Fav Foreign Singer of the Week: Carla Morrison

Carla Morrison…I came across her album Dejenme Llorar (and specifically the song “Eres tù”) this week as San Francisco has seen a sudden uptick in rain (first real rain since April). Her music makes me feel warm and cozy but also remember that there is still sol, calor, and sensualidad somewhere out in the world…

I unfortunately don’t know enough about Mexican music to say who she sounds like, but for me I’d say her sound is as if Patsy Cline and Linda Ronstadt had a surrogate child raised south of the border, born to strum the strings of a guitar and feel las emociones of all that is beautiful and heartbreaking in the human experience.

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Freestyle rap, 3 languages, NBD

Starting at 11 minutes in, Nico from the duo Nico & Vinz seamlessly freestyle raps in French, Norwegian, and English. A) That is a talent B) What a babe.

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11 Months

As I begin to write this and glance down at my computer calendar, I realize it’s been 11 months to the day since I updated this blog. What a pity! I used to be so diligent about writing but totally fell off the rails this year. Or, in the past 11 months.

11 months! What on earth have I been up to since October 2015? Clearly not writing anything groundbreaking on this here blog, although I can see people have been enjoying my accent tag and reading lots about the Navajo Code Talkers. I’d say slowly coming to terms with the fact that I live in a place, I have a job, I have an early morning routine, and I’m not about to buy a one-way plane ticket out of here anytime soon. Not because I don’t particularly want to, I’m just not going to.

So what’s happened in my life since 11 months ago, October 2015, or six months into my San Francisco stint/rest of my life/who knows? Recapping below for myself and anyone else who cares to know. I must say it’s been pretty damn good.

  • Travelled to Israel with my mom for my best friend from college’s wedding. Julia married an atheist ex-Haredi  Jew (took me a minute to figure out the right word order there), but the wedding in Jerusalem was hardcore Haredi. It was a Monday night marriage, Julia was veiled all in white. A wall was erected between the wedding hall, the women partied on one side while the men danced like they would legitimately never dance again. Linking arms, kicking feet, sliding on the floor, swinging partners, lifting each other up in chairs…Conservative men gone wild!


Tel Aviv, mom said, reminded her of New York City in the 1980s with all the grit and graffiti, but set in Miami Beach. We were thrilled to be in Tel Aviv after four days in Jerusalem, we practically kissed the very ground of the wonderfully hip and edgy Boulevard Rothschild. Tel Avivians are effortlessly cool, toasted tan, uber sexy. Vegan food, Mom trying to speak Hebrew with everyone and their mom, beach cruiser bikes, a mischievous ex-Israeli solider, late nights in Dizengoff. Thought a lot about religion, traditions, belonging, and this crazy world we live in. Still a committed atheist.

  • Went on my first cross-country business trip and lived it up in the Hampton Inn of Hartford, CT for four days. The Tinder game was incredible, as was the Hampton Inn continental breakfast.
  • Punk Rock Alice in Wonderland, Halloween 2015. Would have been Alice Cooper in Wonderland but I couldn’t find a bloodied bat to chew on in quick enough time.
  • Eked out the tail end of a disastrous disastrous product launch alive. Alice alive. Out of my hands, I did what I could. Worked my a** off at a startup that amassed a terrific, talented group of people, many of whom I still call my best friends and still correspond with during the workday by iMessage or Spotify messenger since we can’t Slack each other anymore. Saw how poor leadership can derail morale and a great culture and workforce. Spoke up in front of injustice, occasional abhorrent chauvinism, poor decision-making, and for all the basic b’s out there 😉 Realized that at the end of the day you’ve got to look out for yourself.
  • Went through the stressful process of searching for another job while I still had one. So many “doctor’s appointments” I actually got myself sick. I think I interviewed at seven companies in three or so months. Phone screen one, phone interview, on-site, even a happy hour interview, final round. Tell me a little bit about yourself, why do you want to work at this company, what do you love about…, tell me about a time when… Being like, “Thank you so0o0o0 much for taking the time to talk to me”/this is literally your job.
  • Worked evenings and brunch at a restaurant on Divis. Waited tables all through high school and college, but a couple years behind a desk and I’d kind of forgotten how amped up you get during a busy shift, all the restaurant lingo. Two top getting up, clear it off, on your right on your right, BEHIND YOU!!, you want grits or toast with that, can I get you anything else, y’all have a nice day, vasos por favor! Probably walked six miles during a brunch shift. Bittersweet to leave.
  • Took a trip to LA, the place I somehow thought I would move to before I ended up in San Francisco. Cool city, but happy I ended up north. The entire time I was there I had “All I Wanna Do” by Sheryl Crow stuck in my head. This is Elllll Ay! Turned up on Hollywood Blvd at night and semi-fought off advances from an up and coming Bollywood star. Reunited with Harry for the first time in 10 years. Reunited with Andrea at the same Peet’s Coffee in downtown Santa Monica as in 2005 after a visit to the best Buffalo Exchange location ever. Saw a X-game snowboarders board down a 13-story snow-filled halfpipe in downtown LA. Rudimental were pissed, Netsky killed it, Incubus were absolute professionals. Brandon Boyd tears it up like he tears off his SSBD, tears to my eyes. I Miss You.
  • Took a Google Bus to Napa (or Sonoma? Still unsure) with 20 lovely ladies. Holy sh*t.
  • Turned 27 on April 13th. Last day at old job on the 15th, b-day picnic in The Panhandle with all walks of friends on the 16th, worked brunch the 17th, somehow was still able to start my new job on the 18th. An incredible birthday with all those I’ve had the pleasure of calling my people the past year. Most unique and (luckily) still unused gift was the rhinestone-encrusted taser from Keanu at the downstairs smokeshop. April was lit.
  • Celebrated my one year San Francisco anniversary on April 20th, 2016. Reminisced about being completely unacquainted with San Francisco when I arrived here one year before, falling in love with the hazy sunsets as I biked all over town while (very) patiently awaiting my start date and end of an era. The broken suitcase with 50 pounds of clothes inside that I lugged up to Bill’s 33rd floor office on Kearny Street, and dropped to the floor when I took a look at my first view of the city outside the window. “Blank Space” and “Style” on the radio when Matt let me borrow his car and I drove around the Outer Sunset to Ocean Beach, cruising down streets with Spanish names like Guerrero and Pacheco and Noriega. Regretting not bringing a sweater. “But it was sunny when I left the house!” Hating life biking up Taraval Street from the Y but forgetting everything at the top of the hill, the sweeping vistas of little boxes on the hillsides / little boxes made of ticky tacky. Walking in circles around the intersection of Market and Van Ness when I still took Muni. Accidentally ordering 500 ear plugs when the Tenderloin still kept me awake, but found the best home for them months later.
  • 11 months of great concerts: Rudimental, Wolf Alice, Air + Style, Rhye, CHVRCHES ft. Wolf Alice again, Yeasayer (sort of, they went on past my bedtime), Disclosure, Ja Rule & Ashanti, Netsky, Marian Hill and Bomba Estéro (this concert took the cake). Did not manage to get backstage at Netsky despite trying to woo the bouncer with broken Flemish. Can’t impress everybody.


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  • Developed legitimate tastes for kombucha and kale, as well as the preferred methods imbibing and preparing both. My friend Fern taught me the proper method of massaging the kale prior to eating it, and I’ve never looked back. She also taught me to stick the compost in the freezer, and it has been an absolute game changer. Kombucha is great for everything, especially after a long night out. That time I got carded for kombucha (it’s fermented, you know). Preference for kombucha on tap to kombucha from a bottle because bougie tastes better.
  • Had a workplace romance that actually remained unbeknownst to any colleagues.
  • Went out for tea with my Lyft driver from The Gambia. Flashback to Senegal, the goats, the names, the Fatous, the sand, the beaches, the textiles, sugar with ataya tea, over-cooked pasta with baguette, the heat, the flies, the rooftops, the waiting, the prayer, the palm trees, my bin bin, le francais, le wolof, le teranga, le mal de pays…The random connections we make in cars 🙂
  • Rode the roller coaster in Santa Cruz. Absolutely terrifying.


  • Found the party in Japantown that goes til 6am. The woman in the Uber on the way home was headed out to run her third marathon. Priorities.
  • Drove down Route 1 in a Mustang convertible, although quickly realized Northern California is one of the last places you ever want to drive with the top let down (it’s cold). Best section is from SF to Santa Cruz. Around Pacifica you’re driving through a hazy sun-kissed dream of waves crashing, hills rolling, surfers catching, cars zipping, eggs and fruit for sale. They guy next to me in the car scrolling through his Facebook app as we flew up the coast at sunset – SMH.
  • Exasperated my swim club coach but finally learned to swim correctly. I am now a flip turner.


  • Had my first whale sighting of the coast of Pescadero while eating something delicious called olallieberry pie right out the box.
  • Learned to take The Wiggle. Learned that Page Street from Market to Webster is a terrible idea regardless of it’s designation as an official San Francisco Bicycle Route. McAlister from Webster to Broderick never gets better. Any neighborhood that ends in Heights was certainly thought out. Learned that Google Maps on your computer will show you the terrain of your route but your smartphone will not.
  • Ascended Webster Street from The Marina to Japantown in a sundress and flip flops. Screw Redbull, poorly planned product launches and life crossroads give you wings.
  • Thought about dropping everything and enrolling in nursing school/moving back to New Orleans/opening a restaurant/becoming a real estate agent/buying a one way ticket to a banana republic to never think about SaaS subscription models again…
  • Unknowingly left my bike unlocked on 10th and Market for two entire hours. The feeling of horror when I realized what I had done, the feeling of sheer luck mounting it and riding off into the sunset. When Brian’s Airbnb guests saved my bike from the hands of a chainsaw-wielding psycho, not even knowing whose bike it was. What did I do to deserve this? #blessed #thankyou


  • Went to my first California beach bonfire party in Land’s End. I felt so LC.


  • Went to my first quinciñera! Que bonita!
  • Completely accidentally ate pot chocolate chip cookies and rode out the journey on a misting rainy San Francisco night in Chinatown and North Beach. Came face to face with the largest bowl of wonton soup I will ever order.


  • Got double primed and contoured! Ahh!!!


  • Nick came to visit for a whole week 🙂


  • Still have not experienced a real earthquake, bracing myself for that one, but did experience simulations of the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes at Cal Academy of Sciences Thursday night blowout! Also saw seahorse shaped coral, a fish with double eyes (one set above water, the other set underneath), and an ethereal jellyfish.


  • Grammy turned 91. Reunited with the whole Egan clan for another New England family reunion. Where will we all be in another seven years?
  • Recreated this Trader Joes “Punjab Eggplant” dish on my own and it was delicious. Directions: Buy all the vegetables and spices listed on the back of the box and throw it around the stovetop. Mmmm.
  • Realized I am an emoji.


Next up? I suppose rolling with the punches in an early stage startup, wearing all the hats I can, as they say. Working as an inspector of the polls at a polling precinct on the mother of all election days (Tuesday, November 8th, please vote (for Hillary)). First Thanksgiving in three years at home in New York, flying to Colombia the day after. If you have Colombia tips, please email me. If you don’t have my email, text, FB message, Instagram message, Spotify message, or Linked In message, WordPress comment all work too. If you have my actual address, feel free to DoorDash/Uber Eats/ Amazon Restaurants/Instacart me some cupcakes with your Colombia tips included in the Notes section of the receipt.

And then who knows! It’ll be winter soon, but in San Francisco it’ll still be chilly in the morning, sunny by 11, nippy by the slightest drop in the sun at 4pm, hot enough to throw on the bikini at Dolores Park the next day, misting the next. So I still won’t know what time of year or what day it is based on anything except from what my iPhone tells me it is, and I’m thinking about just throwing it all away for a flip phone. Looking back on it, these past 11 months have been oodles of fun, even if I’ve mainly stayed put in The City (meaning San Francisco, all you New York-centrics!). Punctured with moments of complete loss and grief over being 26/7 and still not knowing what my **passion** is but knowing you gotta push on. So looking forward to good times with friends both old and new, bountiful opportunity, much more writing and buildings, and something to keep me on my toes.

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Alice in Photos, Age 16

I know I keep going on about it, but I had a very intense walk down memory lane this weekend. On the search for building shots for Beauty in Buildings, I brought out my old hard drive and went through ten years of photos. I found photos that brought me right back to the moment the button clicked, photos that made me giggle, and photos that weighed down on a part of my heart. And then just some really cool ones that I totally forgot about!

My best friend in high school was named Jacki, and she was into photography and high fashion. She had the coolest clothes, purchased at fancy boutiques with her mom or snatched out of her dad’s side of the closet. She could combine them into new outfits in ways I could never even dream of, rarely if ever repeating an outfit. One rainy day when I was 15 or 16 she dressed me up in a few different ensembles and decided to have me model in my first photoshoot ever, Jacki’s retro-style home the background for the shots.

The last photo in the set is actually from a few years later. Our moms took us to Paris together a few weeks before we graduated high school. A collection of beautiful photos from the trip exists, but Paris is when and where our relationship fully disintegrated and came apart, and it’s never really been repaired. Come to think about it, this photo is probably the last one we ever took together.

But I suppose that’s what’s nice about photos – they capture one single moment in time and freeze it. You have to ask in order to get a backstory about a photo, there is only so much it can say on its own. I remember the day of this photoshoot, happy to be alone with my best friend at her cozy house on a rainy afternoon, and those are the memories I try to think of when I think of her. It will never be the same between us and I accepted that long ago, but it’s sometimes nice to look back at pretty pictures and remember a time where we were still an unfinished book.






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One city, two takes

This weekend I’ve gone through about ten years of photos in search of material for Beauty in Buildings. It’s a cool feeling that even before Instagram existed or I even realized that I love learning about, appreciating, and photographing buildings, I was traveling to new cities and snapping shots of buildings! I found a goldmine of building photos in my old hard drive that I took from 2005 – 2014, from New Orleans to Amsterdam to Port-au-Prince.

In September 2012 I was still living in Brussels, and my ex-boyfriend and I decided to take a little weekend getaway to Cologne, Germany, which is just a short train ride away. Colm studied photography and is a graphic designer, and he’d very proudly purchased an old black-white-camera (I can’t remember the make or style) off of Ebay for one Euro. I brought my digital camera, and enjoyed walking around Cologne on Saturday taking photographs of the different neighborhoods and buildings we walked by.

I’ve been to two cities in Germany – Cologne and Berlin – and both times I was very taken aback at the look and feel of these cities. I’m American, and I’m always anticipating European cities to be a combination of antique, cute, and quaint, even the big cities. I arrived in Berlin and was shocked to be reminded of New York City – there were big wide avenues, lots of big modern buildings, and tons of Dunkin Donuts.

I’d done some research on what to do in Cologne, and Google flooded me with images of the Hollhenzollern Bridge and the Cologne Cathedral, both beautiful, ancient (the Cathedral being epically old, opening it’s doors in 1322. 1322!!!) structures in the city. But if the camera zoomed out to show the rest of the city that surrounds the church and bridge, you’d be shocked at how modern and new the rest of Cologne is! Lots of tall, boxy buildings undoubtedly built in the second half of the twentieth century. And that’s when it dawns on me the devastation that was left after Allied bombing campaigns during World War II. It’s pretty intense, and a miracle that those in charge did leave some of these buildings out of harms way, for history’s sake.

In my old hard drive I’ve got all my photos of colorful Cologne, and they lead right into the black and white photos that Colm sent me after the trip. The feel of the photos is so different! My photos came out vibrant and excited, while Colm’s were look thoughtful and serene. So much factors into how a photo comes out, to the feeling it invokes in the onlooker, and the message the photo sends – it takes me forever to choose a filter on Instagram or to finish editing a photo on my computer because the colors and lighting used can tell a completely different story from another, and sometimes I’m not sure which one I want to tell.

We actually took quite a few of almost the same shot a few times, as you’ll see below.











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Hikeventure on Nor Cal’s Lost Coast


This city gal has become a bit more outdoor-minded as she’s gotten older -The woods have become less a place to burn one in secret and more a place to enjoy, explore, walk, swim, run, bike, and conquer. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about moving to San Francisco is how easy it is to hop in a car, whether it’s your’s, a friend’s, or a Get Around, and find yourself quickly outside The City and in a redwood forest, on the beach, or in an Old Western-style town surrounded by mountains.

In a rather whirlwind turn of events, I ended up agreeing to join three friends on a three-day hike of California’s Lost Coast, a sparsely populated area up in Humboldt and Mendocino counties in Northern California. It got its moniker in the last half-century since this rather isolated region experienced large-scale depopulation back in the 1930s – Back in the day there were train tracks linking towns and lumber yards, but the terrain was too rough and rugged, so today, aside from a sprinkling of “towns” like Whitethorn and Whale’s Gulch, you pass through or by lots that has been abandoned, from towns to ramshackle houses to school buses overgrown with weeds and moss. Nowadays much of the Lost Coast is now part of the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park.

For a little reference, here’s where we were in reference to San Francisco:


And here’s what we ended up hiking! Essentially, we drove up to Needle Rock, parked the car, a local chap named Owen drove us back down to Usal in his 4×4, and then we hiked all the way up the mountains and on the ridges along the coast back to Needle Rock. The blue-dotted route shown below is not what we walked (I think it’s a fire road), clearly Google Maps did not take the scenic route.


It was my first multi-day backpacking adventure and I felt a mixture of wooo yea I can do this empowerment!! and why am I waltzing around bear country with 40-pounds of sweet and savory trail mix on my back? But Brian lent me his hiking sticks which were a game changer, biking up and down the San Francisco hills for the last 4 months was killer preparation, and the views were immediately blue and beautiful. In many vistas we came across during the day time it was hard to see where the horizon was as the blue of the ocean turned almost seamlessly into sky blue.



We hiked seven or so miles on the first day, which the guy at the Visitor’s Center had said would be the hardest because of all the ups and downs of the trail. It was definitely challenging but that was to be expected, and by the time we set up camp in a clearing at the Little Jackass campsite, we were all pretty exhausted. We ended up all sleeping 12 hours, the shady forest clearing blocking the sun from waking us early.

Day Two: Holy sh*t. The guy at Needle Rock said this was supposed to be the easiest because we’d just be walking along a ridge with a view of the ocean. Well, you’ve got to get up to that ridge first, don’t you? We decided they call our camp spot Little Jackass because you feel like one trying to get out of there – We spun circles around our campsite for an hour trying to find the path out, practically wading through poison oak and spikey needle bushes and then a tree legit fell on Kevin, who handled it like a champ. Then it was just straight up hill for an hour or so which made me very cross, so I kind of just put my head down and busted it out til the trail did level off like they said it would. I whined, but the hike wouldn’t have been so rewarding if there hadn’t been a couple of obstacles to overcome!

To keep ourselves occupied between the deeply intellectual conversations had by all, including one recurring conversation involving the correct verbiage related to former President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski, we sang. I had not sung like that since waiting around for dinner in the mess hall at Camp Kippewa for Girls. A shout out to Brian for filming and recording our musical debuts! Starting off with American folk songs, we spanned late 90s pop, 60s soul, and musical theatre, which exposed me and Chrysan as Sound of Music freaks of nature. We are waiting impatiently for the next Castro Theater Sound of Music Singalong. #JulieAndrews

Here’s us during a trail mix break singing along to the #1 played song during the candlelighting ceremony at your local bar mitzvah Saturday night:

We knew we were going to come up to Wheeler Beach, but figured we’d haul on to the next beach at Bear Harbor, which the next day would leave us with just three or so miles back to where we’d parked the car. On the descent down to Wheeler Beach, which, I admit I was glad not to be ascending, we passed by a father-son duo and asked them about the beach. The dad was just absolutely not having it that day, and grumpily responded that it was something along the lines of “open exposed black sand and water, no shade anywhere” mumble mumble boo hoo. Although to me that sounded like, you know, a beach, we were not sure what to expect…



There was a beautiful black sand beach fit with magnificent wave action, cliffs, a brook, pine, and elder trees. While the waves were too big too go swimming, and the water much too cold, there was a shallow pool that had formed with calm, warm water. Chrysan and I immediately threw down our heavy backpacks and on with our bathing suits as soon as we arrived, and quickly realized that all-purpose biodegradable soap, sun, sand, and water is pretty much the key to a happy and fulfilling life.

The sunset was obviously quite alright, and reflected itself into the wading pool as we drank hot toddies and made s’mores. At this juncture in time I will take a second to note that semi-melted marshmallows make for excellent roasting marshmallows, as the sort of dusty outside coating disappears and you’re essentially just roasting the entire inside of the marshmallow. It is game-changing and addictive.

Perhaps it was the hot toddies, perhaps it was the build up of endorphins after a long day’s hike and an epic bath, but Chrysan and I became Celine Dion that night, and it felt almost as good as Rose felt when she stood up in front of her tipy toes at the party in steerage. “Oh, I haven’t done that in years!”

Day 3: Final Day. Didn’t really even register that it was coming to an end. We woke up on the beach (which is just a great thing) and then set off past the deep elder tree forests up into the redwoods. Treked for miles and miles til Bear Harbor, which another grumpy old man had told us “was you know, just a beach”, except yea it was PHEN-OM! There seemed to have been a parking lot nearby, so there were a few groups of young San Franciscans playing football and drinking beers. But since the beach was so majestic and immense the proximity of people and parking lots didn’t really register, and it still felt like we were miles away from the real world and work emails.



The last part of the trail was mainly along the coast under the pounding direct sunlight, and I admit I was a little heartbroken when I saw the parking lot and Kevin’s sun bonnet in the near distance, knowing that the hike was over and accomplished. Giddy with emotion, Chrysan and I dealt with the emotional end the way any 90s girls would – a throwback singalong while we waited around for the menfolk to finish chatting up the park rangers. I was also pleased to find that my peanut M&M’s had not melted in the trunk of Brian’s car. They are a resilient candy.

We headed back down the same remote, winding country road we’d been on twice already, this time taking a minute to check out the haunting roadside abandoned bus which made us all whisper “Chris McCandless” under our breath 10 times.


We also stopped off at the annual Labor Day fair thrown by the town of Whale’s Gulch, summoned by two of the greatest words in the English language (aside from continental breakfast, which we had on the way up north) – bake sale.

People out in this area of Northern California certainly have a clear-cut style. My rural fashion expertise relies heavily on observations made during trips to visit my relatives in beautiful backwoods New England (which I now appreciate),  which consists mainly of colorful Patagonia clothing and Life Is Good t-shirts from Cape Cod. Here is was a bit more down-to-earth – The Humboldt Country traditional Sunday garb consists of lots of long, white-haired pigtails for women, cargo pants or ripped jeans complete with hemp festival t-shirts and Teevas, and a sturdy pair of hiking boots. The people of Whale’s Gulch were super friendly, the food scrumptious and donation-based (although I admit I hesitated before taking a bite of a friendly-looking brownie), and children darted about amongst the pot smoke and vegan cucumber bread breadcrumbs. It was a very close-knit community.


We drove back to downtown Garberville, where we’d stopped off for coffee on the way to the Usal campground where we’d started our hike. It’s an old fashioned sort of Californian town with one main drag with a Western-style main street smack dab in the middle of a massive mountain range. It’s quite striking, but it’s got some pretty shady characters. Some methy characters, to put it frankly, of which Northern California seems to have many. Dusk in this town was sort of like a few scenes in particular from Fear the Walking Dead, which is a sad thing to say but yea, Frank’s Food Place was real.

We spent the night in a motel which was needless to say, glorious. Motels are great. Then we drove back down south the next day, stopping off at the Vichy Springs Resort in Mendocino Country to hit up the hot springs. I thought we were headed to a national park but it was actually a spa, which we ended getting day passes for. I didn’t take much prodding on that front. We spent a couple of hours in Northern California’s only champagne baths, full of magnesium and something about lactic acid. My skin felt soft and smooth again after a few days in the woods, and my muscles not so sore anymore. Elton John once bathed here.


Jamaican food in Ukiah, food coma, Brian drove, then we crossed the Golden Gate and were back in San Francisco.



Hike Soundtrack – The Songs We Sang


Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Erie Canal

America the Beautiful

Proud to be an American

Home on the Range

I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad

There Was a Great Big Moose

She’ll Be Comin’ Around The Mountain

My Darlin’ Clementine

I’m a Little Teapot

The 50 States

Musical Theater

The Sound of Music


Favorite Things

The Sound of Music

Doe a deer

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

Climb Every Mountain

Les Miserables

Look Down

Castle on a Cloud

Master of the House

At the End of the Day

90s Pop Music


Tearin’ Up My Heart

Bye Bye Bye

It’s Gonna Be Me (may)

Backstreet Boys

I Want It That Way


As Long As You Love Me

Britney Spears



Hit Me Baby One More Time

Celine Dion

My Heart will Go On


Build Me Up Buttercup Baby

Stand by Me


Just around the River Bend

Colors of the Wind

Chim Chimney

Spoonful of Sugar

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Best of Brussels Buildings

It’s been about two months since I left Belgium, and it truly feels like an eternity. It’s amazing how in a couple of weeks you can be leading an entirely different life in a place you never thought you’d end up. Luckily, I landed in a city with an unbelievable mix of vistas and architecture, the perfect place to continue on with my Instagram account dedicated to the beauty of stand-out or quirky buildings from around the world, @BeautyInBuildings. However, if you’ve been following from the beginning, you’ll know I started out as @BrusselsBuildings, solely dedicated to showing off the under-appreciated and lesser-known architectural gems that make up the city of Brussels, Belgium.

I happened to have moved to the Rue Bailli-area of Brussels in Ixelles, also close to St. Gilles, which as I would learn were essentially playgrounds for Art Nouveau architects and artists back at the turn of the last century. Last fall, I started snapping pictures of interesting buildings dotting my neighborhood just on the way to uni or while running errands, and was noticing so many I finally decided to make a special Instagram account for them all. I will admit, most of my photos are of buildings in the neighborhoods of Ixelles and St. Gilles, because this is where I spent most of my time. I’ve been called out for not including more of the other 19 communes (boroughs, if you will) of Brussels, but with lots of work at uni I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to photograph down the entire Brussels Capital Region. But I did try!

Someone recently commented on one of my @BeautyInBuildings Instagram photos featuring a slice of the unreal exquisiteness that is San Francisco and said, “@BrusselsBuildings was better, just to let you know.” Sheesh. While I don’t know if “better” is the best word, @BrusselsBuildings was more niche and shed light on a city with a particularly shabby reputation, and therefore the account was perhaps a bit more special and cozy.

But times they are a’-changing and roll with the times I shall – I’ve now expanded my account to be @BeautyInBuildings and I’m posting photos of San Francisco buildings as well as buildings and houses from the other towns and cities I visit while living my life out West. I’ve also started combing through photos from my last five years of travels to include pictures from those cities, and it’s been interesting to realize that even at 21 I always took photos of buildings I liked. Not to share them on Instagram, because I think I still had a flip phone at that age, but just because they stood out to me and I wanted to remember them.

So today I thought I would pay homage to the city where it all started, and talk a little about my favorite shots from @BrusselsBuildings – How I ended up taking the shot, what I like about the photo, and the memories I have of the moment I pressed that little white button on my iPhone camera.


When the sun comes out and the temperature heats up, Brussels really comes alive. The days are very long, and everyone sits to soak up the sun’s rays til it the sleeping of the sun (this is how they say ‘sunset’ in French, so cute) sometimes around 11pm. I used to live a block from the Etangs d’Ixelles (a series of pretty ponds in Ixelles) and Café Belga, and I remember taking this one evening during July as I was walking down the lane by the church, and loving how the sun lit up the most popular Art Deco place on the “plahce”.


My favorite stretch in all of Brussels (it’s the cover photo for this blog!). The very Flemish architecture, the brightly colored facades, and the criss-crossing of the many streetcar lines at Général Jacques complete a very beautiful Brussels major thoroughfare, which is a hard word to spell.


This vista of the Eglise Sainte Marie in Schaerbeek (as seen from Rue Royal) is particularly stunning, even on the cloudiest of days. I took this picture last summer late in the afternoon on a bike ride to Waterloo and back. I like the haziness of the sun on a gray and shadowy street.

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This is a very atypical building for Brussels, especially Ixelles! This is on a little street off of the Chaussée d’Ixelles, and directly on the other side of the street there is a building that looks straight out of Rome. I like the random modernity in a city of Art Nouveau, and the contrasting sharp edges of the house itself with the curvaceous iron gate. The bright red leaves of the tree add a little heat to a colder scene.


I’d been trying for a while to get a great shot of the red building. It really sticks out on this street in particular because the rest of the street has a very drab back-alley feel. It’s on one of the winding side streets that goes up from Avenue Louise to finally land at the Chaussée d’Ixelles. None of the other photos I’d taken on sunny or gloomy days had quite captured the intensity of the red and the quirkiness it casts upon the street. But this day I believe was dark and stormy, so the rain blackened the road and cast a nice little gleam upon it. The man in black to the left and the zig-zagging white lines and red street sign on the right give the twisting street a funky feel.


This was not a fan favorite, I suppose there’s not enough building in it, but come on, day-time half-moon and shooting airplane?? I also like the hues of blue, green, and purple that came out in the sky. I love seeing the moon during the day, and something felt very “Peter Pan” about the moon and the window tops, like Wendy would fling open the windows and wait for a Lost Boy to come hurtling through after flying off from Never Land. Très mignon.


What a weird home! It’s like a houseboat in the middle of the city, and totally out of place on Rue Souveraine. However, it’s super fun and looks like it has great terrace space. You just do you building, you do you!


This brown building with the columns and open shutter was around the corner from my apartment on Rue Faider. It’s a very imposing building on a street with lots of more gentle maisons de maitres (townhouses), and is rather grand. The shutter was always open and would catch my eye as I walked home down the street from Rue Bailli.


I don’t play around with the filters so much anymore, I try to keep the photos a bit more natural, but I like the orange highlights here. They really bring out the brick house to the right, which of course is sidelined due to the grandiose maison on the bords of one of the Ixelles ponds. It wasn’t a super warm day when I took this, but I like that the orange gives it a dog-days-of-summer-feel, which is a sentiment not often felt in Brussels. I feel like here, we can pretend 🙂

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I used walked by this restaurant in Le Sablon everyday on the way to uni and just loved the pops of bright colors they decorated the downstairs restaurant with! The top part of the building is impeccably white with two matching statues overlooking the front, contrasting with the bold black of the ground floor facade. The bursts of color in the shape of little hanging balls and a pretty painting in the entrance window of the restaurant really shake things up! This restaurant is still on my bucket list.


What a window. Around the corner from my old apartment as well. The rest of the building is okay, but someone really went to town on this take on a bay window. Kudos, kudos.

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Also on a small street leading to the Chaussée d’Ixelles, the golden glint of the small iron-work leaves adorning the ivy-inspired window bars caught my eye on a grim and gloomy day. The bars on the window in the building next door hold their own, and I like the pattern of the cobblestones, especially the different shades that the rain colored them.


It was a terribly rainy and blustery day as I trudged up Rue Lesbroussart. Everyone both in their cars or on the streets just wanted to be somewhere else and not in this déluge of a downpour. But it was October, and the tree in front of the Irish pub and it’s neighbors was bright orange, and I loved the play of the red brick, the red light, the orange leaves, and the sort of watercolor effect made by the rain.


I’m not super into taking photos of churches, I think maybe because they are so obviously beautiful. But Rue d’Assaut has a great view of the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula (Belgium’s national church) in Centreville, it just gives right on to it. I walked out of uni at dusk one night, and looked up the dark, dark street, and just whipped out my phone. I love that this massive cathedral is the only thing lit up and is just basking in the setting winter sun.

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One of several buildings by Paul Hankar on Rue Defacqz in Ixelles. There is so much that is awesome about this building – the shapes of the windows, the columns, the brick, and obviously the gilded illustrations of, apparently (suite à a Goole search) the three stages of life and Hercules. The sunset on this area of Rue Defacqz is very intense, and this evening in particular the gold was gleaming. I feel like I can see the sun’s rays casting themselves on this building, just wanting to light it up on fire!


A dear friend from New York came to visit and was very eager to see all the Brussels Buildings! I like the candidness of Allyza looking up at the building and inspecting what’s going on. The mahogany door is very warm, and compliments her bright red cap and gentle brown bag, while her cold blue outfit comes out with the blue highlights of the photo.


There’s something just very delicate about this photo, the way the light is strongest up top and blurs out some of the definition and color of the building and the ivy. The gentle white of the maison de maitre and the soft shapes that the light green ivy makes around it’s windows is refreshing and relaxing to look at. It’s a very different photo from top to bottom.


Because this building gives me intense déjà vu of some sort of Western toy or necklace I had as a kid, or maybe the moccasins my mom used to wear around the house. A call to Native America from Bruxelles Centreville.


I was walking home from the Central Station through St. Gilles, turned a corner, and found myself face to face with this beautiful maison de maitre. I love the warm Mediterranean colors – the marigold, burnt red, and turquoise tiles. The door is deep brown and intricate, and I like that the bold maroon door of the house to the left snuck in the photo as well. The basement windows also throw more turquoise into the shot. It’s a stunning home and really stand-out on a sunny afternoon.

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Sugarplum fairies in Les Marolles.

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There were several buildings in my neighborhood in Ixelles that were decorated with what appeared to be bathroom tiles. Oddly enough, here, I think it works. I like the icy feel of this photo, especially with the rough, rectangular, tarnished silver door handle, and the missing silver mailbox. Where did it go?


D’awww. I actually took this photo in Antwerp a few years ago while on a little shopping excursion. My feet were tired and I was grumpy, but I glanced up at the street at saw this very sage cat looking out the window, just observing the happenings on the street. He was like a wiseman village elder taking a look from above at his less-knowing peoples. I felt like I wanted him to narrate the story of my life, omniscently. I don’t know if we locked eyes or anything, but I feel like we had a moment.


Ohhhh because I had to include one of myself! First of all, I love me some Frit Flagey, always with sauce andalouse. Second, I have great memories of being with my sister, Emily (she took this photo), and dashing out of Café Belga as soon as the rain let up to be second in line for the fries. I have no patience for lines, and this line is notorious. Third, this is the last time I was successfully able to wear that long purple silk skirt, it’s lost it’s glitz and glamour. What an outfit. Much love!

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