Yurt Living is the Life for Me

The Yurt!

I think my next apartment might be a yurt.

This weekend, Matt and I took a road trip to Yosemite National Park to stay, for the first time in the ever-popular and ever-peculiar yurt village near the park. (For the uninitiated, a yurt is a traditional Mongolian dwelling — sort of like a teepee on steroids.) Yurt camping options have been popping up in scenic locales for a few years now and it seems there are always waiting lists for the things. I can see why after spending my first weekend in one. We were lucky enough to get one of the brand-new “Meadow Yurts” at Yosemite Lakes. It was stocked better than a hotel, with pots and pans and cooking utensils, a full-size bunk-bed and a futon. It even had a fireplace!

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We stocked up on wine and games, bought some groceries on the road and had a pretty fabulous home away from home.

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After traipsing around Yosemite on a 10-mile hike (2 miles of which was us getting lost and/or going around in circles), we built a decent fire in our yurt’s outdoor fire pit and made a nice dinner of kabobs and cous-cous. Then we topped it all off with some good ol’ smore-making — debating whether it’s best to toast or totally incinerate your marshmallow. (I go for the later.)

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Overall, it was a great way to be in the great outdoors without the commitment required of a camping trip. And both of us found ourselves saying, honestly, “I could live in a yurt!” by the end of it all.

Yosemite Evening

I, for one, have my eye on these ocean front properties in Big Sur.

I Want This Chicken

Penny the Fluffy Silky Chicken

This story about a two-legged Chihuahua-that-could and its rescue-chicken BFF was all over the interwebs last week. And as adorable as this unlikely duo is, can we stop for a moment and talk about this chicken.

Matt has now banned me from Googling “fluffy silky chicken” after I literally started crying-laughing out of pure joy at how adorable this thing is. It looks like some kind of mythical creature — perhaps an extra from “Where the Wild Things Are”?

Sloths are now facing some major competition in my mind. And coming from the person who ordered two copies of this print, that’s saying something.

{Photo via Duluth Animal Hospital}

Retro Love

ModCloth invited us to come up with our own unique look inspired by just one of its adorably retro dresses. With its pretty lace accents and pop of color, we’re thinking this would make one pretty lovely Valentine’s Day look.

What do you think? Since I’m all about retro looks but like something a little funky and incongruous to bring an outfit out of the box, I love these shoes to give this look a bit of humor. And the more feminine touches like the knotted gold earrings, bow-adorned purse and red lip stain pay homage to the more classic side of this retro-modern look.

What’s your Valentine’s Day look inspiration?

Napkin Notes

The Napkin Notes Dad

When I was a kid, my dad made most of my lunches. They weren’t always the most impressive lunches at the lunch table. I still eyed the kids with Sun Chips and fruit snacks. And I did carefully sneak each article of food out from the cover of the paper bag the time he accidentally got an economy-size stock of Power Ranger-themed sandwich bags. But it felt special in a way to know that each day, even amid the uncertainties and stresses of growing up and finding friends and discovering who I was, that I had this reminder that something familiar and comfortable and loving awaited me at home.

So it made me extra nostalgic and emotional when I read this story in the Los Angeles Times about a dad, Garth Callaghan, with cancer who has started writing a napkin note to pack in his daughter’s lunch for every day until she graduates high school. Most of the notes are inspirational quotes or personal messages. Callaghan also posts them on his website and various social media sites and they’ve recently been turned into a Kindle eBook.

If that isn’t sweet or heartbreaking enough, hop on over and read the full story on the Los Angles Times website. The ending gets me every time.

What’s in a Name? For Brazilians, A Lot

Her name was Murjashihaway - HBO Girls Season 2

I love a good name. In high school, they were fairly easy to come by. There were Kastles and Jansons and of course the unlikely mashups like Kimberlynn and R-Pats. (OK, maybe that last one’s a lie, but it’s honestly not much of a stretch.) We did not, however, have a Petroswickonicovick Wandeckerkof da Silva Santos or a Creedence Clearwater Couto or a Colapso Cardíaco. But I didn’t grow up in Brazil, where, it turns out, names like these are surprisingly run-of-the-mill.

The recent trend in Brazil toward complex, America-pop-culture referencing and generally tongue-twistingly long names was highlighted in a highly entertaining story in Sunday’s New York Times.

Carrying an extraordinary name is remarkably widespread in Brazil. Glance at the Facebook timelines of Brazilian friends. Strike up a conversation at a Sunday afternoon barbecue. Or merely stand in line at a notary public and listen to a pencil-pusher call out the people waiting for documents to be stamped.

You will be awed by some of the names you hear.

Mike Tyson Schwarzenegger Pradella. Errolflynn Paixão. Charlingtonglaevionbeecheknavare dos Anjos Mendonça, a 31-year-old plumber who prefers to go by Chacha, melodically pronounced Sha-sha in Portuguese.

Wow! I’d go by Chacha, too. I can only imagine what the average roll call sounds like. It must take hours.

I think I’m pretty happy to stick with my six-letter-total name. But if we’re ever in Brazil together, you can call me Slothscuriosimol Amelie Gallinas Fionachai Arquotto.

P.S. The image above is from one of my favorite scenes from Season 2 of HBO’s Girls. Hannah writes this as the opening for her book to try to force herself out of writer’s block.  It’s now my go-to reference for creative blocks. Oh, and there’s a T-Shirt.

Amazing Animals

I’d like to think that my new-found crazy cat lady tendencies aren’t the reason I love this video. This is pretty awesome in its own right. Am I right?

In other animal news, check out this video showing the incredible flight patterns of Starling birds. Ornithologists say that the patterns are generally caused by the Starlings trying to escape their prey. But what’s especially amazing is how accurately and immediately the movement of birds at one side of the flock are imitated by those at the other side.  It’s so accurate, in fact, that scientists are still trying to figure out exactly how they do it.

This reminds me of my common rebuttal when people complain about “The Wave.” Isn’t it such a beautiful representation of people working together to achieve the same goal? (FYI, that observation doesn’t generally work on hardcore sports fans.)

That Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi

Laure de Sagazan - 2014 Collection

About a year ago, when I was in the throws of my long and arduous wedding dress search (seeking non-poofy, non-traditional-but-not-too-non-traditional, vintage-looking dress for less than $1,000), I came across the incredibly beautiful and oh-so-French designs of Laure de Sagazan. So enamored, I briefly considered budgeting a trip to France just to set foot in one of these things. But, like much of my grand do-it-yourself wedding schemes, I soon realized that idea was probably unrealistic. So instead, I’ve vowed to encourage every other woman I meet (or blog to) to buy one instead. Call it a public service.

If you don’t think the dresses themselves are beautiful and French enough, check out Laure’s Facebook page where she posts pictures of the gorgeous women who wear them to their equally gorgeous weddings.

Laure de Sagazan - 2014 Collection

Laure de Sagazan - 2014 Collection

Laure de Sagazan - 2014 Collection

Laure de Sagazan - 2014 Collection

[Photos via Laure de Sagazan]

P.S. The dress I did find was the perfect fit with a little alteration to the lining and a show stealer for just $500!

A Salad I Can Get Behind And, Most Important, Eat

Autumn Salad with Horseradish Vinaigrette - Photo and recipe via Sprouted Kitchen

Autumn Salad with Horseradish Vinaigrette. Photo and recipe via Sprouted Kitchen

I know this blog is called “Utterly Smitten” and all, but I’m going to admit it right here and now, I am not utterly smitten by salads. I think it boils down to the lettuce, really. I just can’t see the point in it. I even take it off of my sandwiches most of the time.

That’s why I was pretty excited when I discovered this Autumn Salad over on Sprouted Kitchen. It’s not only amazingly yummy, but also allows for as few or as many greens as the eater desires. And I have a sneaking suspicion it’s fairly healthy, too. A tip if you decide to partake — which I highly recommend you do — make twice the dressing (but with just the one portion of horseradish as it can get pretty intense).

A Grand New Year Close to Home

New Year's Eve - Grand Park LA

Happy 2014! How did you ring in the new year?

Matt and I are starting to feel pretty proud of ourselves for getting in on the magic that is becoming Grand Park LA. Ever since our June wedding there (and admittedly probably before), the park has become a go-to destination for all kinds of celebrations. I thought it couldn’t get any more packed than during Fourth of July, but New Year at the park brought a force to be reckoned with. At 11 p.m., it was at capacity with hordes of people spilling over onto the steps of the Music Center and surrounding streets. We managed to squeeze our way onto the fountain overlook (the very spot where our wedding took place!), and after some frantic texting, met up with Celeste and Stephen. We all counted down together as a spectacular light show took over City Hall.

While I still have a penchant for the easy marvel of a new year abroad, it felt nice to have such a grand (and free!) celebration so close to home. And with a preshow of yummy Chinese food, cocktails, old movies and retro video games, it was my kind of new year.

Have Yourself a ‘Totes Amaze’ Christmas

Hipster Santa - BMF Australia Ad Campaign

Today’s post seems especially apropos, obviously because of the whole Christmas-is-in-seven-days thing, but also because I experienced my first true hipster over-saturation this weekend. During my craft-fair-a-palooza, I arrived at my second stop, the Echo Park Craft Fair, having just left the comforts of the trusty and only mildly hipster-esque Renegade Craft Fair. Within seconds, I was bombarded by fleece and gluten-free baked goods, and overhearing phrases like, “Well I’m working on merging the concepts of technology and culture,” and “They really have the best kombucha.” Normally pretty cool and collected in situations where I’m the odd-woman out, even I had to bolt.

All of that leads me nicely into this pretty spectacular ad campaign from BMF Australia to promote a new shopping mall in Sydney. The campaign’s Hipster Santa not only has his own recycled wrapping paper and requests coconut water and gluten-free macarons in lieu milk and cookies, but he also has an indie Christmas carol cover band called Hipster Santa and the Antlers.

Totes ridic? Maybe. But I think this is one holiday hipster I might be able handle.

P.S. Matt and I stumbled upon Santa’s summer vacation spot on our honeymoon:

Found Santa's vacation spot: Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Found Santa’s vacation spot: Dubrovnik, Croatia.