Saturday, December 27, 2014

An American blogger in Paris, part one

I bet I'm the millionth person to use that title, but whatever. Sooo.. SIX MONTHS AGO, Tyler and I went to France together. We went because he had never been, and because our friend Aaron was studying in Grenoble and we wanted to visit him while he lived there. For the first few days, we stayed in Paris. The previous time I'd been in Paris was my first visit ever, and it was just a brief, two-day taste of it with my sister. We went in April, and it was magical.

This time was not so magical. It wasn't Tyler's fault; it was June's. I don't know why, but I just couldn't handle the heat... despite it being on average only about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It was humid and miserable and I always seemed to be wearing the wrong outfit. (One day I had to make an emergency run to Banana Republic for shorts, which was a weirdly awful experience.) We also tried to do way too much, and our feet suffered as a result.

But looking back on the pictures now, I still feel a kind of wistfulness and a desire to be back there.

We stayed in a tiny AirBnB apartment in Montmartre. We could see La Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre from the living room window. It was picture-perfect.

During the days, we walked until we couldn't stand the screaming of our feet, and then we ate, and then we walked some more.

Waiting for brunch... sexily.

We accidentally chose a British cafe for brunch. SO DISAPPOINTING. WHY WOULD YOU GO TO A GOOD FOOD COUNTRY AND THEN EAT BRITISH FOOD. But this kedgeree was pretty okay.

Most of the time we were reduced to begging our servers for carafes of water. I don't understand how little water the French apparently prefer to drink. Wine is all well and good, but when you've been walking for five hours straight in the stupid June heat, you need more than a thimbleful of hydration.

Some months before we visited Paris, I registered us for a Jim Haynes Sunday dinner. Jim Haynes is a well-known American ex-pat who has lived in Paris for decades and has offered delicious, homemade dinners almost every Sunday for those years. Anyone can join, they just need to claim a spot. The dinner was festive, and people from all different countries enjoyed supper side by side. When Tyler and I signed in, Jim looked at me with confusion, thick white brows knitted.

"I thought you were a man," he said, sounding a little disappointed. "I had you down as a man."

"Oh," I laughed nervously, "how funny! Nope, not a man." Happily, it didn't seem to be a real issue and I still got to eat.

The courtyard swarmed with people from multiple nations.
Later, while enjoying our dinners, Tyler and I got the chance to look around the living room. Displayed proudly were books Jim and his many friends had written, and some other literature, and a lot of them seemed to be about free love and adventurous sexcapades. Suddenly, we both got the idea that we had somehow been lured to an orgy and that me not being a man had somehow unbalanced the orgiastic guest list. We became so convinced of our theory that we were almost disappointed when dessert wound down and everyone's clothes were still on. Maybe they waited until we left.

As we hurried back to our apartment that night, clouds rolled in and lightning crackled across the sky. It was pretty cool to watch, even though at some point we were surprised by a sudden torrential rain and stained a bathmat trying to clean up a small puddle in the living room.

It's really hard to get photos of lightning. It doesn't like to hold still.
The next day, we wandered around attempting to be touristy. Tyler wanted to visit the Louvre, but when we arrived he took one look at the line and changed his mind. I was only disappointed because he really wanted to go, but I preferred to avoid the crowds as much as possible.

Instead, we wandered through the Jardin des Tuileries, down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and toward La Tour Eiffel.

Shortly after we crossed this bridge, we heard that this wall had collapsed because of all the weight of the love locks. We had not put a lock on the wall, so we felt a little smug.

The statue on the left is embarrassed because he is naked. The statue on the right is delighted because she is naked.

For a while we sat in the grass near the tower and ate colorful Ladurée macarons, as one does.

Stay tuned for part two!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christmas in Sweden (1940)

IKEA should a handsome sum to whoever posted this on YouTube, because all I want to do now is visit them and stock up on Swedish Jul goodness.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Holiday boudoir shoot!

I can't get holiday songs out of my head when I look at these pictures that the amazing Dana Kae and I collaborated on, with help from Ashli Danielle Makeup + Hair.

You might remember Dana from my boudoir shoot earlier this year. I loved that experience, so I was crazy thrilled and grateful when Dana asked me to help her with her holiday promo shoot! (Including a sneaky topless romp through a nature preserve after hours..)

See a few of my favorites below, and the full set here.

Monday, November 24, 2014

I started listening to Christmas music two weeks ago and I'm not the least bit ashamed.

It feels like Christmas starts earlier every year, and this year I'm somewhat to blame for that because I pretty much dived right into holiday music once November began. I tried, but eventually I admitted to myself that I just didn't want to resist. So I didn't.

All this is to say that I have a wish list you can look at if you want.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Response to "A Feminist Case Against Abortion"

In October, I went to a lecture at Seattle University titled, "A Feminist Case Against Abortion," led by the president of Feminists for Life (FFL). I went because the title of the lecture made my blood boil and I wanted to counter FFL with some pointed questions. As it turned out, I wasn't alone. The atmosphere after the lecture was tense. Many of us felt that the speaker was trying to avoid the promised Q&A, so we kind of forced it to happen. I admit that I lost my cool for a moment when it became obvious that direct questions weren't going to get direct answers. Afterward, I went out with friends both new and old for Dirty Shirley-fueled rants.

After the lecture, I wrote this response:

Feminists for Life’s president, Serrin M. Foster, is not an unlikeable person. When my friends and I arrived at Student Center #210, she warmly greeted us at the door. At the beginning of her lecture “The Feminist Case Against Abortion,” Foster thanked feminists and anti-abortion attendees alike for coming to listen to a “different perspective.” She lamented it as “disheartening” that anti-abortion and pro-choice people spend eighty percent of the time arguing with each other, rather than focusing on the “unrealized dreams of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton” and the “unmet needs of women.” The problem isn’t Foster specifically, it’s this: there isn’t a feminist case against abortion. While I appreciate open dialogue and support everyone's right to speak her piece, FFL’s position is a damaging one not only to women and to reproductive choice, but to feminism as well.

As much as I appreciate the foremothers of feminism and the work they did in support of human rights, I would argue that they were neither infallible, nor do their “dreams” take precedence over the personal needs and choices of women. I do, however, agree with Foster that pregnant and parenting women deserve better and more visible resources than are currently available, and I admire the vision of “a society that supports the role of mothers, values the role of fathers, and helps parents provide both financial and emotional support for their children.” An exercise at the end of Foster’s lecture demonstrated that even SU lacks many important resources on-campus, either outsourcing those needs to external community partners or ignoring them completely.

However, conspicuously absent from FFL’s website and from Foster’s speech is mention of support of and funding for comprehensive sex education, accessible reproductive health, and affordable birth control options, which are all correlated with a reduced rate of unintended pregnancies that often result in abortion; this would seem to belie FFL’s stated mission to “systematically [eliminate] the root causes that drive women to abortion,” since an important factor in a woman’s decision to have an abortion is the presence of an unwanted pregnancy. Furthermore, by directly targeting abortion rather than the root causes of injustices against women and parents, Foster and FFL conflate the issues of discrimination, stigma, and poverty with abortion - implying that abortion is actually to blame for those issues - and distract from their more proactive goals and achievements.

Even if we lived in a country with a flawless record of obstetric care, paid maternity and paternity leave, subsidized child care, and other important resources that pregnant and parenting women require, some women still would not want to be pregnant, and as such there would still be a need for safe, legal, accessible abortion care in the event of accidental pregnancies. If such resources did not exist, we have seen throughout history that women would still find ways to terminate unwanted pregnancies, often at the expense of their own lives.

I am a pro-choice feminist, a label that I find redundant but that must be explicitly stated when a belief so erroneous - that a person can be both feminist and anti-abortion - is floating around. Support of bodily sovereignty - the right of a person to exclusive control over her own body - is a fundamental tenet of feminism. Women must be free to choose abortion or motherhood of their own volition and without coercion or social pressure. To be a pro-choice feminist is to support both the women who want abortions and the women who want children, to recognize that intersections between the two exist, and to work toward eliminating stigma and increasing resources for both options. While one can be a feminist and not personally choose abortion for herself, the anti-abortion position that seeks to prevent or discourage ALL women from accessing abortion is one that is inherently UNfeminist. You cannot reconcile a feminism that trusts, respects, and supports women with actively working to take away women’s rights to make their own decisions about their bodies. “Pro-life feminist” is a poisonous oxymoron.

I'm also quoted in the SU student paper!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The day after Halloween

Always a bummer, like the day after any holiday. Except maybe Thanksgiving, because the leftovers are bountiful. Tyler and I did nothing for Halloween because I am an old person and he is an enabler. We watched scary movies and handed candy out to the seven kids who visited our house. We also put costumes on our dogs.

I already have Christmas songs stuck in my head.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Trunk Club #1

Personal stylist review: Tyler edition!

Tyler is a tall, slim man with longer than average arms. Because it's so hard for him to find a good fit, Tyler pretty much loathes shopping, especially in brick-and-mortar stores. Happily, he's willing to pay for nice clothes that fit him well, so I forced his hand by signing him up for suggested he sign up for Trunk Club.

Trunk Club is described as "hand-selected clothing for men" with "premium clothes." It's kind of like Stitch Fix, except it's for men, there are no fees attached, and you can review your trunk before it's shipped. You also have to chat with your stylist in advance of getting a trunk to review. It's also a lot like Bombfell, except you commit to trying on more clothing at once and they seem to source from different labels. (Tyler has tried Bombfell, too, with mixed results but an overall positive regard.)

Getting the first trunk was kind of frustrating for Tyler because he and his stylist, Lauren, played phone tag for about a week. Eventually they did connect and she sent an email with clothing options to review before they were sent, and about a week after that, FedEx delivered a big box to our front door.

Inside was a note that read, "Hi Tyler, welcome to Trunk Club! The purpose of this first trunk is fit/sizing and to find you versatile pieces. These are great staples to help build your wardrobe. I put together some of my favorite outfit ideas for you. Remember to try EVERYTHING on and provide your feedback. Look forward to your thoughts!"

The trunk contained fifteen items, including a pair of shoes. I thought the presentation was very nice. I also liked the little extras that Lauren had included: three pairs of cool trouser socks, and magnetic power stays.

The first thing Tyler tried on was the Thomas Mason Oxford by Culturata ($135). He looks dubious in the picture on the left, and for good reason as it turned out. Sleeves are his greatest nemesis.

Next, he tried on the L/S Vintage Plaid Shirt by Life After Denim ($98), then the Contemporary Fit Dress Shirt DST by Eton ($265). Foiled again by sleeves!

Having exhausted the trunk's supply of button-up shirts, Tyler moved on to the Marble Jersey Henley by Velvetmen ($120), and then the Long Sleeve Mock Button Neck Sweater by Ralph Lauren ($165). The Henley was sooo soft and I like the brand, but unfortunately it didn't flatter his slim frame. I liked the Ralph Lauren sweater (also ridiculously soft) and thought it looked good on Tyler, but he said he had similar things in his closet already.

Next up was the V Neck Sweater by Jeremy Argyle ($158). It looks pretty good in the picture which makes me regret that he didn't want to keep it. It was a super soft merino wool, too, and green is a good color for him. Then he put the Sherman Cotton Linen Blazer by Sand ($650) on and.. nooo! The sleeves were laughable. Too bad, because the blazer was beautifully constructed (I especially liked the patterned fabric inside, and the faux pocket square).

After nixing all the tops, Tyler tried the pants. Both the A.G. Slim Khakis ($138) and the Paige Denim Normandie Japanese Twill ($179) were too big in the waist. Tyler usually has to wear a belt with all his pants anyway, but other than being nice pants there wasn't much to recommend these pairs, so he chose not to keep them.

Lastly, Tyler tried on the Paige Denim Normandie Slim Straight jeans ($179) with the Monarch J Shoes ($198). These jeans ALMOST made the cut. They were still too loose around the waist, but not too much so, and they looked good with the shoes. (The shoes were too big, unfortunately.) The back pockets looked kind of weird - they were low and huge, and it kind of looked like he had NO tush. The jeans were not as flattering with sneakers - they bunched up and looked like bell-bottoms - and I knew he would try to wear them together.

After all that, Tyler kept one pair of socks! Eeesh. But I enjoyed the process (even if he didn't), and I'm hopeful that with feedback on fit, Lauren can nail at least a few great new outfits for Tyler!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Inheritance: Maiden, Mother, Crone

Last night I attended a special burlesque show put on by Sinner Saint Burlesque, a local group and one of the more accessible and prolific. Their mission is "to celebrate the human experience through smart, sexy entertainment." I've been to several of their shows and they never fail to delight and to occasionally confuse. But their pieces are always unique and interesting.

This one, called "Inheritance: Maiden, Mother, Crone," is hosted by Theatre Off Jackson and "blends burlesque, modern dance, narrative and feminist performance art with activism, intergenerational dialogue, beloved community, and sensory spectacle to explore both ancient and modern stories about what it means to embrace, celebrate and integrate the feminine."

Certain moments of the performance made me uncomfortable because they were so artsy, so very THEATRE, yet didn't feel sincere or well thought out; they were just a little too touchy-feely. And pretty much anything by Jesse Belle-Jones leaves me cold (she makes me wonder if she really takes herself that seriously). But most of the first act wowed me; it was both amusing and poignant. I especially enjoyed "Promise Ring" by Lady Tatas, which skewered the weirdly sexual and infantalizing cultural relationship between a daughter-bride and her father. (It was set to "Butterfly Kisses," which could not have been more perfect.) I also thrilled to Nikola Tease-la's "Sex Education" piece, especially the hilarious clitoris dance. And Evilyn Sin Claire's "Oocyte Ritual," which I took to be about the performer's experience as an egg donor, resonated deeply with me.

Overall, it was an enjoyable and worthwhile experience, and one that I highly recommend, especially for those who want to get in touch with and celebrate the experience of being a woman.

Also, just an FYI, nearby Sun Bakery has really satisfying, cheap custard buns.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Seattle time warp photos

You've probably seen these already, but I had to share because they're so cool: stitched together photos of Seattle's past and present, by Clayton Kauzlaric.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Egg donor cycle #3

I recently finished my third egg donor cycle, in a clinic totally new to me. I missed my old clinic, but this one had really nice-looking magazines, I guess?

I will say that I was not the biggest fan of the doctor who performed my ultrasounds. He would put his gloved fingers on my labia and spread them as he warned me that I would feel some pressure and goo from the ultrasound wand. I was a "pelvic model" once (fancy term for "medical student gynecological guinea pig"), so I know that you aren't supposed to stampede toward the labia/vagina - it's nicer to put the back of your hand on the inner thigh to prepare the patient. I was worried the first time that he was going to try to apply lube with his fingers, which would have been incredibly inappropriate, but happily he stopped at merely disagreeable. I don't think that this doctor meant to be creepy, though, and I'm sure that had I said something, he would have adjusted his methods. He was pleasant otherwise, and the rest of the staff was very sweet.

After my egg retrieval surgery, my doctor said that I was "like a little hen" - apparently they had taken forty-eight - FORTY-EIGHT!? - eggs from me. My previous record was twenty-seven! For the week after my surgery, I understood what other egg donors were talking about when they said that the cycle had been hard on their body. Although I didn't experience pain, I was grossly bloated and uncomfortable. I walked around like a lead balloon.

But now I'm back to my "normal" self and ready to tackle another cycle in January. I'm also ready to tackle my taxes. I got a letter from the IRS demanding back taxes on my "self-employment," even though being an egg donor isn't really considered employment (I'm not selling my eggs, I'm being reimbursed for my time, pain and suffering), and even though I'd already paid about $1000 to them in 2012. The moral of the story is: I'm getting a professional to help me with my taxes this upcoming spring.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Grad school begins!

I started grad school on September 24th, and already I'm about to start my third week! Crazy. But time flies when you only have two classes (and 100+ pages and 2+ assignments) scheduled each week.

First day! I look so ready.

On the morning of my first class in four years, I had a meltdown. I picked a fight with Tyler about dogs for no good reason, and then I sobbed openly for ten minutes (he could only stay for three of those minutes because he had to catch a bus, and I don't fault him for that).

Then I got ready. I wore the most "grad school" outfit I could cobble together in my frazzled state of mind: black pants, black cardigan, chambray button-up shirt, and loafers. I wrangled my hair into a half-back and tried to make it look less frizzy. Then I sat around for several hours because my class wasn't until four o'clock. I got nervous and antsy and went to campus an hour early so I could sit outside my classroom.

My classmates appeared to be equally as terrified, and we exchanged nervous whispers before the PowerPoint got fired up. But then, everything was fine, as you might have guessed. I stuttered a lot, like Porky Pig-level stuttering. That was pretty terrible. But the next day, I didn't stutter, and I made the class laugh, and I felt smart.

For my second week, I had one online class, and did my first peer counseling session the next day. We're in triads (although I'm an odd student out so I rotate a lot), which means that we each assume the role of client, observer, and counselor during class time. I made an excellent client, if I do say so myself. (It helped that I had already gone to hypnotherapy* earlier that day, and knew what I wanted to talk about.) And I actually was a pretty decent first time counselor. I did a lot of dumb stuff, of course - I didn't pay attention to the time and went over the 10 minutes I was allotted, and I tried for too much, too soon as a result, thinking that I needed to fill the time. But I felt surprisingly comfortable and I liked it! That's really exciting for me. (Now I have to watch my recorded session and I feel like it's going to make me cringe. But I can only get better, right? Unless I get much, much worse.)

Afterward, I rewarded myself with one delicious lavender cupcake... and five more cupcakes for later. Oops.

*Hypnotherapy! I told my mother one day that I wished I could just be hypnotized into loving exercise, and the next thing I knew, I had a Groupon to Amour de Soi. Hypnotherapy is not actually hypnosis, as it turns out, but I did feel deeply meditative and safe. I liked that I got to keep my eyes closed, especially since we did an exercise that involved my hands talking to each other about my feelings re: fitness. Surprisingly, I came to some interesting and useful conclusions through the hand-talk exercise. For example, I mentioned that I liked pole dancing class because I could employ "public solitude," and feel that whatever my body was doing, it was the right thing for me in that moment; I realized as I spoke that I could transfer that nonjudgmental way of moving and being present in and appreciative of my body in different spaces, even during boxing class. Anyway, I would recommend hypnotherapy if typical therapy isn't your thing, and I would definitely recommend Amour de Soi specifically.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Stitch Fix #11

See Stitch Fix #1#2#3#4#5#6#7#8#9, #10
Would you like to try Stitch Fix? Sure you would! (Thank you for the Fix credit!)
Check out my style inspiration board.

My last fix was all the way back in June! I was feeling hopeful about this one because it's FALL and it's so much easier to find and wear cute things when the weather turns crispy. So here's the message from my stylist, Melissa:

Hi Inness, I really enjoyed styling for you today! I had so much fun looking through your Pinterest inspiration board and your amazing blog with your past Stitch Fix reviews! I'm really sad your last Fix was a disappointment and I hope we can turn this experience around for you. I wasn't sure if you wanted to try more boyfriend jeans this time, so I opted for an amazing high waisted work paint. The Emer pants create a smooth and flat silhouette and they will look great with the Jenny striped top and black flats for a polished & professional look for the office. I noticed several hot pink items on your inspiration board, so I thought you would love the Breyson top. The Marina polka dot dress is a flirty and feminine fit and flare style that is super flattering. Pair it with boots and a denim jacket this Fall! Enjoy!

I like Melissa! It's clear that she's paying attention: looked at my board, read my blog, knows I prefer high waisted pants, and noticed that I love hot pink! I was excited when I opened my box - it looked very promising.

1. 41Hawthorn "Berneen" printed dolman sleeve top, $58

When I first put this top on, I was excited. I'm really into printed tops right now, and there's nothing like this already in my closet. But the more I looked at it, the less pleased I was. I'm getting the feeling that although I love dolman tops, they might not love me so much. And this shirt, despite being almost $60, felt like a $10 polyester top from TJ Maxx. I could buy six TJ Maxx tops for the price!

Verdict: returned.

2. Margaret M "Emer" high waisted cropped trouser, $98

I got excited when I saw the words "high waisted" and "cropped" in the same line. And while they lived up to their descriptors, these pants certainly did not live up to their price. They were a little large on me, so maybe that was the problem, but they weren't flattering and certainly not "slimming" as the tag proclaimed (except in the same way that all black pants are "slimming"). They also felt cheap.

Verdict: returned. 

3. Yumi "Marina" polka dot belted dress, $114

I really wanted to like this dress. It was navy blue, with an interesting nubby fabric, and an exposed metal zipper, which I love. Fit and flare is my favorite style of dress and this dress delivered on that front. It was mostly flattering, except that the waist hit above my natural waist (I don't have THAT short of a torso!). The belt was a cheap, flimsy thing. I thought about keeping it, but ultimately decided it wasn't worth $114.

Verdict: returned.

4. Market and Spruce "Breyson" split-neck tab-sleeve knit top, $48

It's hard to see in these pictures, but this shirt really was a vibrant shade of hot pink. I loved it! I also loved how soft it was and that it had tab sleeves. But there the love ended. The material was thin and highlighted some not great stuff, yet at the same time, it felt really heavy and huge. All in all, I felt like I was wearing a maternity top.

Verdict: returned.

5. Tart "Jenny" scoop neck striped knit top, $68

I don't know if Stitch Fix knows this, but I like this brand, so kudos to Melissa for choosing it. I thought about keeping this top, too, but ultimately decided it just wasn't flattering enough. The stripe patterns were interesting and it was soft, but it was really low cut and flared away from my hips in a not-great way.

Verdict: returned.

I feel bad for disappointing Melissa, since I sent everything back again! I actually would like to have her as my stylist again - I feel like having so many stylists bouncing around hasn't facilitated a good box for me in a while, and I think she kind of got what I'm going for at least. Oh well! Next time.
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