Thursday, December 31, 2009

Well this is it! The last day of 2009!! Best wishes to everyone for a happy and healthy 2010!

With love,

Jessica O.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I'm back!

It’s been so long, I know! Too long, in fact. So much has happened. Most notably, Matt and I moved! We are on Cloverdale in Miracle Mile and loving life in our new apartment. Three fabulous friends, Suzan, Peter and Eric, helped us move on what was literally the rainiest day in LA. Such great friends! This first picture is the view of the Hollywood Hills from our bedroom window.
Here are several other highlights since the last time I’ve written:

We saw Christmas Carol in 3-D.

We went to several fabulous holiday parties including a champagne open house at Suzan’s and an intimate dinner party at Steve and Jen’s.

We saw Avitar in 3-D – a must see while it’s in 3-D. A very special film.

We got to meet baby Feldman and spent a Saturday night with Annie, Cortney and the Bartletts.

We went to Portland for Christmas – a classic trip with the Olmons spent eating Swedish traditional smorgasbord on Christmas Eve, reading, watching Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation, eating some more, shopping, cooking, and out to a fabulous dinner at Maggi and Gary’s favorite restaurant in Lake Oswego. We also saw the most amazingly decorated house with Christmas lights. These pictures don’t really do it justice, but it was enchanting. We made multiple drive-bys around the house at night.

So, 2009 is finally coming to an end. The strangest thing is that most people I know (myself included) are happy this year is ending. Is it a bad thing that we want to wish a year away?

For some time now, I’ve been lost in the feelings that life isn’t going the way I want it to. But on Christmas Eve, we sat behind a young woman in a motorized wheelchair at church. The only thing I could think about was how lucky I am that I’m not in her situation. It really made the things that “aren’t going my way” seem small. That inspired me to start some change in my life so that I can start thinking bigger. Thinking about more than the way I wish things were. So, the first big change is that I am going to try 60 days of yoga beginning January 1st. Getting busy thinking about something else! There is a great yoga studio near our apartment, and I’m going to give this a try. For days when I don’t feel like going to the studio or if we have plans in the evening, I have a few DVDs to use in the morning. Matt is on board with me. Between the physical challenge and the mental stimulation, I’m really looking forward to giving this a try. The second is that I am going to take on a major volunteer project. I haven’t decided what it is, but I will write more as soon as I do.

All in all, I am ready for 2010! I have this feeling bubbling up inside that 2010 is going to bring great things. Great change.

Jessica O.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving in Ohio

We had the best of best visits in Ohio. We arrived in Cincinnati on Tuesday and went to Marissa and Nate's house for a glass of champers. Their apartment is even more fab than I expected it to be (and I had high expectations) so I am super-impressed with Marissa's interior design skills. From there we went to the original Skyline Chili. What a treat! Even with the sticky air and impatient waitress, what's not to love about Skyline?? Ok, I was almost sick afterwards (I was so full), but it was a memorable event. It was great to see Marissa and Nate and their new apartment. From there, Matt and I drove to my dad's in Columbus. We had planned to stay overnight in Cinci, but I was still feverish from the flu so we left early. Highlights of our visit included the champagne toasts, seeing Marissa's little home, Skyline!, and of course, Marissa and Nate's tandem waiving performance as we left.

On Wednesday, Erin, Matt and I went to look at the Jackson, the new condos in the Short North. The condos aren't finished yet, so we had to wear hard hats. It was like going through a construction site, but it was really fun to imagine how cool the apartments will be when they are finished. It was also great to have Erin with us to start to bring her into (hopefully!) our real estate investment business. She seems really interested and is already excited about real estate as a junior in college. Fab! At the end of the tour, I actually asked the realtor to take our picture. From there, the three of us met my mom and Tina at Northstar Cafe for a festive holiday lunch.

That night, I got to see Katie & Jay at their salon. Our visit was too short, but as always, it is so refreshing to visit with them. They are the type of friends that are never judgmental and always keep you thinking about something new. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we will have a visit with them next summer.

From there, I went back to my house to see Uncle Dick and the rest of the Pursglove family, who had arrived that afternoon. Wednesday night and Thursday were fantastic and just how I imagined they would be. Talking, eating, drinking - everything required for a Pursglove family Thanksgiving. It was my favorite Thanksgiving yet. This year I got smart at the meal too. I filled half of my plate with stuffing and only sampled the rest of the food. Of course I love to try everything, but honestly, I just can't get enough of Nannie's stuffing recipe. Because of this new plan, I wasn't overwhelmingly stuffed, which was a nice change from the usual Tgiving food coma.

I was also happy that my dad agreed to get a farm raised, antibiotic and hormone free turkey. I am generally not eating meat out of protest of how animals are raised. But I do really enjoy meat sometimes. So, if the meat is humanely raised (i.e. allowed to roam around, not spending its entire life standing in its own waste, not trapped in a space in which it can never move until the day it dies, etc.), I am happy to eat it. I was really proud that Joe agreed to the turkey. He pointed out that he could basically get a regular turkey for free at the grocery store, whereas he would have to spend around $75 to get the turkey I wanted. But after we discussed the benefits of the good turkey, he agreed. He even drove across town to pick it up.

On Thanksgiving night, we all went out in the Short North for a drink. What a blast! Everyone was there - even Marissa and Nate, Marissa's brother Mark and his girlfriend, and Aaron Smith met up! I couldn't have been happier enjoying such great company.

The next day Matt and I drove to the outlets (half way between Columbus and Cincinnati) to meet Karen and Michael. Bob Evans is the only restaurant choice off the exit we meet, so we (unfortunately) had to eat there. But as usual, the conversation was great, and it was so nice to see them.

From there, we spent the rest of the weekend at my mom's. Eating, talking, relaxing, shopping, baking, and celebrating Christmas. It was really an ideal visit.

On the Christmas note, I was so grateful this year that my family agreed to do "thought gift Christmas". This partially came about because Sam, Laura, Matt and I won't be in Columbus this year for Christmas. Matt and I are going to Oregon and Sam and Laura are going to New Orleans (where her family lives). But it also came about because I wanted Christmas this year to be about what's really important. Spending time with family and friends and showing people how much you love them. For that, a thought gift is perfect. And I just can't tell you how much I enjoyed giving and receiving these gifts. Grammie gave me an antique plate from her house, Tina gave me a book she loved, Dad gave me a fabulous coin set for my collection, Neetie gave a Christmas pop-up book (also for my collection)...I could go on. Everything was so meaningful and warmed my heart in such a special way. So I appreciate that my family was willing to try something new this year. I hope we can try something new next year (when we will be there for Christmas) - all in the name of making the holidays more meaningful and memorable.

Now that December is here, holiday plans are in full swing! This is definitely my favorite time of year. Getting dressed up, going to parties, seeing close friends and friends you have hardly seen, wonderful I'm moving!

I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving!

Jessica O.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Max!

Matt was in St. Louis for his actual birthday (Thursday), so we celebrated on Friday and Saturday. We were going to go to dinner Friday night, but I had to work until 8pm and by the time I got home, Matt was exhausted after barely sleeping the night before and getting up at the crack of dawn to fly back to LA. So we ordered a pizza (at one of our favorites - Nicky D's Woodfired Pizza) and ate cake. The cake might be the most tasty I've ever made. It's called Melted Ice Cream Cake and includes a pint of melted ice cream in the recipe and is topped with Chocolate Marshmellow Frosting. Matt and I have been eating cake for most meals for the past three days (even though Alex and I gave up sugar)! I am not counting the cake as sugar...

After a full day of apartment searching on Saturday, we went to Bella in Hollywood for dinner. It was more a place to be seen than it was a restaurant with exceptional food, but we enjoyed the meal and each other's company. Lots of toasts and dreaming about what the next year holds for us.

Because Thanksgiving is this week, Hollywood was empty. It was eerie to drive down Hollywood Blvd. without traffic, but it really fits the makeup of our city. LA is full of people from all over the world, but almost no one here is actually from LA. I think that's one of the things that makes LA charming.

We also got an apartment yesterday! We narrowed it down to two - one in Miracle Mile and one in Santa Monica. In the end, we decided to move back to Miracle Mile. We got a 4th (top) floor apartment in a beautiful building that is really close to where we used to live. Matt and I both wanted to get this apartment, the only thing holding us back was the fact that we would have loved something new. Especially exploring Santa Monica and Venice. But in the end, the location of the apartment we were considering in Santa Monica wasn't great and I would have had a much longer commute, so we decided to get the apartment in Miracle Mile. We are moving in on December 12th, and I will post photos. It is a fantastic apartment with a beautiful view of the Hollywood Hills. I am just ecstatic!

Jessica O.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

We have renters!!!!!!

Today is the day!! We finally have renters for our apartment! I just can't tell you how happy I am. Matt and I have been looking at new apartments both in Miracle Mile and in Santa Monica. We are going to move out of our apartment on December 12th. The fact that it was so hard for us to find renters is good for us now that we're looking at apartments. Lots of great deals! We are going to see a place on Saturday on 6th St. in Santa Monica, and we also have several great options in Miracle Mile (near West Hollywood and the Grove). The apartment on 6th is 3 blocks from Main Street (cute restaurants, shops and bars) and 6 blocks from the ocean. The only downside to Santa Monica would be my commute downtown. Only time will tell where we'll live, but it is such a GREAT day! I am leaving Echo Park! Only to return to keep our property looking good...

Last weekend, our friend Derek was in LA. It was great to see him. We went to Chaya (a new restaurant downtown) and to the Standard for drinks on Thursday. We saw him again on Saturday for brunch in West Hollywood at Taste. After brunch, we went to his friend's house in the Hollywood Hills for a glass of wine. The house had the most gorgeous view, and these photos were taken from the balcony.

Matt and I loved seeing Derek. We haven't seen him for years, and then we saw him in September in Paris and in November in LA. So nice!

I am also so excited about Thanksgiving. We are flying into Cincinnati next Tuesday to spend the evening with Marissa and Nate. Possible plans so far include: eating at the original Skyline Chili, trying to keep Odin away from their cats and going out downtown. From the photos I've seen, Marissa and Nate might have the most fab apartment of anyone I know. I can't wait to see them and their new life in Cinci. On Wednesday, we are driving up to Columbus to stay at my dad's for a few days. It will be a classic Pursglove Thanksgiving with Joe, Tina, Rudy, Sam, Laura, Grammie, Uncle Dick, Aunt Sandy, Samantha, Melanie and Alexandra (our cousins) as well as at least 4 dogs. It doesn't feel like a real Thanksgiving without the Pursglove family in town, Nannie's turkey and stuffing recipe, dogs everywhere and a house full of loud family members constantly talking and laughing.

On Wednesday we have appointments to see two condos that are potential investments, and Rudy (Erin) is coming with us to see the properties. I can't wait for time with her because I just think the world of her! I think she must be one of the most fun, interesting, just overall lovely people I know. (I'm off on a tangent.) On Friday, we are meeting Karen (who lives in Chicago) and Michael for brunch and then going to my mom's house for the rest of the weekend to bake, talk, eat, and hang out. Could I ask for more???

Jessica O.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Michelle & Justin's Baby Shower and Deep Thoughts (by Jessica O.)

We had Michelle and Justin's shower on Saturday, and it was so much fun! It was a cocktail party at Michelle's friend's house in Pasadena and there were about 25 people.

Highlights included: seeing Annie and Alex (time with all of the cousins together), adorable (and of course always fashionable) pregnant Michelle, seeing Mr. and Mrs. Feldman's excitement as Michelle and Justin opened gifts, fabulous Chinese lanterns hanging outside, meeting Michelle's new sister-in-law, baking a cake from scratch with Matt, party planning with Mieke and entertaining. Every time I throw a party, I realize how much I miss entertaining. We always had people over when we lived in W. Hollywood, and I am looking forward to starting that up again as soon as we move.

After the shower, Michelle, Justin, Annie and Alex came to our house for drinks. It was so nice!! Really a highlight to have cousin time, and we always have the best time with the Pursgloves. This was no exception.

Matt and I are STILL trying to rent our house. Only 5 weeks have passed since we put it up for rent, but it seems like a lifetime. Where are you, renters??????? Now that we've lowered the price to $1595, we've had a lot of people come to see the place, so I think it's at least around the right price now. But at least 5 people have said that they love the house and would move in immediately except that we don't have hardwood floors. I had no idea that hardwood floors were such a big deal to people. Is this an LA thing or a renter's thing? I actually prefer carpet because hardwood floors hurt my feet, but apparently I'm in the minority. Live and learn.

I have also been thinking a lot about adjusting my expectations of how I think my life should be. I guess in the past, life has generally gone the way I planned for it to go. This past year (besides our fab trip) nothing has gone the way I planned for it to go. I have been fighting this tooth and nail, all the while just thinking, if I work harder or push more, things will turn out the way I want them to. I guess life is trying to teach me a lesson. Well, I hear you loud and clear, Life!! A year later, I am finally coming to accept that right now, my life isn't how I want it to be. Things aren't going "my way" but believe it or not, I am finally starting to accept it.

Matt and I were laughing last night because yet another thing that we had such high hopes for was falling apart. We were laughing because at this point, it doesn't even upset us. Really. It's more like I'm just watching everything happen in my life from some third person point of view. It's so unbelievable because I keep thinking that this must be it. Pretty soon things will start to turn around. They have to right? What more could we possibly do? I guess they don't, and all I can think is that I've got to be learning something from this experience.

I had a conversation related to this topic with my friend Nate on Saturday at the shower. We were talking about how hard this year has been for both of us. The best part of the conversation was that we agreed that it is during the hard times that your true character really comes out. It's easy to be positive, to work hard, to be a great person, etc. when life is going your way. It's much harder when life is challenging, but it's only during the challenging times that you really grow as a person. It's during the challenging times that you have a chance to prove to yourself who you really are. And do you choose to rise to the occasion? Can you still be positive (or at least accepting), work hard, make goals, move forward?

I hope that's what I'm choosing to do. It may have taken me this whole year to do it, but I am finally choosing to accept what I can and can't change in my life. I'm trying to be a supportive wife and friend. I'm trying to be honest about who I am without being a Debbie (Downer for those of you who don't know). I trying to continue to work towards my dreams. Am I succeeding? I have no idea. All I know is that I'm doing better at those things than I was earlier this year. And I guess that's good enough for me right now.

Jessica O.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Spooky Scary Halloween

Marissa came to visit last week and we had such a great time! It was really hard to work while she was at our house because I kept thinking about my little Bebekins being here, but luckily I got to leave early both Thursday and Friday. It was an ideal trip filled with lots of talking, fun and good food. On Friday, Max and Marissa came downtown for lunch, and we ate at my favorite pizza-by-the-slice restaurant. That night we went to a fab Halloween party.

It was at the Skirball, which is a museum on the West side. There were probably about 1,000 people there and everyone was SO dressed up. People went all out, which made for a fantastic Halloween party. From Superman to the boy from Up (complete with the boyscout outfit and balloons) to Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman to Smurfette (blue skin and all) to the Angel of Death (who danced all night and never took off his mask) - the people watching was amazing.

We were there talking, walking around and dancing until 2. We spent most of the next day relaxing. Relaxing included Marissa and I getting a Thai massage. Then we went next door and got Thai food to go. So much fun! I can't wait until she comes to visit again.

Jessica O.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

YOU Can Change the World

I read this editorial in the NY Times yesterday, and I wanted to share it.

Changing the World
Published: October 26, 2009

"One of the most cherished items in my possession is a postcard that was sent from Mississippi to the Upper West Side of Manhattan in June 1964.

“Dear Mom and Dad,” it says, “I have arrived safely in Meridian, Mississippi. This is a wonderful town and the weather is fine. I wish you were here. The people in this city are wonderful and our reception was very good. All my love, Andy.”

That was the last word sent to his family by Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old college student who was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan, along with fellow civil rights workers Michael Schwerner and James Chaney, on his first full day in Mississippi — June 21, the same date as the postmark on the card. The goal of the three young men had been to help register blacks to vote.

The postcard was given to me by Andrew’s brother, David, who has become a good friend.

Andrew and that postcard came to mind over the weekend as I was thinking about the sense of helplessness so many ordinary Americans have been feeling as the nation is confronted with one enormous, seemingly intractable problem after another. The helplessness is beginning to border on paralysis. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly a decade long, are going badly, and there is no endgame in sight.

Monday morning’s coffee was accompanied by stories about suicide bombings in the heart of Baghdad that killed at least 150 people and wounded more than 500 and helicopter crashes in Afghanistan that killed 14 Americans.

Here at home, the terrible toll from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression continues, with no end to the joblessness in sight and no comprehensible plans for fashioning a healthy economy for the years ahead. The government’s finances resemble a Ponzi scheme. If you want to see the epidemic that is really clobbering American families, look past the H1N1 virus to the home foreclosure crisis.

The Times ran a Page A1 article on Monday that said layoffs, foreclosures and other problems associated with the recession had resulted in big increases in the number of runaway children, many of whom were living in dangerous conditions in the streets.

Americans have tended to watch with a remarkable (I think frightening) degree of passivity as crises of all sorts have gripped the country and sent millions of lives into tailspins. Where people once might have deluged their elected representatives with complaints, joined unions, resisted mass firings, confronted their employers with serious demands, marched for social justice and created brand new civic organizations to fight for the things they believed in, the tendency now is to assume that there is little or nothing ordinary individuals can do about the conditions that plague them.

This is so wrong. It is the kind of thinking that would have stopped the civil rights movement in its tracks, that would have kept women in the kitchen or the steno pool, that would have prevented labor unions from forcing open the doors that led to the creation of a vast middle class.

This passivity and sense of helplessness most likely stems from the refusal of so many Americans over the past few decades to acknowledge any sense of personal responsibility for the policies and choices that have led the country into such a dismal state of affairs, and to turn their backs on any real obligation to help others who were struggling.

Those chickens have come home to roost. Being an American has become a spectator sport. Most Americans watch the news the way you’d watch a ballgame, or a long-running television series, believing that they have no more control over important real-life events than a viewer would have over a coach’s strategy or a script for “Law & Order.”

With that kind of attitude, Andrew Goodman would never have left the comfort of his family home in Manhattan. Rosa Parks would have gotten up and given her seat to a white person, and the Montgomery bus boycott would never have happened. Betty Friedan would never have written “The Feminine Mystique.”

The nation’s political leaders and their corporate puppet masters have fouled this nation up to a fare-thee-well. We will not be pulled from the morass without a big effort from an active citizenry, and that means a citizenry fired with a sense of mission and the belief that their actions, in concert with others, can make a profound difference.

It can start with just a few small steps. Mrs. Parks helped transform a nation by refusing to budge from her seat. Maybe you want to speak up publicly about an important issue, or host a house party, or perhaps arrange a meeting of soon-to-be dismissed employees, or parents at a troubled school.

It’s a risk, sure. But the need is great, and that’s how you change the world."

The article inspired me to take action. Granted, the action I took was to write a letter to my congresspeople encouraging them to pass legislation to prohibit cell phone "exclusivity deals" (meaning when you buy a particlar phone, you can only get service from one company). But I did take some action. And I don't think I would have done anything if I hadn't read this article.

Do you feel like you have the power to change the world? Our country? Your neighborhood? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Have a great day.

Jessica O.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Matt's Newest Art

One of my favorite interior designs in our last apartment was Matt's painting on the wall. For anyone who didn't see it, here it is. It covered the entire wall of the room right when you walked into our apartment. When we moved, Matt had to paint over it - such a bummer!

Now that we own the property on Grafton Street, we decided that Matt would paint another mural on the wall and that it would stay as part of the apartment when we moved. I came up with the idea of him painting a picture onto the wall and hanging a frame around it, which fits much better in this space than a full wall painting. Here it is!

How fab does this look?! Matt is so talented. And I absolutely love how the picture looks like it is set back in the frame because it is actually painted onto the wall. So far, we've gotten a great response from potential tenants when we tell them that this comes with the apartment.

On that note, I would love to hear anyone's suggestions (realistic, crazy, imaginative, anything) for new ideas on how we can entice a tenant to rent our apartment. We are renting it for $1695, which, believe it or not, is below market rate for a house in Echo Park. We are currently offering a free painting of two rooms any color and a $500 flat screen TV or Best Buy gift card for a 2-year lease. The most difficult parts of finding tenants are that it's October (not many people moving this time of year) and that there are so many units for rent in LA. Erika told me yesterday that this is the lowest apartment occupancy in LA since the 80's. So, I would love to hear your ideas. Anything goes.

Last night I watched Annika and Blythe, Erika and Evan's daughters. They are so adorable!! I was really happy to spend some one on one time with them and to get to know them better. My nana always used to tell me a story about the first time she watched me as an infant. Apparently I cried and cried almost the whole time until my parents came home. As soon as my dad took me, I stopped crying. I remembered this story last night watching the kids. Blythe (who is 4 months old) was the most delightful baby all evening - smiling, laughing, happy until about 20 minutes before Erika and Evan came home when she started crying and just couldn't stop. As soon as Erika took her into her arms, she stopped right away. Definitely a mama's girl and so cute!

The other good news is that Matt is launching a new company on November 1st. It is called Kaizen Imagery and provides head shots and demo reels for actors. This is a hugely under-served market in LA (everyone wants to be an actor but not many companies think of servicing them). The most innovative part of their service is that they will provide a consultation with each actor to help him/her determine what type of roles they could be cast in. This will help actors focus their careers and audition for rolls that fit their look, acting skills, etc. The company is a group effort between Matt and three of his friends, and Matt will be running the demo reel department.

I got a Crate & Barrel catalogue yesterday, and I got so excited for the holidays! We are going to Ohio for Thanksgiving (and already have so many fun plans) and then to Portland for Christmas for a wonderful, laid-back Olmon family Christmas. I can't wait!

Have a great Wednesday.

Jessica O.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The New Optimalist

I am a perfectionist, which I have only just realized. I mean, I always knew that I like to keep my house clean and there are a lot of things that I like to be a certain way, but would I have described myself as a perfectionist? No, not really.

I told Marissa and Jill about it and they laughed with disbelief that I was just now realizing this. Oh the lovely state of denial!

So this has all come about because I have been reading The Pursuit of Perfect. (Such a good book by the way and I recommend it to anyone who thinks they may have perfectionist tendencies.) The best part about the book is that it shows that by being a perfectionist, you are actually setting yourself up for a life of negativity and disappointment. No one, no event and no situation will ever be perfect. I will never be perfect. Even more, a perfectionist always notices the parts of a person, situation, etc. that aren't perfect, which can lead to a very unhappy life. The other part of perfectionism is believing that there is one path to reach a goal, a straight line from Point A to Point B. That there is one way to accomplish something.

I was reading the book last weekend, and I was up on Sunday night, laying awake in bed thinking about it. It seems to explain so many things about me, my life, my personality. I think of reaching a goal as having to take certain steps to get where I want to be. Of course, there are times that this is helpful, but there are many times where life has pushed me in a different direction and I have gotten really frustrated. This also explains why I sometimes feel like I am a negative person. Now I realize, it's not that I'm a negative person, it's just that I'm looking at everything and seeing what's not perfect or right about it. Also being a perfectionist is why I try to control events, people, my future...lots of things in my life. The beauty of this all is that I've somehow gotten the clarity to see my life in this new way. It's like being able to see a part of myself for the very first time.

According to this book, the solution is to work towards being an optimalist. An optimalist can also work towards goals, but realizes that the journey from Point A to Point B may go in a different direction than you had imagined - it's much more complex than the perfectionist straight line seems to be. By realizing this, the optimalist can enjoy the journey to Point B and is present enough to see new avenues or opportunities as they may arrive.

All I can say is that this week I have been seeing my life through a different lens. It is weird and exciting and hard. Hard because I'm still seeing things the way I always have but now I also see how this viewpoint is impacting my life. After each realization, I try to think about the new way. Instead of noticing what is wrong, I try to notice what is right. I try to remember that no one is perfect and I will never be perfect. I am trying to let things happen as they are, rather than trying to make them happen exactly how I think they should. Most of all, I'm trying to experience life as it is rather than trying to change it into how I think it should be.

Jessica O.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Odin's Sling

At Sam's request, here are some pictures of Odin in the sling. Even when I put him in it last night, he became really calm - just dangling by my side. I think he loves it. No, I'm not going to start carrying him around in the sling! But it's perfect for a mini dog in a busy airport.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fab LA Weekend

On Friday night, Matt and I went on a date to see District 9. So good! I won't ruin the movie for anyone, but it is frightening to watch because you can really imagine the plot of the movie happening in this world. It was also cool to watch because of the story behind the movie. Peter Jackson (director of Lord of the Rings) wanted to produce Halo (super popular video game) with Neil Blonkamp as the director. The studio was worried about having a first-time director direct such a big film, so Peter and Neil made District 9 instead. The movie cost $30 million, which is practically nothing considering the special effects. It has already made well over $100 million. A Hollywood fairytale for a movie that is different, creative, and suspenseful. I love it.

On Saturday morning, Matt and I got up early to remodel the little garden in our yard. Some of the plants had died, and it looked terrible. So we bought plants (on sale!) at Home Depot and spent the morning digging, cleaning and planting. It was really nice because the day started out overcast, and then it became a beautiful sunny day. I found some ancient artifacts that looked like they had been buried for years - a permanent marker, a bottle cap, a lid, etc. - lots of garbage (but more fun to think of as artifacts). The first photo is our newly planted garden.

Last night Kate, Erin, Fawn and I took Maria to Gordon Ramsay, a restaurant at The London hotel in West Hollywood, to celebrate Maria's move back to New York. Maria and I recently became friends, and I am so sad she is moving back to the East Coast. I can tell she is someone that I could be great friends with - super fun and always interesting. The lighting in the restaurant was fab. We had champagne, tasted a variety of foods, and enjoyed the ambiance at the restaurant.

Today we had an open house for our apartment...we're so ready to move! We just need a renter.

Have a great Sunday.

Jessica O.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Living in the Present

One of the things that has been most important to me in the past year has been learning to live in the present moment. So simple yet so illusive! My mom sent me this story, and I wanted to share it here:

Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later: the violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.. 6 minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

45 minutes: The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities. The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context? One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made....How many other things are we missing?

I wonder how many people passing by were so caught up with the chatter in their heads that they didn't even notice the music. How many times have I done that?

So, I propose you take a minute right now to appreciate the moment - where ever you are and whatever this moment includes. I am too.

Jessica O.

Spending, Spending, Spending

I just read a book called Your Money or Your Life. I strongly recommend it. The premise is that we all choose to spend a certain amount of our precious time here on earth working (i.e. earning money). Therefore, every time you buy something, you are basically exchanging a certain amount of your time on earth for that thing. Because the time that we have on this planet is limited, it should go without saying that we should be super-conscious of what we spend. The book goes on to help you figure out how much you really make per hour (after you include commuting, clothes for work, therapy (if needed from work!), lunches, etc.). After you have that figure, each time you go to spend money, you can think, is this item worth X hours of my life? If not, you don't buy it. If it is, you can buy it and enjoy it even more knowing that it is a worthwhile purchase. There are many more details and many other parts to the book, but this is the basic idea.

It really makes me think differently about that coffee I loved to get in the morning before work. Or that dinner I went to with friends because I hadn't seen them in a while and I felt like I should. What I most appreciate about this philosophy, is that it makes you much more conscious about spending. Much more thoughtful about whether something is worth buying to you rather than buying because you feel like you should or because you supposedly need this item. Very enlightening and a great new way of thinking.

Jessica O.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mini-Trip to Columbus & LA Living

I had such a fabulous trip home to Columbus. The perfect end to my vacation. I got in on Thursday night, and Neetie picked me up from the airport. We went to my dad's where I got to see Odin for the first time in over 3 months! He was so excited - it was something I will always remember. Tina had also made a birthday surprise for me with a balloon, little pastries that I love, and a dish with 30 candies (which my mom and I promptly dug into). So thoughtful! The other highlight was that Odin could now be a show dog. My dad taught him to jump through a hoop. Seeing Dad's excitement and Odin performing the trick were priceless.

Mom and I spent the next day relaxing and the afternoon in Half Price Books. I love that store! She introduced me to the Clearance Section with a bunch of books piled up for $1 or $2. Excellent browsing and so very nice to be together.

And that night was my 30th birthday party! It was at Mom and Bill's house with Dad, Tina and Marissa. We had pink balloons, a champagne toast, chocolate covered strawberries (a gift from Erin!), my favorite mini-bread appetizers, fabulous Italian food, chocolate cake and gifts. To top it off, at the end of the evening, we all went outside and sat around the fire pit in the backyard. (This is one of my favorite activities at Dad and Tina's). I really could not have had a better time or enjoyed myself more. Really.

Then Marissa and I left and went to the Short North for a drink. It ended up being just us, and we did a mini-champagne wine tasting and just talked into the night. What a birthday celebration!!

The next day, Dad and I went to Waffle House. Oh, so good. Does this trip sound like it included a lot of eating? It was. But I loved every minute of it. Even more, I loved every minute of the family (and friend) time. It felt so good to be home. Odin and I left that afternoon. I bought a life-saving device, a sling, on the internet to travel with Odin. He absolutely hates to be inside a bag or carrier. So after lengthy searching, I found a sling online where his legs and head can dangle and I have straps over my shoulder. I'm sure it's a sight...but probably one of the best purchases of the year.

Lately I have been considering the option of moving back to Cbus. (Well, ideally, it would be traveling the world and/or living in Paris first and then moving to Cbus.) This is the craziest thought because I have never ever thought that I could live in Columbus or Ohio for that matter. Really, I have always thought I wanted to live in a big city. I don't know exactly what it is or why I've been thinking this, but it is on my mind. I'll keep you updated.

So, for now, I'm back in LA and back to work. The best part of being back to life is that our required year has passed and we are ready to move out of Echo Park!! If you don't already know, this year has been extremely trying to say the least. Echo Park is an up and coming neighborhood, which means that it is still gritty and dirty with some parts that are nice and some parts that aren't. We have dealt with everything from barking dogs - so many barking dogs, to living next door to our tenants (not advisable), to living in an apartment with no sunlight, to snarling dogs behind fences that scare Odin and us while we walk, to living far away from all of our friends, to moving away from a fab apartment and a walkable neighborhood, to...well, you get the point. We haven't been the happiest.

So our year is up, and we're ready to go!

We are having open houses and doing everything possible to rent out our unit so that we can move to a new place in November. Our options are Venice (on the beach) or Miracle Mile (where we were living before). So keep your fingers crossed that we find the perfect renters.

Another big change that has come about is that Matt and I are into super-saving. We have been living it up in LA for the past 4 years - mostly doing what we want to do, and now we both feel like we want to save - For Paris? To buy another apt.? Only time will tell. But we are moving forward with the plan. It's a new way of life for us - an experience that I plan to share the ups and downs of right here on my blog.

I hope that you have a great weekend.

Jessica O.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ancient Rome

Another fabulous tour by Context Travel!! Our guide, a Roman history expert, took us through the Palatine (the ruins of the emperors' palaces), the Forum (the ruins from the ancient city center) and the Colosseum (where the gladiator games were held). This was a four hour tour that began at 3pm. The first area we went to was the Palatine. I was thrilled that we had a guide because there are only some brick walls standing, tiny groupings of what was once gorgeous marble floor, a small museum and some other random pieces of buildings. But she made the area come alive. She explained that the area was once covered with the palace of the emperors of Rome (around 100-400 AD or so) with the most luxurious accommodations. The ceilings were 3 stories high, the floors and walls were covered with marble that was imported from the most distant lands of the Roman empire, there were underground tunnels for the slaves to move around the palace, and there were beautiful fountains with running water in courtyards within the palace. If we hadn't had the guide, I probably would have walked through in 20 minutes with the the history in mind.

We got the same type of information about the Forum. The most interesting story from the Forum was that ancient Rome had something called Vestal Virgins. These were women that were picked (at age 6) from wealthy families to keep the everlasting fire of Rome burning. Apparently this was the highest honor for a family to have, and the virgins were almost treated as well as the emperor and his family - including being given the best seats (opposite the emperor) at the Colosseum. These women had to be virgins until they were relieved from duty at age 29 (literally old maids by then). If they had sex while they were Vestal Virgins, they were buried alive, and the man was stoned to death.

The other interesting part of the Forum was that there are still several buildings standing. Just amazing. Really the only ones that survived were ones that were turned into churches. The guide also showed us drawings that show that even through the 1700s, most of what has now been uncovered as ancient Rome was buried beneath the city.

Our final stop was at the Colosseum. We arrived at sunset, about one hour before it closed. Again, it was virtually empty! Super cool. Even though the Colosseum is something that you see images of all of the time, it was the least interesting historically. It was built by the Flavian emperors (who were a different family than the original Caesars) to win over the people of Rome. The Colosseum was a huge stadium for gladiator and animal games. Of course, it was also an architectural feat of the times and fascinating in that most of the structure still stands today. The best part of our tour of the Colosseum was that it was almost empty and it was sunset. It was like being in a museum at night, and you could almost feel the history in the silence.

That night, we had our final meal in Rome. We both ate pasta and went home to relax before our early flight to London and then to Los Angeles. With the time difference, we left Rome at 8am and arrived in LA at 3pm. How fab!

I left the next day for Columbus. I'll write more soon.

Jessica O.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dirty 30!!

We started off the evening with a glass of wine on our rooftop. It was so nice! We talked, watched the sun set and just enjoyed our apartment.

After a short nap, we left around 11:30 to go to a club called Goa in the neighborhood of Trastevere, which is known in the tour books as the real Rome. It turns out there were many clubs in the area, most of which didn't have signs. So we heard (what we thought was) good music at one club and I went to the front of the line. My Italian isn't good at all but I said "due" (two), the bouncer asked me who I was with (in English), I pointed to Matt (who was of course super-cute with jeans and a black corduroy jacket) and he let us right in. We were so pumped about going to the front of the line and getting in that we didn't think of asking what kind of music they had. So we went in and it was hip-hop. Not my favorite. We stayed for a while and Matt said we should go. I probably would have stayed since we had already paid to get in and we didn't even know where the other club was, but we left, which turned out to be a great idea. One of the door people told him that Goa was around the block.

We got to Goa around 1, which is apparently the time to go to a club because there was a huge crowd trying to get in. No line, just an enormous bunch of people. We got into the bunch and slowly moved up. I saw people taking out IDs, and I took out my ID and held it up with the California part showing. The bouncer saw that and let us right in! Yeah California!

The club was one of my favorite I've been to. It wasn't very big (maybe 1/4 the size of the Vanguard) but it had cool lights everywhere, a video DJ and lots of cool people with different styles. Everyone looked great, but really different, which was a breath of fresh air from the usual in LA, where it seems like women's syles are so similar (which I also noticed in Paris). The best part about the club was the mood. Everyone was just having a good time and seemed happy to be there. Really open to each other (people do make eye contact), dancing, talking, etc. Matt and I were in our own world since we basically couldn't communicate with anyone, but we had the best time. The music was great, the club had dancers with multiple costumes (one was like a mime with multiple masks, one like a bird with a slinky but still classy feather outfit) - so much fun!

From there we decided to walk home. We walked for a long time towards the Colosseum. At one point, we heard loud electronic music coming from over a huge garden wall. We tried to go up the exit to get in (we were already dressed to go - why not?), but the door person said they were closing.

After some more walking and help from some friendly Romans, we came upon the Colosseum. So amazing at night!! It was lit up from the inside and the area was deserted since it was so late. It was a sight to see and the first time we had seen it. We walked around there and then (thankfully) found a cab. The perfect end to our night.

The next day we went to a huge lunch and then back home to our couch for an afternoon of movies. I was a little torn about spending an afternoon relaxing, but it was ok after we discussed the fact that we were out so late the night before, and we have been traveling, learning, doing new things every day for 16 days straight. We were just exhausted. It ended up being really nice just to be together in our apartment. We had also bought some treats on the way home from lunch, which we snacked on the rest of the day.

Yesterday was my 30th birthday! We woke up and Matt sang to me. We slowly got ready and traveled to see the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish steps. In between, we ate a pizza at a cafe and window shopped. Window shopping is a lovely past time that the Europeans have and I think I am going to continue it in the US (even though I know window shopping at Urban Outfitters and Banana Republic won't be the same...)

We spent the afternoon relaxing and reading in our apartment, which was actually a highlight of my birthday. The cool air and lovely evening light streaming into our room, relaxing in the afternoon/early evening.

Then we went to our rooftop terrace and had champagne. We talked about our trip and looked through our photos. I couldn't have asked for a better 30th birthday! That night we decided to go in search of a pizza restaurant that Claire, the woman we interviewed, recommended. Yes, we had pizza TWO times on my birthday! We coined this our eating adventure. We had to take the bus and the metro to an area that is off of the tourist maps of Rome. It took much longer than we anticipated and ended up being more of an adventure than eating. We did find the restaurant, and we did have pizza, but we had to rush to eat since the metro closed at 11:30. All part of the traveling adventure.

On the way home, Matt stopped and got us a dessert to go from a restaurant a block from our house. We took it home and he set it up with two candles from the apartment (near the dessert) and sang to me again. What a day!

I would have to say that it is really strange to be 30. Almost surreal. I had mixed feelings about it yesterday until Matt looked at me at one point and said "don't worry, Pix - being 30 is a really great place to be and I know you'll like it" I instantly felt better. I'm not looking back - 30 here I am!!!

Today we are doing another Context Travel tour to see the Colleseum, Pantheon, etc. - the sights of Rome. Tomorrow we travel back to LA. We leave here at 8am and get into LA at noon. Traveling back in time!

I will write more and post photos/video when we get back to CA.

Jessica O.

Siena & the Vatican

Our trip to Siena was short and sweet. We took the bus there and got to see the Italian countryside. It was very picturesque and looked exactly like I imagined it would. Rolling hills, old buildings, lots of trees and grape vines. Entering the city of Siena was surprising because it looked like a small town - almost like Athens, Ohio. It had a Blockbuster, McDonald's, etc. I guess I wasn't expecting Siena to have entered the 21st century. It was a city whose peak was in the early 1300s, but the plague in the mid-1300s killed 75% of the population. Now it is a relatively small town that is known for its mid-evil style buildings and its annual horse race between the teams for each of the town's districts. The bus took us into the city center, which was much more like I had imagined it. We walked through small streets, up and down steep hills, saw mid-evil looking houses/buildings, and basically got lost in the intricate maze of the center of town. We finally found the huge palazzo where the horse races are held. After a glass of wine, we decided to take the bus back to Florence to have dinner.

That night, we had one of the best dinners of the trip. Salad, pesto fettuchini, Florentine steak and an amazing dessert. All in a place called Ristorante. So much fun. Apparently Florentine steak is a Florence specialty from cows that are raised a certain way. I haven't been very excited about meat these last few years, but this was one of the best steaks I have ever eaten.

The next day we had a cappuchino and we were off to Roma! Upon arrival, we navigated the bus system and went to our fab apartment. It is on the top floor of a building in the back streets of Campo di Fiori, which is an area near the Tiber River known for its daily farmers' market. We have a balcony off of our room looking out into a courtyard as well as a terrace on top of the building where we can see out over the whole neighborhood. We met the owner, who gave an extremely long presentation about the apartment (I was ok with this until he went through a list of apartment rules) and then we went to meet a potential writer for the travel website. BTW -we now have a name for the website! How cute is that?? Matt came up with it the other day, and we got the website yesterday.

So after the extended apartment intro, we met Claire, an Australian who just quit practicing law and moved with her husband to Rome. She was great and even better when we found out that we have the same birthday! What are the odds? From there, Matt went to meet another candidate. I went to the grocery store to get some food, but I was so very exhausted that we had a quick dinner and went to bed.

The next afternoon was our tour of the Vatican. We went through Context Travel, which gives tours by art/architecture professors or historians with no more than 6 people in the tour. It was fab. Our guide was an American who has been living in Rome since 1991 and teaches art history at a university. We learned so much about the art collection, architecture and history of the Vatican. The guide told us that if you spent two minutes looking at each piece of art in the Vatican, it would take over 14 years! Highlights were: an extensive discussion about the process of painting and meaning of the paintings on the Sistine Chapel (including the fact that Michaelangelo hated doing the job), seeing the beautiful sculpture (including Michaelangelo's famous sculpture, Pieta), and learning about the 120+ year process of designing and building St. Peter's Basilica. It was also interesting to learn that Bernini designed the high altar in the front of the basilica and used bronze taken from the Pantheon.

After the tour, Matt and I went back to our neighborhood for dinner. I tried bruchetta and spaghetti al pomodoro. Bruchetta is bread with topping (could be tomatoes, olive tapenade, artichoke tapenade, etc.) and spaghetti pomodoro is spaghetti prepared with cream, egg and bacon. They were both interesting and Roman specialties that I wanted to try. (Have you noticed how much eating is involved in this part of the trip? Frightening!) We went home to nap because Matt had planned a fab night out for my birthday!

I'll write about our night out in my next post.

Jessica O.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fierenze and Pizza

Our last two days in Paris were so great. Traveling by myself is something I have always wanted to do, so Matt and I decided to spend a day on our own and then meet up for dinner. I went to the internet cafe and had an espresso and wrote. Very leisurely. Then I went over to Jardin de Luxembourg. One of my best experiences in Paris! It is a huge park in the heart of Paris filled with gardens, sculptures, fountains and people. There are hundreds of chairs around the park so that people are chatting with groups of friends, reading by themselves, spending time with family, people-watching - basically just being there and enjoying a Sunday afternoon. The park is huge, and I only saw a small part, but I also saw another area where they were selling giant balloons and cotton candy and had a merry-go-round for kids. Apparently they also have a mini-replica of the Statute of Liberty. It was like something out of a movie. I walked around for a while and then pulled up a chair and people-watched and read.

One thing that I noticed about the French is that it's ok to look at other people. When we first arrived in Paris, I thought everyone was staring at us because...we were foreign? Looked like tourists? Who knows. But after being there for a week, I realized that everyone is constantly looking at each other. The only thing about it is that once someone realizes you are looking, the thing to do seems to be to look away. In other words, you don't really make eye contact with strangers. But it's ok, even normal, to look at other people. In fact, cafes and bars are often set up for people watching. So different from the US.

I had a list of three things that I definitely wanted to do in each city. In Paris, eating oysters was on my list if they were in season. They were! So Matt and I met at 7pm in our favorite neighborhood at a fab restaurant for oysters. They had a menu of 4 different kinds and then each kind of oyster was available in 3 sizes. So we ordered the oysters, had a bottle of wine, and chatted. Really enjoyed our last night in Paris to the fullest.

The next evening, we took an overnight train from Paris to Florence. We chose to take the train because Matt loves trains and we thought it would be a good way to see some of the French/Italian countryside. We had also taken an overnight train in Thailand and it was super-fun. Well...this train wasn't as great. We left late - after dark - so we didn't get to see much and it was a little claustrophobic. We also went to eat in the dining car and there was terrible energy. Lots of seemingly frustrated people packed into a little space. So, we ended up eating a cold ham and cheese croissant in our little room and went to bed.

When we got to Florence, we went straight to our hotel. So exciting! We are staying in the Grand Hotel, which used to be the palace of a wealthy Florentine family. It was converted into a hotel about 200 years ago and was just remodeled using traditional Florentine decoration and architecture. Needless to say, it is one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever stayed in. Even better, I had told them that we were on this trip for my 30th birthday celebration so they upgraded our room to a top floor suite. It includes a balcony with a view of the Duomo and red rooftops of Florence as well as the Arno River. Just amazing!! To top it off, after we got into the room, they delivered a bottle of complementary champagne. Heaven!

After we spent some time relaxing, we set off to explore Florence. We went to a bookstore and bought a city guide and then walked over to the Duomo. The Duomo is the crown jewel of Florence. It took over 100 years to fully build and is a giant church with a dome at the top. In the 1400's, they couldn't figure out how to build the dome, so they had a competition with a prize to the person who could figure it out. Brunelleschi made it his life's work to find a solution to this architectural puzzle, which was to be the most extraordinary and daring achievement of the times. In the end and after 16 years of construction, they built the massive dome that appears to rise towards the sky without any means of support. We also climbed to the top of the dome where we saw the most amazing views of Florence. The climb was a little scary (especially because I was wearing flip flops) and reminded me of climbing up the Statue of Liberty. But well worth it. So beautiful and peaceful from the top, where you go outside to a giant balcony.

The next day, yesterday, we went to two museums (including the Uffizi) and the Boboli Gardens. I have never been really excited about art in the past, but after all of our study for this trip, I have been so looking forward to all of the art in Florence. The thing that fascinates me the most is the history of the Renaissance. It was a time period in which the most wealthy families showed their riches by commissioning the best artists to paint, sculpt, design new buildings, etc. It was also a time when the artists first felt free enough to move away from religious art (which was all that was accepted up to this time) and into all types of creative expression. They believed that their abilities to make beautiful art were gifts from God that should be used for the betterment of society. In this way, they were making art for God. So lovely.

So all of the museum touring was amazing but exhausting. The best part was seeing all of the paintings and sculptures that we've spent so much time learning about.

We went home and napped and then went out to what we heard was the best pizza in Florence. I will admit that I am addicted to pizza. (We briefly considered traveling to Naples just to try what I had heard was the best pizza in Italy.) Needless to say, I was pumped. We went to a restaurant that was across town out of the tourist areas, and had the BEST pizza I have ever eaten.

So amazing I can't put it into words. Definitely a highlight.

Today we are off to Siena. We are taking a bus there and plan to spend the evening walking around the small town. I'm excited to see a smaller city in Italy as well as the countryside on the way.

Jessica O.