price should be the minimum price you are willing to accept in exchange for the item.
    You can also select the length of time you want your auction to run from 5 days to 30 days. I usually choose the minimum auction length of 5 days because I want to get rid of stuff sooner rather than later. Most people when shopping for clothing items are interested in instant gratification. If you are selling a collector’s item or a more specialized/significant purchase, a longer auction time may help you get more money in the long run.
    It’s really up to you.  If you opt for a longer auction time, I suggest also offering the ‘Buy It Now’ option. This is the price you’d ideally like to get for the item (higher than your minimum). It will allow a motivated buyer to purchase your item right away instead of waiting and waiting for the auction to end.
  5. Describe it Accurately.  Inspect your item thoroughly before listing. Be honest about the wear on the item and disclose any known flaws. If you purchased the item fairly recently, you may be able to cut and paste a description from a retailer here.  Mention again in your description if an item is pre-owned.  There are inexperienced buyers and lots of people who don’t read carefully. To give the buyer a sense of value, I suggest  listing the price you paid/original retail price of the item.  It doesn’t hurt to add a personal touch and thank the buyer for looking at your listing and/or invite them to email you with question or if they want to see additional pictures.
  6. Your Item Sold! If the item you’ve been selling has been bid on, once the auction ends, you’ll get a notification saying your item has sold. Yay! Now, wait. You’re waiting for a notification from eBay that lets you know the buyer has transfered funds to your PayPal account and that you’ve been PAID. Then you can celebrate (and ship the item). Most buyers are pretty prompt with payment but if 48 hours have passed and you still haven’t gotten the notification that you’ve been paid, remind your buyer and send them an invoice. This is one of the actions you can select in the eBay Selling interface. Add a note that you’re waiting for payment and will ship within X days /time (whatever you selected when you listed the item) as soon as payment has been received.
    I haven’t had any issues as a seller, but if you have a someone who doesn’t respond to your invoice or reminders, it is possible to cancel a sale. eBay does protect its sellers as well as buyers.  If there is an issue, do your best to resolve it yourself communicating with your buyer directly. If there is a conflict, check with the eBay Customer Support Center.
  7. Shipping and Mailing. I definitely lost a few dollars and an hour or two of my life due to post office lines and my own ignorance in this department early on. Here’s the good news– with USPS you can do all your shipping without ever leaving your house. YES! We all know post offices are pretty much the worst places on earth. It’s where lonely hypochondriacs go when they feel like testing out whether or not their misery is contagious. (It is.)
    Back to USPS.  Get to know those flat-rate USPS Priority box and envelope sizes and prices! Or, if you’re shipping a shirt or pair of jeans that can fit in a large poly-vinyl or Priority (not flat-rate)  envelope weight the item (use the bathroom scale if you’re not a drug dealer) and the calculator on the USPS website. When you first list an item, order your boxes from the USPS website (it’s FREE) and they will deliver the boxes to you. Once you sell your item, you can select an option to print your  shipping label on your printer and then you simply schedule the USPS pick up on their website. Pretty slick, right?
    If you print your own label through eBAY (it’s also a USPS label), the tracking number will automatically become available to the buyer. Otherwise, this is something you can manually update. Make sure you indicate in the selling section of ‘My eBay’ when the item has shipped so you customer will receive the notification.

As a final word, maintain a good reputation. Treat your customers they way you’d want to be treated. If you say you’re going to ship within 2 business days, then do it. Be communicative and fair. Your reputation (based on reviews left by your customers and those you purchase from) will influence others on whether or not they want to do business with you. Have fun &  good luck, sellers!

Free People Anthropologie Hooded Crochet Sweater Coat - L

Free People Anthropologie Hooded Crochet Sweater Coat - L

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