the good life

rue magazine: lisa baird

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My friend and business partner, the inveterate adventurer Lisa Baird, recently had her home featured in the latest issue of the always beautiful Rue Magazine.  The spreads were art directed by Maia McDonald of Design Conundrum fame, and photographed by frequent Rue contributor and SF-based talent Cooper Carras.

Lisa lives in a neo-gothic historic building in downtown Oakland, abundant in fantastic architectural detail. Couple that with Lisa’s playful and confident style with her interiors ….well…is it any wonder we hijacked the two flagpoles on her terrace and turned the whole gorgeous confection into the Coléoptère international headquarters?

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the good life — no. 8

I know. There’s a been a dearth of men offering their ruminations on living a good life. Well, that’s about to change starting right now. And I’ve landed a whopper.

Let me start by issuing this warning: Jon Lo has got a wicked, wicked eye. If you’re the kind of person that likes to follow people who produce consistently compelling images on Instagram, consider adding Jon. Because while every other social media “guru” is busy photographing their nail color, or their shoes, or showing off impossibly perfect corners of their homes, or their dog (guilty as charged…ahem), Jon is quietly taking some of the most perfectly perfect images and posting them in his very nonchalant — but precise — manner.

His images have titles like “Seafoam View” or “Fish Tiles” or “Voyeur View”. Short, poetic, and succinct. I’ve quit commenting on his images, as a matter of fact, because how many variants of “I love this” or “Why didn’t I take this” or “Perfect” can a girl post before she begins to feel really, truly rotten about her own Instagram feed?

The worst part is that — on top of that maddening skill — Jon is a natty dresser. Creative Director of his own thriving design concern. And a truly charming partner with whom one can effortlessly spend an entire evening drinking wine and talking.

Hey, Jon. If I could see all the beauty you see, I’d be happy with the mundane, too.

xo, V.


The preternaturally stylish Jon Lo

The definition of the “good life” is probably different for everyone. However, to me, I think it basically means just being able to live life doing what you love. I guess the hard part is realizing that it’s not necessarily that hard to attain, at least in small increments at a time. The “Good Life” doesn’t  have to mean extreme luxury or wealth. Being able to enjoy the moment- whether you’re having a great brunch with amazing food and friends, shopping at a fantastic store, laying in the sun, or just being able to sleep in on the weekend- are all examples that we can experience of living a pretty “good life”.

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All images by Jonathan Lo/Happy Mundane. 

the good life — no. 7

When I first joined Pinterest, the creative team of which I’m a part followed each other. With them, out of the gate, I had 6 followers. Follower number seven was someone called “imrevolting.” I’m revolting? My first “real” follower is called I’m Revolting? What? And then I went to their Pinterest boards, expecting the worse.

Little did I know that I’m Revolting was actually among the very, very best. The boards expressed an extremely refined, cerebral aesthetic. There were portraits of some of my favorite thinkers and intellectuals. All wrapped up in a slightly subversive, dry wit. There are only a handful of other people on Pinterest with whom I feel such a deep affinity for and with their intellectual formation. Plus, the handle is brilliant.

I stalked I’m Revolting’s blog. Who was this person? Where did they live? What do they do, apart from unearthing the most thoughtful visual treats on Pinterest? I found very, very little. Over the months while both of our social media followings blossomed, I decided that this elusive character was someone I simply had to meet. Ultimately, and I can’t quite remember how, I discovered that I’m Revolting was Suzanne Wu.  And eventually, we did meet, in LA, where she lives. And you know, she’s as outrageously stylish and cerebral in person as she is online. Let’s be honest: anybody who admits “I dress like a pope” is someone you really want to keep close.

There are a few other folks I’ve discovered via Pinterest with whom I feel this sort of instantaneous kinship:  LB PalmerEujin RheeMischa, Michael Stewart, among others. But I’m Revolting — well, she’s kind of special.

Here are some of Su’s thoughts on the good life. (P.S. Su, I don’t think a pope would wear this.)


I just read this interview from 1998 with the poet Mark Strand where he says, “I don’t think it’s human, you know, to be that competent at life,” and I think the trick to a good life is to be okay with that. It’s something of my disquieted heart, that for me there’s nothing much better than trying to make sense of the world, the vast tumult of emotion and experience, and figuring out why certain things grab you and don’t let go, and really facing down the sadness. I think it’s why writing is worth it, and making art is worth it, that you aren’t really describing anything so much as organizing your reasons for feeling so strongly.


d’yquem is a peach

2 years ago, my friends the Alexander-Mitchells served up my first taste of Chateau d’Yquem. It was a revelation. Crack cocaine in a bottle is how I think Andrew described it. Addictive, exquisite, utterly decadent. We drank it with dessert, of course, the dessert being grilled peaches served with an amaretto mascarpone cheese. We’ll get to that later.

I am not (was not) a fan of “dessert wines.” To my heretofore unsophisticated palate, these wines tasted somewhere between cough syrup and peach schnapps (which made me wildly sick my freshman year of college and has never, ever crossed my lips again.)

But the Alexander-Mitchells, well, they know a thing or two about a thing or two. And for this particular gathering, we had come together to drink 26 bottles of 1970 vintage Bordeaux over two nights. This isn’t as irresponsible as it might seem. To begin with, there were seven of us. Some of the bottles were undrinkable, others you really could only stomach a sip or two. And we generally started eating and drinking at around 5, and kept going well into the night, finishing the first night with some Graham’s 1970 vintage port and the second with a rather robust amount of scotch.


Handmade tasting cards next to the empty bottle of d’Yquem.

Our victims.

Some of the wines had turned into vinegar, and were ceremoniously dumped down the drain. Others bloomed in the glass, tasting like — one suspects — their youthful selves, but with more gravity. Others revealed themselves quickly, only to become ghostly and wispy, dying as we drank them. And some were the vinous equivalent of sitting with an aged aristocrat. Good breeding with an air of exhausted refinement.  A skeleton in a smoking jacket.

But the Chateau d’Yquem. I was dubious. A disbeliever. Until Andrew set a glass in front of me. And my husband delivered a charming grilled peach with amaretto marscapone.

Everything I had experienced from a culinary perspective prior to this simple little dessert + wine pairing faded into the background. The d’Yquem, unlike the other Bordeaux wines we were drinking tasted utterly….drinkable. No contortions, no wispiness, no fleshy fruit lost, leaving just an acid spine in the glass. Instead, here was a confident, healthy wine. Elegant, relaxed. And with the peaches, it was maybe the best gastronomical combination to have passed my lips. All seven of us became silent…just sighing every once in a while, and a little too energetically to demonstrate our pleasure.


We had a second bottle the next night, where the charming wine —again— raced effortlessly to the head of the Bordeaux pack. The honeyed encore: nutty, rich, luxurious…luscious. It was obscenely luscious. 

I haven’t had d’Yquem since that weekend. But as the summer begins to make itself known, I think about peaches. And whenever I think about sweet, unctuous peaches, I think about my voluptuous d’Yquem.

Denis Kelly’s Grilled Peaches with Amaretto Mascarpone

In the absence of Chateau d’Yquem, serve the peaches with a Gewürztraminer.

1/4 c. mascarpone cheese
2 TBSP packed brown sugar
2 tsp amaretto
4 peaches, peeled, halved and pitted
1/2 c. brown sugar

4 amaretti Italian cookies, crushed
1/2 basket raspberries

Mix the mascarpone, brown sugar and amaretto to make the amaretto mascarpone

Prepare grill (clean well and rub with oil)

Dip the cut side of the peaches into 1/2 c. brown sugar. Grill cut side down for 2 minutes, covered. Flip and grill for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Top each peach with a dollop of mascarpone mixture in the hole where the pit was. Sprinkle with crushed cookies and garnish with raspberries.

do one thing well

Whilst perusing the Comm Arts “webpick of the day” page (in order to keep tabs on the competition, graphic design-wise, you understand) I noticed a little site for a little company called Hiut Denim. Naturally, because the site was so prettily made, I poked around. And the more I poked around, the more I fell in deep admiration of the company, its founders and its mission. As if it’s not enough to say “We’d like to make the best jeans in the world, with the best textiles.” Instead, why not, as your company mission, declare, “Let’s make the best jeans in the world, and revive a dead industry in our town of 4,000.”  From their site:

Cardigan is a small town of 4,000 good people. 400 of them used to make jeans. They made 35,000 pairs a week. For three decades. Then one day the factory closed. It left town. But all that skill and knowhow remained. Without any way of showing the world what they could do. That’s why we have started The Hiut Denim Company. To bring manufacturing back home. To use all that skill on our doorstep. And to breathe new life into our town.As one of the Grand Masters said to me when I was interviewing: “This is what I know how to do. This is what I do best.” I just sat there thinking I have to make this work. So yes, our town is going to make jeans again. Here goes.


Grand Master Elin

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Elation. The perfect confluence of care about the community, care about the product and care for the consumer. I feel respected because these people, who make these jeans, want to provide me with a product that won’t fall apart, is classic enough that I can wear it over time and supports the very people whose skill make the product possible.

Hey, guys at Hiut Denim. I’m rooting for you.

the good life — no. 6

photo by dabito of old brand new

when vanessa invited me to be a part of her new series, the good life, i immediately felt a connection. with so many different types of people, i’m sure there are a billion more ways of defining what a good life is. even for myself, entering into my 30′s and looking back, my sense of what the good life is has definitely changed throughout the years. in my teens, it was all about trying to not be an outcast and figuring out my identity, in my 20′s, it was about finding my dreams and going after them full force to get to what i thought was my idea of a good life & now at this present moment, it has changed definitions once again.

to me, the good life is all about the present moments that we encounter. about enjoying the life that we are given each day, each second. the idea that we are able to breathe, to experience love, to enjoy another’s company… to be. what is more wonderful than living? i’ve always been one to plan ahead, to try and see what steps i needed to take to get to where i wanted to be. although that is still a part of who i am, i’m concentrating on life itself lately. coming to an age where i am being introduced to new life and at the same time having to say my goodbyes to others, it has made me think about what it is that i would want reminisce on when it is my turn to bid farewell to this world. the answer that came up? it was to know whole heartedly that i lived a good life. a life filled with happiness, laughter, amazing people and wonderful memories. things that i’ll be able to cherish and to cherish with others long after i have left. things that will allow me to stay connected to the loved ones that i will have to leave behind, but to know that our connection will live on in our spirits.

 i’ve realized for myself that the good life is, to live in the present moment, fully.

The cover of Satsuki's new album, Neko

The cover of Satsuki’s new album, Neko


the good life — no.5

I really admire Sarah Maine. She isn’t just brainy (she went to Wesleyan and then went on to earn a MBA that focused on sustainbility) but she’s a food lover, community builder and she lives what she believes. For starters, she’s a cheesemonger. Could there be a better job title anywhere? Methinks not! On top of that bit of awesomeness, she has a small Etsy concern, The Finest Kind, where Sarah, a talented metalsmith, sells — among other things — absinthe spoons. Yes. Absinthe spoons. And they are lovingly crafted. And that’s when she’s not acting as the force behind the playful food site, Recipe Relay. In short, she’s the bee’s knees.

Without further ado, Sarah’s ruminations on the good life.

Sarah Maine

Sarah Maine

The good life, what is that?  Everyone can agree that the love of friends and family, a comfortable shelter and a full belly are essential ingredients for a good life.  I would argue further that goodness lies in how each of us arranges and connects those elements.  The web we make of thoughts, deeds, words and objects that carries the unique impression of our hand.

My childhood was draped across Southeast Asia, looping around Indonesia, then up to Sri Lanka before traversing oceans and continents to land in Italy, and finally in the US.  I saw many different ways of living, of permuting the elements of people, places and things.  The result is an internal web that is far reaching and not always orderly; the warmth of beauty is snarled with cold longing; happy strings may be kinked with sadness.  Every twist and knot has been worked into being by myself and others, places and things.  My very own hand made life.

Sarah's hand-crafted Christmas ornaments

Sarah’s hand-crafted Christmas ornaments

Absinthe spoone

Absinthe spoon

I currently live in New York City, a super-organism that can seem specifically evolved to spoil your day, your week, your year, or even your life.  In this city, things that make life good can act as amulets, cushioning against rough edges.  Space is precious; light is coveted; beauty and practicality are the mismatched roommates of most New York apartments.  Fashioning a good life here requires an openness and a readiness to relate to people on a level beyond words and interactions, it is necessary to listen to the story of things.

When something new enters my life, I look for a message of care, that warm sticky fact of connection that tells me something of the intentions of the originator or maker.  Conversely, when I do things or make things I hope to tell my own story of beauty and energy and thoughtfulness through design.

Some of Sarah’s images from Instagram:


Stolen mother/daughter moment captured by Sarah

Stolen mother/daughter moment captured by Sarah

Sarah’s beloved cat.