This One’s for the Girls

4 02 2016

After years of “retirement,” I’m returning to this blog to document a brand new “wander”: six weeks traveling through Hong Kong, Macau, Myanmar, and Cambodia. It occurred to me last week, while making the final preparations for this journey, that this adventure, perhaps more than any I’ve undertaken thus far, is steeped in “girl power.”

This whole thing started because of a dear friend from New York, one of the fiercest, most fearless ladies I know. Gina D’Ambrosio owned the studio where I established my salsa obsession: Her energy and commitment (and gorgeous dancing) created a wonderful community of New York dancers, of which I was so grateful to be a part. Now, it’s her courage (in picking up and moving across the world) that has allowed me to come to Hong Kong for a visit. I admire her greatly, I’ve missed her a lot, and I am excited for some good long conversations and many new adventures with her.

I should note, though, that my resolve to visit is also a result of some serious feminine intuition. When Gina initially invited me for a visit, I had recently returned to California, and was getting ready to begin my apartment search. While the adventurous side of me recognized the opportunity in taking off (while not having the burden of rent), the practical part of me (that was not feeling awesome about being a grown woman back with my parents) was hesitant. Then, my sister Denise (who had no idea that I was grappling with  this decision) insisted on giving me a birthday gift a month before my birthday, because she was too excited to wait. My only explanation was that this was some kind of feminine intuition, because that gift—a wall hanging with the quote “Not All Who Wander Are Lost”—was just the reminder I needed that I must live b my favorite word, and that embarking on an adventure did not make me “flaky.” It just made me who I am.

With the decision made, I could turn to a project: Seeking out my deceased grandmother, who grew up in Hong Kong. Gaga was the stuff of legend around our house when I was growing up. This is a woman who grew up in Hong Kong, spoke seven languages, threw extravagant parties, married my sea captain grandfather in Japan, and (when he returned to his ship) set sail all alone to set up house in the distant world of San Francisco. As a child, I was always envious that my siblings knew here and I did not, but as an adult I realized that she’s in me too. I am the grandchild who seems to have inherited her sense of adventure, and she has certainly “accompanied” me on some of my other travels. But this trip is about returning to her roots. I’ve been researching our fascinating ancestry, and though I don’t know a lot of specifics I’m going armed with a few details and hoping to suss out a bit more of this larger-than-life woman, in her own place of origin.

But this trip is also turning out to me about girl power on a bigger level. One of the things I”m most excited about is Phnom Penh, where I will  have the privilege of working with the bright young women who form the next class of SHE-CANS (Supporting Her Education Changes a Nation). This incredible sponsors bright young woman in developing nations, helping them to attain admission and scholarships to U.S. universities, so that they may gain education, internships, and other experiences that will allow them to return and make a difference in their nations. All the way, each scholar has the support of her own team of mentors, made up of brilliant and caring professional women, who guide through the application process and act as safety net and support system for young women very far from home.

I get to meet the newest scholars, to tell them about the college common application, and to lead some writing exercises that will get them thinking about their college essays, and when I met last week with Barb, SHE-CAN’s fearless leader, I was overcome by this incredible sense of the female capability. Women are creators and nurturers and connectors. We’re also fearless and tenacious, sassy and empathetic, and most importantly able to come together to support, whether it’s through a close female friendship or a mentorship across the world.

And so, I dedicate this trip to all the mothers and sisters, girlfriends and grandmas, teachers and role models—to all the girls!


Big Green San Antonio – Things to Do There

19 11 2010

A couple weeks ago I visited San Antonio to attend a friend’s wedding. It was the first time I’d been in Texas for any normal length of time, save for driving through (speedily) on that college road trip.

San Antonio, though, is stunning. A bit like a dreamworld, actually. It’s full of history and delicious food and southern hospitality. And, it’s incredibly, surprisingly green. Read more about things to do in San Antonio here.

Petit St. Vincent in CBS Watch

19 10 2010

Recently spotted: The article I wrote quite a while ago has finally been published in CBS Watch!. It was fun to relive that ultra-luxe experience. Check it out.


14 10 2010

A year and a half ago, I started working at Hearst Digital Media as editor of the holiday gift guides. Summer 2009 was Christmastime all the time, as I raced from event to event researching gifts for the likes of Esquire, The Daily Green, and Cosmopolitan, then writing and editing them for Marie Claire, Redbook, and Good Housekeeping. Our gifts ranged from fancy baubles to “get you laid” to trinkets your teenage relative, and other “difficult people,” will actually love. There were 60-plus guides and hundreds of gifts, making this an exhilarating (and exhausting) adventure — and getting them all done on time was a proud accomplishment.

Since then I’ve continued to work cross-network at Hearst, helping to boost syndication referral numbers, tracking site milestones, and much more. I’ve had a great experience, and I’ve learned so much, but now this chapter is coming to an end. My contract at HDM is up, tomorrow, and I’m feeling energized and excited about whatever may happen next.

Change is always scary, but it’s also exciting, and over the past week I’ve spanned the whole range of emotions. What’s amazed me, though, is the community I’ve got. This past week, wrapping up at Hearst, has been a whirlwind of coffees, emails, offers of support, help, encouragement. I’d call it networking, but in the sense that I usually imagine “networking” it’s something I always dread. This has been heartening, heartwarming, and, well fun.

And so, as I move forward to whatever is next, I say thank you: to friends, colleagues and family who have been so supportive, and to the design of this universe that has provided me with such an incredible (dare I say it?) network.

Hiatus Announcement

30 03 2010

A quick alert that the stilettos are going on a bit of a break. They’ve actually been fitting in quite a few adventures, but between work and life and the adventures themselves, there is less and less time to write about them. Plus, and most importantly, I’m busy working on a new venture that has been a fledgling idea for far too long, and is a great next step. More on that to come (soon, I hope). A teaser that will make very little sense: we’re switching the focus from shoes to skirts…

Honky Tonkin’ in Nashville

4 02 2010

For the past week I’ve had the same song stuck in my head, and, though I once really liked it, I’m about done with it by now. It’s a goody by GarthThe American Honky Tonk Bar Association—I thought it was made up, “honky tonk,” and then I started planning a trip to Nashville, and I heard it everywhere. That’s really what they call their bars along Broadway. And every time I say the words (or even think them), the song returns. This was not so fun when I was stranded in Philadelphia, nor is it so fun now that I’m back in New York.

But somehow, while in Nashville, that I should have this country anthem floating about my brain seemed fitting, and the phrase “honky tonk” worked for these cool little bars, lined up one after the other, each wallpapered with yellowing photos and album covers featuring some of our country’s greatest musicians. Somehow it just, made sense.

Given my mishaps on Friday and then Saturday, honky tonkin’ was about all I had time for during my 14 hour tour of Nashville, so it’s a good thing I made it count. I touched down around 2:30 Saturday afternoon and hightailed it to the hotel, where Libby and I cranked some music to set the mood (Dixie Chicks, of course) and readied ourselves for what promised to be the long night ahead. Then we trudged through the snow (no, I don’t exaggerate—the good people of Nashville evidently don’t deem it necessary to shovel their sidewalks) down Broadway and wandered into a honky tonk.

The bar was large, rendering it mostly empty save for a lone musician on stage, a few folks listening up front and some locals lining the bar. We found ourselves a table somewhere in between, ordered a few beers, and observed, but not for long. Next thing we knew we were in the midst of a “crew” growing around some dudes from Atlanta who occupied the table in the center of the room. Our little makeshift troop grew to about 12 and we decided to continue the chaos down Broadway, visiting each honky tonk in turn.

Of course with each honkey tonk the music improved, and the moods were sillier, and, well, there was lots of dancing. There was even a little Watermelon Crawling (or something like that). The only unfortunate part of the evening was the poor decision to part from our new friends in order to keep our dinner reservation at an upscale, eco-spot that was a little too upscale for its own good, and far too much for our mood. But we made up for it by returning to Broadway and capping the night off with some dueling pianos at the Big Bang Bar.

The next day, I discovered, with some disappointment (countered by not a little relief, at least on the part of my very tired head) that the Nash Trash tour I’d been looking forward to, led by the (in)famous Jugg Sisters in their big pink bus, had been canceled because the area where they parked their bus had been locked up due to that crazy snow. Instead, we decided to indulge in some yummy southern style food, and treated ourselves to a slew of sides—including some mind-blowing tater tots (yes, tater tots)—at a humble, cozy, down home spot called South Street before heading back to the hotel an hour early because, it seemed, in the overall weekend confusion I was not accounting for my watch being on New York time.

There are no photos to record the chaos (on account of both my camera and phone batteries dying) but there ere indeed misadventures, laughter, and general gaiety. In short, travel bloopers aside, it was a successful weekend. All 24 hours of it.

Travel Karma

30 01 2010

Dear Travel Karma, Whatever did I do to make you angry? I was on such a good run for a while there, with amazing trips to Portland and New Hope and more, but my last three trips have proved rather taxing. Aruba went smoothly as far as flights go, but the actual trip was spent being stressed and lost and telling myself at least it was warm. Then there was my holiday trip home to California, when I managed to bypass the blizzard and get out of New York but weather in San Francisco (yes, California) stranded me in the Las Vegas airport for a day.

Now here I am on my much anticipated trip to Nashville, but I haven’t made it very far. Last night I sat strapped in and hanging in a puddle jumper plane to Philadelphia (while two like teenage girls like prattled behind me about how, like, they were going to party over the weekend and about, like, the airports in the south – a.k.a. Wisconsin, no joke – having, like, barbecue joints in them), only to discover that a snow storm in Nashville had me grounded for the night.

A lesser traveler might have cut her losses then and there and hightailed it back to New York where we aren’t (ahem, most people aren’t) afraid of a little snow, but not me. In true “mishaps are adventures style I accepted a 6:45 flight connecting in Charlotte and booked the “distressed” rate at a nearby hotel. If only that hotel had been in Philly and not Springfield, where the best attraction seemed to be the Target down the road (to which, incidentally, I never made it – too cold). I ate pretzels for dinner, but was warm inside and hopeful that my luck would turn.

This morning I awoke at 4:30, played some some music while getting ready, and remained hopeful while the man from Kentucky on the airport shuttle waxed on about how we were likely to get stuck in Charlotte since the storm had moved there.

It didn’t look much better at the gate, where a a passing pilot gave me a grim look and a warning while I was assessing my chance with the attendant at the gate. The concensus seemed to be that Charlotte was no good today, and yet no one would tell me not to go. Finally the kindly attendant suggested a direct flight to Nashville at noon, a flight that yesterday had been oversold. But my miracle worker got me on it, and I a dose of friendly folks.

And so here I am, at 7 am in the Philadelphia airport, with five more hours to go. Libby is already in Nashville and leaves very early tomorrow, so by the time I arrive later this afternoon we will have a total of six or so hours to explore music city together.

But, Travel Karma, lest my complaints about my last two trips have dealt me this latest mishap, please do not misconstrue this account as whining. Rather, I find it hilarious now, and hey, there are bright spots:

– I will, eventually, make it to Nashville.
– I am penning this diatribe, currently, from my iPhone – the wonders of technology (and kudos to my adept thumbs).
– I’m sitting in a rocking chair – at the airport.

Around the World With Flat Olivia (the Second)

27 01 2010

It was nearly three years ago that Flat Olivia returned to Real Olivia, and to be honest I hadn’t given her much thought since. Until, that is, I found a manila envelope, decorated in peace signs, in my mailbox a few months back. Inside was a paper doll, not so extravagant at the first, but wearing a pink dress (with peace signs) and sporting incredibly long eyelashes.

She came with a note: “Dear TT, I am doing Flat Olivia again for myself. Please take her around NY. I’m just doing this because it’s a do nothing day. Love, Olivia”

Lucky for me, this time there were no requests for the American Girl Store or other hard to reach New York landmarks. Instead, the paper doll embarked with me on the randomness that is every day life. Together Flat Olivia and I watched the New York Marathon and joined friends for dinner and drinks.

She accompanied me on my trip to Aruba, and kept me company as I made my way form hard to find hotel to hard to find hotel (if only her navigational skills were better…), and she came along with me to a celebration at El Museo del Barrio, where we got to watch a live salsa band, and Flat Olivia even managed to shake her groove thing a little.

And then she returned to California with me at Christmas, where she joined Real Olivia’s cousin Gio and I on our excursion to visit the elephant seals, a very special occurrence since, Gio being my godson, our dates are generally limited to just the two of us; but we agreed that she could join since she is quiet and doesn’t take up a lot of room.

Earlier this month, Flat Olivia rode first class, compliments of the U.S. Postal Service, home to Real Olivia (who, I’m told, had been dragging her father out each night to check the mail for some weeks prior). Along with her she carried several photos of our adventures, plus a box of paper dolls, some stationery, and a new friend: Flat Titi. I’ve been missing my sometime paper companion, but yesterday was treated to a nice surprise. In my mailbox was a letter: “Dear Real TT, I’m having a really fun time with Olivia. I hope your [sic] having a good time. I am. I love you so very much. Love, Flat TT”

I was delighted to hear that the flat version of me is enjoying herself, though I do wonder what she is doing in Colorado. I imagine she’s gone skiing (something at which the real Titi isn’t all that adept) and I do hope they are reading lots of good books and maybe having a tea party or two. I suppose with that I should go write to my mini-me.

The Adventures of Flat Olivia

26 01 2010

There is a children’s book called Flat Stanley, which, though more than 40 years old, has become something of a phenomena of late. In recent years, Flat Stanley, the little boy who was flattened by a dresser, has traveled the world as the star of many books, and as such, he’s become a teaching tool to help elementary age children learn geography.

My brother Gregg’s youngest daughter, Olivia, is one of the world’s most charming children. At eight years old, she’s inquisitive, sweet and has a spirit so endearing it’s impossible not to adore her. And, for some inexplicable yet very happy reason, I happen to be her favorite person. When the family is together, Olivia can generally be found by my side, and she relishes in referring to herself as my appendage (yes, she understands what that word means).

Me and My Shadow

When we’re together, Olivia is fond of tea parties and hours of reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and when we have to part there are always tears and promises of letter writing. Wherever I go (with or without the stilettos) Olivia receives a postcard, and when, Olivia’s first grade class created “Flat Me’s” to send to relatives, Flat Olivia arrived in my mailbox. She was dressed in pink, with the hair of a real doll and stickers for earrings.

Per Real Olivia’s request, I was to take Flat Olivia to “the Statue of Liberty and the American Girl Store.” Anyone who’s passed American Girl Place knows it’s relatively hellish, especially if you don’t have someone under the age of 12 along with you, but not wanting to lose my status as favorite person, I went, and Flat Olivia received much fanfare, and even some real clips for her real hair at the Doll Hair Salon (yes, Virgina, there is a hair salon for dolls.

The Flat Olivia returned to Real Olivia, with a pile of postcards portraying Flat Olivia’s adventures in New York (plus a couple of American Girl hats for Real Olivia and her mini-me doll). And now little Olivia (the real one) has a better idea of New York, the big, strange place where her Titi (that’s me) lives.

I’m a little fascinated by this whole Flat Stanley thing. It’s become a major to-do and a pretty amazing one at that. It’s linked students and teachers around he country in a new exciting way. Check out the Flat Stanley Project.

Sparkly Silver Salsa Shoes

20 01 2010

The gold stilettos are pouting. There is a new addition to the shoe rack, and they are getting a lot of attention these days—a lot more than the stilettos are (especially in light of the frigid weather of late). For some months now I have been meaning to properly introduce these snazzy new (and highly alliterative) shoes, so here they are…

I’ve been enamored of salsa for a long time, officially since I first took lessons in Spain during my summer abroad in Granada. Since then, I’ve tried to no avail to convert countless friends, until finally I met Liz in Buenos Aires. As regular readers know, we bonded instantly over our mutual love of travel (specifically Latin culture) and sweets (specifically alfajores), but even more fun—and perhaps a little surprising—was the discovery that we both loved salsa. This led to the infamous night early in my Argentina trip where I (and my poor feet) learned painful lesson that dancing shoes should not be purchased in a hurry (cue silly Arthur Murray song, which really has no relevance, but I like it).

On Liz’s visit to New York, we of course went dancing, but it was a major struggle to find a place. I searched Salsa New York until my head hurt, but it was simply too overwhelming to figure out where to go. We ended up at a club called Latin Quarter, but only managed to get a few dances in. She left, and I continued to say I was going to find places to dance (shouldn’t be hard in the city that is said to have coined the name, right?), and continued to fail in my pursuit.

Finally, this past September, I gave up on trying to cajole friends into coming with, and started taking classes at Salsa International. Fascination quickly turned into obsessed, and soon I was shopping for my very own salsa shoes, which have now been in the family for a couple months and are already very well loved. Their suede bottoms slide easily on the dance floor (though require that I periodically brush the soles to maintain the suede) and they’ve been getting so much use they’ve started to feel a bit like a second skin. I’ve also made a whole new set of friends as equally obsessed with salsa as I, so I’m no longer strapped for people to go dancing with.

The lesson learned here is twofold: 1) don’t wait around for friends to develop the same interests; if you want to do something, go out and do it; and 2) the shoes make all the difference. (Just don’t tell the stilettos that.)