my dad sitting on a beach in anacortes

Father’s Day: Before and After

I could always depend on a summer trip with my dad. Whether it was for his birthday in August, or Father’s Day in June, we always made it a point to reunite for a week during these summer months. Most of the time, we took advantage of the glorious weather in the Pacific Northwest where he lived, but sometimes we made the occasional trip to San Francisco for our favorite rivalry games between the Dodgers and Giants.

But it wasn’t always this way. There was a short phase in my life where my father and I didn’t speak. I recently remembered when I told him not to come to my Stanford graduation, which also fell on a Father’s Day. Looking back, I can’t imagine how it broke his heart, but he had a different perspective. Years later, he told me that he made peace with it by knowing that I was comfortable voicing my opinion, and that his daughter “wasn’t going to take shit from anyone”.

Maybe you’ve been in one of these emotional droughts with a loved one, so you’ll understand. Luckily, my dad and I reunited and developed a meaningful friendship that evolved with every conversation and interaction.

Those interactions go all the way back to my childhood memories on this beach in Anacortes. My dad lived there for many years, and my brother and I would trek up to Washington each summer to enjoy this magical season called summer. We built rafts, roasted marshmallows, picked apples, and created memories that would last a lifetime.

In June 2015, my dad and I drove to this beach where he used to live over 20 years before. The new owners mentioned that they were thinking of selling the property in a few years, but my dad and I both had a bit of sticker shock when they told us of the price.

As we made our way down the steps in silence, my dad and I found our respective rocks on the shore. I don’t know what was going through his mind, but I could feel the heaviness in the air. I gave him some space.

After a moment of repose, I came and sat next to him on the sand. I could tell that he had been crying. Tears of what I don’t know, but we hugged each other in solace. I don’t remember what I uttered, maybe a mention of happy memories of days past. I guess at that point, the words really didn’t matter. What mattered is that we had this time together and the chance to travel around one of our favorite parts of Washington.

That was our last trip to Washington together as my dad died the next summer. Our last Father’s day spent cruising around Puget Sound. Our last summer trip.

happy father's day

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: My Homeless Photo Assistant

rio de janeiro mural

What separates great photographers from the rest is composition; knowing what to crop out, and what to capture in those unforgettable images. And anyone who is in marketing, photography, or media knows that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to a great image.

I recently cleaned out my photo database, while reminiscing on all of the memories and adventures of where I’d been and the story behind the photos. So I decided to write this series to tell the story of how I got a particular picture, and to provide my audience with an authentic angle of what had really happened. This is the first…

I had just come from the most famous bakery in Rio de Janeiro where I had interviewed their head chef about the history of this iconic landmark in the center of Rio. He generously gifted me with enough food to feed a small family, and I gladly gathered it all up in a to-go box as I left to my next stop.

As I walked down the winding streets of Rio’s downtown, trying to find a mural that an ex-boyfriend had shown me months before, I turned a corner into an alley. Coming towards me was a homeless man – barefoot and broken. My initial instinct was a bit of fear, but it would have been odd to turn and go back, so I assertively advanced towards him. As we got closer to each other, I asked him if he was hungry.

I wasn’t sure what he mumbled, but I immediately handed him the box of goodies from the bakery. Partially as a gift, and partially as a distraction from the rest of the stuff I was carrying(purse, camera, tripod). As a woman traveling alone, I’m often hyper-sensitive to being robbed or assaulted, given all of the grim statistics. I wasn’t sure what would happen next, but I was relieved that he was seemingly preoccupied with the food.

When I realized that this homeless man had no interest in my stuff after immediately sitting on the curb and tearing into his lunch, I set up my tripod and camera to take this picture. He asked what I was doing, and so I told him a bit about my job and my plans in Rio.

Trying to attempt a photo shoot in an alley alone is no easy feat, so I quickly realized that I would need his help to angle my camera on the tripod, and eventually tell me where to stand. “Esquerda!” he yelled, as I moved a little to the left…”Mais…isso”, signaling the perfect stance.

Eventually a couple wandered down the alley, with raised eyebrows, since my photo assistant with dirty and torn clothes, in contrast to my outfit of a silk skirt and stark white bodysuit wasn’t quite what one would expect. We were definitely the dynamic duo!

In that moment, we needed each other. I provided food. He provided artistic direction. As I gathered up my goods, I thanked him and wandered along the cobblestone path, turning the corner to my next destination. Walking along Rio’s downtown, I wondered how he got there. How long had he been homeless? What life crisis led him to end up on the streets?

And I guess that’s true with any homeless person. There is a story of how they got there. A series of unforgiving circumstances that led them down their own dark alley.

To read more about the plague of homelessness in my hometown of Los Angeles, California, click here.

 

Where to see art in South Korea

Seoul of a Nation: Where to See Art in South Korea

Where to see art in South KoreaNo matter where I go in the world, I always make sure that I visit a museum, art gallery, or exhibition of the local culture. I find it is one of the best ways to provide insight to the history of the country, and the sometimes untold narrative of its people.Where to see art in South KoreaMy visit to Seoul was no exception. In between my visit to a Buddhist temple, Seoul Fashion Week, and numerous foodie stop-offs, I made sure to get a sense of the South Korean art scene. I arrived to Seoul on a Friday night, and luckily didn’t have much jet lag, so when I woke up on Saturday morning, I had a full day of exploring ahead of me. Where to see art in South KoreaWhere to see art in South Korea

Where to see art in South Korea
Black on White Phantasy at All Me Art Space

I came upon All Me Art Space gallery by accident, which is always the best way to find hidden gems while you’re traveling. Wandering through Insadong neighborhood, I had two things on my tourist “to-do” list: register for my Buddhist templestay and find a famous stamp carver and calligrapher that I had seen on Instagram just days before my trip. After a warm bowl of bibimbap in my belly and my to-do list complete, I aimlessly strolled up the street and found All Me Art Space. Lucky for me, the artist was in the gallery talking to the owner and walked me through his exhibit “Black on White Phantasy”, telling me why he chose the Korean mulberry paper as his medium, and how he came to get his signature black ink for his work.

 

Taking advantage of the gorgeous fall weather in Seoul, I ventured to another favorite place to see art in South Korea – the Seoul Arts Center. This center is a collection of architecturally stunning museums, galleries, an opera house, an outdoor water display, and manicured gardens that will enchant you at every turn. Plan to spend at least half a day here. Where to see art in South KoreaWhere to see art in South Korea

Where to see art in South Korea
Alain Bonnefoit at Seoul Arts Center

My first stop at Seoul Arts Center was a temporary exhibit featuring the work of French painter Alain Bonnefoit. His delicate designs of the female figure were displayed amongst a backdrop of alluring piano music. Truly sublime! His nudes, with names like Melancolie, Filomana, and Isaura, pushed me into a reflection of my own femaleness, fragility, and fleeting emotions.Where to see art in South KoreaWhere to see art in South Korea

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Dongdaemun Design Plaza by Zaha Hadid

Across town, but easily accessible by Seoul’s extensive metro system, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza is a must-see masterpiece. The chosen site of Seoul Fashion Week, it is the perfect frame for fashion shows that draw the best names from all over the world. Famed architect Zaha Hadid left behind her signature style in Seoul with the structured, yet sensual curves of this massive structure. Hadid, the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, has woven her genius into the crevices of this building – the largest 3D amorphous structure in the world. Plan your visit and become enchanted by DDP’s numerous galleries and public sitting areas, with plenty of opportunities to look up in awe!

Where to see art in South KoreaWhere to see art in South KoreaWhere to see art in South KoreaAdjacent to Seoul’s Gyeongbokgung Palace, I hit the art lover’s jackpot. Leaving my favorite jeweler, Tentacle, I wandered down to a neighborhood filled with art galleries. A few of the most memorable: Another Way of Seeing, which is an art lab for the blind, Arario Gallery (not to be confused with Arario Museum across town), and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. As I pored over the descriptions of each piece, I finally understood why governments around the world have a history of censoring, limiting, and sometimes imprisoning artists. Artists push boundaries. They use their art to challenge our thinking. Sometimes the powers that be see them as a threat to “order”. Watching a video of the Okin Collective, winners of the 2018 Korea Artist Prize, one of the artists stated this sentiment succinctly: “The question, ‘Why it is as it is and why do we live this way?’ is, I think, unavoidable.”

Where to see art in South KoreaWhere to see art in South Korea

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Captive entrance at Arario Museum in Space

So why is it as it is? I was pushed to think about this question further at Arario Museum in Space. Climbing up a gorgeous, yet dungeon-like stairwell, I arrived at Dongwook Lee’s provocative sculptures of tiny nudes. With names like Drive and Hooker, I stared at these small works that scream at you to challenge social constructs. The man strapped to his Mercedes – how many of us are held captive by material goods? Ensnared by shiny objects that distract us from our souls? I literally felt like I was in The Matrix as I walked through this exhibit.

Where to see art in South Korea

Where to see art in South Korea

With my brain, body, and soul cracked opened by the art at Arario Museum, I took a moment to sit in their lush garden. The smell of sweet cinnamon wafted from their cafe, Fritz Wonseo, and lured me to stay even longer. As I sat and reflected on my visit, a fellow museum-goer mentioned that he had reservations for Arario’s Michelin star restaurant on the 5th floor, Dining in Space. Ok, so what did Arario Museum not have?!? Besides this French restaurant at the top of this eye-catching building, there is also a Korean restaurant serving traditional royal cuisine, and an Italian brasserie. Wishing I could stay another week so that I could come back and dine at Arario, I immediately texted my dear friend, Jiuhn and thanked her for telling me that there was more than one Arario and to “see them both.” Duly noted!

Where to see art in South Korea

Where to see art in South Korea

My friend Jiuhn is the epitome of “cool”. An art consultant by trade, she used to be my English student when I was teaching over 10 years ago. She exudes a demeanor that defines that word, but with no effort. She just is. So it was without a second thought that I followed all of her recommendations on where to see art in South Korea. Where to see art in South KoreaI had already visited the tourist hot spots, but Jiuhn’s list led me down the hidden path. Quite literally! Finding Piknic at the end of a winding road was a treat. Piknic is a amalgamation of art gallery, outdoor garden, exquisite cafe and wine bar, and event space that is tucked at the end of a small street in Hoehyeon neighborhood. With the bright blue sky above, I sat on their patio and wrote in my journal, thinking about all I had seen on this magical trip to South Korea.

Where to see art in South KoreaWhere to see art in South Korea

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Art from the Joseon Dynasty

Magical? Yes it was! As I wandered through the immense collection of ancient art at the National Palace Museum of Korea, I was transported to another era in the country’s history. The ornate relics from the Joseon Dynasty mingled with powerful sculptures of dragons, and symbols of longevity like cranes and deer, filled in my understanding of Korean culture. Sitting on the steps of this historic landmark, I was again reminded of why I travel – to understand a little more about this vast world, and the beautiful diversity that it brings.

Where to stay: Conrad Seoul

When to go: May for Art Busan International Art Fair, September 2019 for Korea International Art Fair, Fall 2020 for Busan Biennale.

What to eat: My top picks

See you in South Korea!

 

brazilian bikini brands

Blame it on Rio: My Favorite Brazilian Bikini Brands

Turquoise edit2Of course one of my favorite books on swimwear was written by a Brazilian. Leave it to the experts, who live in summer almost year-round, to showcase and design the world’s most beautiful swimsuits. “The Bikini Made in Brazil”, by Lilian Pacce, chronicles the history of this tiny, yet transformative part of many women’s wardrobes. Pink2Speaking of women’s wardrobes, one segment of my business at All Set Concierge is personal shopping. Over the years, my clients put their trust in me to curate pieces that they’ll cherish. And guess what is always at the top of my clients’ wish lists when I travel to Brazil? Brazilian resort wear and those sexy bikinis!Blue7

Here are a few of my favorite Brazilian bikini brands, and what I love about them!


LENNY NIEMEYER


Lenny’s designs are the gold standard when it comes to swimwear and resort wear. The prints are like artwork on your skin, as well as sexy and sturdy. If you want to feel like a goddess in your swimwear, then Lenny Niemeyer is the ultimate choice! A few years ago, I featured her maillot collection, one-pieces that were truly wearable art, in an article on Rio designers. Last spring, I had the chance to sit front row at her São Paulo Fashion Week runway show and watch her gorgeous designs glide by. The bikinis that follow are a couple from my personal collection. Take a peek!TurquoiseTurquoise edits3Turquoise edit1lenny-niemeyerNEWBRONZElenny-niemeyer


CLUBE BOSSA


I first discovered this São Paulo-based line while shopping for a client who wanted “something pink”. I came across Clube Bossa’s collection in my favorite Rio boutique, Gaoli Couture, and fell in love with their flirty designs. Clube Bossa’s style reminds me of my first Brazilian bikinis that I bought back in 2002 on my first trip to this South American destination. I remember asking the security guard where the Rosa Cha store was located(in my horrible Portuguese!) and was eventually led to a small boutique that was a shrine to all things swimwear. This string bikini is the quintessential sexy summertime staple!Pink4Pink7Rocks2


BLUE MAN RIO


Funky, fresh, functional. That is Blue Man Rio in a nutshell. You can do some serious surfing and swimming in their suits. And their designs are definite conversation starters. I’ve owned a Frida Kahlo print, a design with the cover of an old Brazilian newspaper featuring Pelé, a controversial colonial Brazil scene, and even one inspired by architecture from Brasilia. While wearing this one below, a woman sitting next to me at a Beverly Hills hotel pool party said, “They should pay you to wear these”. Maybe they should!Blue3Blue6Blue5Blue8


VIX PAULA HERMANNY


Whatever swimsuit you’re donning for the day, you’ll eventually have to put on some clothing. But the last thing you want to do when stepping from the pool or beach is to deal with complicated clothing. That’s where Vix Paula Hermanny comes in. Her resort wear is absolutely gorgeous, while being both elegant and effortless. I wish I could live in her cover-ups all of the time! Below is one of my favorite wrap dresses that easily drapes over any ensemble, followed by a pair of pants that will rival any pair of pajamas you have in terms of comfort! And it’s paired with a cute crop that I found at her boutique in Belo Horizonte. Dress1Dress3wellness-hotels-in-rio-de-janeiroNEWGREENbrazilian-resortwearGreenpants5Two things that all of these designs have in common is that they are comfortable and sexy – elements that I love in my personal wardrobe, as do many of my clients. Hopefully you enjoyed this peek into a part of my business! I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes:

“Just be comfortable in your own skin. And that’s how you can be the sexiest woman that you can possibly be.”-Princess Tatiana of Greece    

For a quote on my personal shopping services, fill out the form below:

 

Rocks3

Photography: Bitlab Media

Makeup: Alicia Ramirez

Wardrobe: Lenny Niemeyer, Gaoli Beach Couture, Blue Man Rio, Vix Paula Hermanny

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my-visit-to-a-buddhist-temple

Seoul Searching: My Visit to a Buddhist Temple

geumsunsa-templestay“How do we know we’re in the right religion?” That was the question I asked the bishop who visited my 5th grade classroom at St. Mary’s Catholic School long ago. Even as a 10-year-old child, I questioned religion – the dogma surrounding it, the proposed path to an eventual salvation, the confines of man-made rules.south-korea-templestay I don’t remember the bishop’s words, but I remember his body language: a hesitant shift at the podium, a calm, yet confused look on his face, and the cool pace with which he delivered his answer. It was as if he had been asked this question many times before, but was uncomfortable sharing his response with a room full of young children.

south-korea-templestaySo how does one know? What leads people on their spiritual journey? I had the chance to think about these questions while on a visit to Geumsunsa Temple in South Korea. I’m not Buddhist by label. I have a Taoist devotional next to my bed, but not far from it are various healing crystals, a Virgin Mary statue, and beads gifted to me by an indigenous Brazilian shaman. That was the beauty of visiting Geumsunsa; they welcomed everyone no matter your faith or fatherland. We had a diverse group from around the world – Mexico, Hong Kong, France, Germany, and me, repping the United States of America!south-korea-templestay Tucked away in the mountains outside of Seoul, Geumsunsa is one of the Buddhist temples throughout South Korea that offer what is known as “templestay” visits to foreigners from all over the world. Depending on how much time you have and where your travels take you in South Korea, there’s a templestay to fit every tourist’s itinerary.seoul-searchingmy-visit-to-a-buddhist-templeseoul-searchingmy-visit-to-a-buddhist-templemy-visit-to-a-buddhist-temple Upon arriving to Geumsunsa, I already felt at peace. Lush fall foliage, just changing their leaves, enveloped cozy colorful dorms and nearby sitting nooks. After setting up my modest room, I changed into the temple uniform and joined the rest of our group for the beginning of our stay. Sitting amongst the trees and the cool, crisp air was the perfect setting to listen to the monk’s words and simple wisdom.geumsunsa-templestayTemple101south-korea-templestay After a ceremonial ringing of the temple bells, our group enjoyed a vegan meal together. We ate in silence, as instructed, and with a renewed focus on my food, I felt satiated and healthy. As I carefully chewed each bite, my mind wandered and my thoughts drifted from the mundane, “why did I get so much rice at the buffet?” to the random, “I wonder if Buddhists have something like Lent?”.

 

I’ve been on my own spiritual search ever since those early days in Catholic school. While other children knelt with eyes closed, waiting for the bread to turn into the body of Jesus, I peered skeptically at the ceiling, looking for something, or someone to come from the heavens and turn the priest’s unleavened bread into a holy object. south-korea-templestayOur next activity was a visit to the temple – finally! The monk prepared us for our evening meditation, and the more mentally demanding 108 prostrations that were to follow. I really had no idea what to expect, as the extent of my exploration with Buddhism was reading my “Daily Tao” at bedtime back home. This was a bit more intense.geumsunsa-templestaysouth-korea-templestaySo what is a prostration? I consider it a test of your physical and spiritual stamina in one move – and I truly didn’t think I would be able to do 108 of them. About ten minutes in, I felt fatigued, but the messages that the monk recited for us motivated my mind and body to absorb the meaning behind this physically demanding exercise. my-visit-to-a-buddhist-templeUpon finishing, we retreated to our rooms, and it was in this private space that I released all that had passed through me in the temple. I cried cleansing tears and wrote down some of the mantras I recalled, and what they meant for me.

I prostrate in gratitude for all those who made me suffer and helped me to become mature after hard times.

We’ve all cursed at those exes, annoying coworkers, and the guy that cut us off in traffic, or really anyone who has made us suffer! I thought about some of those people and how they helped me to evolve into the person I am today. I felt a renewed sense of gratitude.

I prostrate in gratitude for having my family who shares happy, sad, and challenging moments together.

Hearing the word “family” sent a flood of tears down my face as I thought about my grandfather and father, whose only visits to Asia had been for fighting wars. How lucky I was to be visiting this country on my own terms, with peace and open-mindedness in my heart. I was sad that neither of them had been so lucky to travel here as I had – seeing the beauty of a new culture.

south-korea-templestay

I prostrate as a vow to blow all the jealousy, anger, and frustrations from my mind.

When I first started my company, a close friend told me that “only women with rich husbands or rich dads launch businesses like yours.” Ouch, that hurt! And it did make me angry and jealous for a time – and frustrated that I didn’t have those endless resources as some did. But I became resourceful and resilient, two things that make me an even better business woman today.

I prostrate in repentance for seeing this world as absolute right or wrong.

This led me to reflect on my faith, as something not so rigid, but fluid and evolving. I thought of all the friends I had of differing faiths: Christian, Muslim, Wiccan, Catholic, Jewish, and how at the heart of every religion seemed to be a message of love. Oh how I wished we could all be more accepting of each other and focus on our own spiritual growth, and not what others were doing wrong!

SS15I prostrate as a vow to lead my life with passion.

This is harder than it sounds! I had a flashback to a short time in 2018 when I lost steam and suffered burnout. Life as a passionate entrepreneur was taking a toll! So I got back to basics, and did things to rejuvenate myself like listen to music, exercise more, and take care of my health. Only then could I really feel the passion for my work.

I prostrate as a vow to keep focused and refrain from many distractions.

Cell phone, anyone? To combat this distracting tool, I started setting aside time for Instagram, I shut off all notification banners, and did some other things to manage my use of technology. I admit, it’s a great tool – my favorite meditation app is on my phone! But everything has it limits…

south-korea-templestay

I prostrate as a vow to be free from the ordinary standards that everyone in the world follows.

This was a memorable prostration, quite simply because it was a reminder that I was going in the right direction. My path didn’t need to look like everyone else’s. And it’s okay.

geumsunsa-templestaygeumsunsa-templestayOn the flight home from a luxury travel conference in France last year, I read through a pamphlet titled “Luxury Experiences in South Korea”. Flipping through it, I was surprised to find a segment about templestay visits in there. But as I reflected on my own templestay, I thought, yes, it was a true luxury to connect with myself. To connect with others. To connect with my soul. And this luxury is truly priceless. my-visit-to-a-buddhist-temple

Thank you, Geumsunsa Temple for the photos!