Holiday Gift Guide 2022

Each year, it remains an absolute joy to think about larger themes of the past year in terms of aesthetic trends and also harmonizing lifestyle interests within the context of the world we are currently living in. There has been a strong wellness interest in my life in the past year, which has influenced how I approached putting together this year’s list. Hopefully, this end of year season will enable you to stay grounded and remember that spending time with loved ones is the ultimate gift of them all.

With love and gratitude,

Bianca

Beauty: Benefit Cosmetics Gift Sets

Books

Notebooks

Peter Pauper Press: The Universe & Gilded Tree of Life Notebooks

Wellness

Yoga Mat + Bolster by Gaiam

For Him

Bombas Men’s Gripper Slippers + Etsy Obsidian Bracelet For Men

Halloween ’22: Pin-Up Ariel

There may not be more joy filling Disney characters than Ariel and her sidekicks, Flounder and Sebastian. This Halloween, there will likely be tons of Little Mermaids dressed up for trick or treating all across the US; celebrating and excitedly awaiting the new release in May 2023 of the Disney live action film, which has already garnered tons of attention. I think embracing Ariel’s character in all facets is important. Ariel is a character that embodies resilience, adventure, and willingness to expand horizons. In comparison to her many sisters, Ariel shows that it is okay to be different and she carves her own path. There are so many wonderful storylines within The Little Mermaid that are great. Not to mention the glorious and very clear vision of Howard Ashman will continue to live on! Howard Ashman knew exactly how he wanted to develop Ariel as a character and it is truly wonderful to see all that is to come with a resurgence of Little Mermaid marketing. I distinctly remember the excitement I had to receive my first Ariel doll when I was five years old. I carry that with me even today!

I decided to do a pin-up style spin on Ariel’s costume, with the motif of her purple top and purple hair flower. For my hair color, I did not dye my hair or wear a wig. I used the Snow editing app and applied the red hair color edit to have red hair in this picture. Snow has so many great editing functions for things just like this! If you are looking into creating your own kind of Little Mermaid costume, there are tons of ways to go about creating your own costume. SHEIN is a great start to finding ideas for potential mermaid outfits and accessories. For example, I purchased a purple bikini and paired the top with a green SHEIN skirt that could serve as a “mermaid fin,” but given that Ariel wants legs, I think it’s absolutely fine to just go for a green skirt instead of finding an actual fin online. If you do want to pose like a mermaid with a fin, there are great fins from Fin Fun Mermaid for all ages to buy and swim around with in the water! Here are a few ideas to get you started on your mermaid costume:

SHEIN Bikini

SHEIN Mermaid Skirt

SHEIN Flower Hair Clips

SHEIN Starfish Hair Clip

SHEIN Shell Bag

I hope you DIY your mermaid costume in whatever which way suits you – mermaid dress-up is one of the most fun costumes!

A Brief History of Ondine, A Ballet

“Ondine is a fairy of the water… she is as pure as the water is… she comes out looking for love.”

Ondine is a ballet in three acts by Sir Frederick Ashton and composer Hans Werner Henze. Its original production for the Royal Ballet was in 1958 (there was a production as early as 1843, by Jules Perrot, and this was noted by Ashton in 1958 that he was inspired by Perrot). There are many famous ballets that we all know of such as Swan Lake. However, Ondine, is most certainly an underrated gem in the ballet world and should be put into production more often. The choreographer is credited with establishing a distinctly “English style of ballet.” I am most fascinated by how this ballet explores the fluidity of movement and inspires one to think about how the human body connects to the natural elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space), in particular pushing our ideas around water, femininity, and human expression through fluid bodily movements.

The concepts explored in this ballet are unique characterizations of the ballet world itself. For example, the character of Ondine is not an easy one to portray – she is complex and translating complex characters into dance is never a simple task. The ballet was adapted from a novella titled Undine be German writer Friedrich de la Motte Fouque, and it tells the tale of a water nymph who is the object of desire by a young prince named Palemon. A revival of this ballet took place in 1988. This ballet should be revived once again.

Particularly noteworthy is the composition of the music of this ballet. Nothing about the rhythm is too predictable or stable, which feels reminiscent of the way the seas can be and how the nature of the sea can change quickly. English prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn, below, played the title role and the ballet was choreographed specially for her. Between 1958 and 1966, nearly every performance by the Royal Ballet saw Fonteyn reprise this role. There is something beautiful about her willingness to repeat this ballet over and over again, as it must have been emotionally intense to engage with expressing the character so often. Fonteyn is a true ballet idol. She was appointed prima ballerina assoluta by Queen Elizabeth II.

Today, Ondine should be reprised by ballet companies around the world. The character “bears a resemblance to The Little Mermaid,” and it is worth noting that this ballet was revived in 1988, one year before the Disney film was released. We are seeing continuous tropes in popular culture which involve water, fluidity, and the nature of the human spirit. If we continue to build a cultural understanding of the veracity of our connection to nature and our spirit, perhaps through elevating art such as this ballet, we can have imagery to remind us of just how deeply connected nature is to the human spirit.

Ondine potrayed by famous English ballerina Margot Fonteyn in 1958

An illustration portraying Jules Perrot’s first production of Ondine, which took place in July 1851.

Source: Wikipedia

The Idyllic Charm of Solvang, CA

I am a native Californian and only stumbled across hearing about this town in Santa Barbara County while watching the iconic 2004 film, Sideways, by Alexander Payne. A small town with a population of 5,000, Solvang has been known as a “Danish village” because of its distinctive Danish architecture. It is also known for its wineries. Founded in 1911, the town has a museum dedicated to Hans Christen Andersen, the author of The Little Mermaid. Between 1850 and 1930, a considerable number of Danes left Denmark for economic reasons and these Danes who settled across the US were specifically Danish Lutherans. In 1911, Solvang was founded by purchasing 9,000 acres of the Rancho San Carlos de Jonata land grant.

In the film Sideways, scenes in Solvang are most notable in a restaurant where one of the main characters (played by Paul Giamatti) has a burgeoning relationship with a waitress named Maya, whom he initially looks down upon, but is actually studying horticulture and waitressing on the side, played by Virginia Madsen. The restaurant featured is still open today in the downtown area (aptly named Solvang Restaurant) and you can feel right at home with the completely fascinating world of Sideways. Additionally, in the neighboring town of Buellton, you can stay at the renamed “Sideways Inn” (formerly known as the Windmill Inn which is mentioned in the film). The town is only a 10 minute drive away from Solvang. California is certainly filled with wonderful destinations to serve all tastes and any sort of adventures you seek. I think Solvang is a forgotten treasure and it’s a bit like a real life Disneyland, too.

The Timeless Appeal of the Regency era

The Regency era is one that holds fascinating social, cultural, and historical appeal throughout the years. It has been reappearing in popular culture more recently with shows like Bridgerton and Sandition highlighting this bygone era. In some intriguing forms of irony, it is very likely that the structured social codes and ways of maneuvering society appeals to the present day, because while our modern era affords many freedoms, the structured societal “rulebook” of the Regency era certainly does not exist today. Perhaps people are seeking or fantasizing about what that structure may look like in a world as complex as today.

In particular, there was a practice during the Regency Era of the “Marriage Season.” This was a time where many society balls enabled unmarried men and women to find their mates and marry. This repeated ritual was so common that it was entirely expected as a way of living for the British upper crust. This was intended to make alliances and generally “social climb.” It was truly fascinating. The season ran from November through June. This was a large part of the year. In particular, the “Marriage Season” ran from March until June. These activities were concentrated in the fashionable part of London. For example, a common tradition would be to attend the theater multiple times per week! The plays of William Shakespeare were very popular during this period. This was truly a way of living for the entirety of British social society who effectively governed all of Britain at the time.

The Regency era was from 1811 to 1820. It is is a sub-era of the Georgian era, which spanned from 1714-1837. Beyond the rules and regulations of participating in society, the Regency era was one of greatly appealing fashions, art, and literature. In literature, writers such as Jane Austen, William Blake, Lord Byron, John Keats, Mary Shelley, and William Wordsworth were all defining voices of the era. Personally, I could not have imagined being an English major without having read titles by each of these writers. There is so much to be learned by these incredible authors. You can truly have an entire career based studying just one of these writers. That is how profound their impact has been on literature.

In fashion, the shift to using fashion as a way of self expression began during this time. In the aftermath of the French Revolution, nobility did not want to be associated with a particular kind of costume that was incredibly uniform. Therefore, the Regency era began to see more differentiation in dress (albeit still very conceptually standard – just for the time, it was quite of the box!). Fashion during the Regency era embodied new social values. This is most likely another one of the more endearing aspects of the era – it was a time of structured rule following, but it allowed for more freedoms (such as fashion for individual expression) which was a big shift in the ways that formal society dictated living one’s life. Even the character costumes of the Disney film The Little Mermaid are set in the Georgian era! Specifically, Grimsby’s costume is a tell-tale sign of the era.

Sir Grimsby in Georgian era costume is expounding on a topic to Prince Eric and Vanessa (Ursula in disguise)

The aesthetic appeal of the Regency era is timeless. And beyond the aesthetic, exploring its literature and theater is equally entertaining. You can certainly find yourself caught in some form of its endearment.

𝔁𝓸𝔁𝓸

𝓑𝓲π“ͺ𝓷𝓬π“ͺ

The World’s Most Beautiful Libraries

Stift Admont, Austria

All around the world there are breathtakingly beautiful libraries, which serve as monuments, museums, and of course, book repositories, which seem endless and all together wonderfully substantial. Literacy is arguably the most essential part of intellect. Having a passion for books and reading provides endless opportunities for learning, but it truly expands the human experience in a multitude of ways. If more people were focused on learning and reading, I strongly believe we would have much less problems in the world. While life is meant to be lived boldly and with an adventurous spirit, a huge part of that is learning and understanding the many lessons there is to learn through reading all sorts of classical stories and having a zest for seeing through the surface. Altogether, beyond the surface in life, we find deeper meanings because of literature we are exposed to. Supporting literacy efforts in the education space is incredibly important. Reading and writing are the building blocks to any subject matter.

Literacy has been a huge part of my life (I was an English major at UC Davis). Not everyone may have a passion for literacy, but having some intrigue for reading and writing will take you further than you imagined in life. If there is any topic you have interest in, find every book you can about it and read! I think it’s become especially important in today’s world (when we exist in such a primarily digital space), that we keep the magic of books and libraries alive. While these libraries may be the most beautiful libraries in the world, going to your public and local library and checking out a book that you’ve never read before can be just as magical of an experience. Literacy enables you to refine your own curiosity. The more you read, the more you begin to learn what sorts of literature speaks to you and what may not. You may find your niche and continue reading similar books your entire life. That is quite alright! For me, Regency Era novels are enticing. Reading is magical, so it seems well fitting that there are libraries of this kind in the world. Austria has many of the most majestic libraries in the world. If you take a trip to Austria, you must stop and enjoy one of the many illustrious libraries there.

π“π‘œπ“π‘œ

𝓑𝓲π“ͺ𝓷𝓬π“ͺ

Austrian National Library, Vienna
The Vatican Library
Abbey Library, St. Gallen, Switzerland
The Library of Congress

Dreamy Beaches

1. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

It is summertime in California, and that means, time well spent on the beach if you have the opportunity! There are so many incredible beaches in the world. Frankly, some beaches are overrated more than others, and then there are true beach gems that are hiding all over the world. This is a comprehensive list of some of the best exotic beaches to see and enjoy… Plus, we can all play into our inner mermaids! Beach culture is everywhere. There used to be a TV show in the late 2000s on the Travel Channel called Bridget’s Sexiest Beaches, and it was definitely an underrated goldmine of a resource for sourcing exotic locales if you are looking for your next vacation destination. Everyone loves a great beach!

Bridget Marquardt would visit destination beaches and review them on her show. I think it would be awesome if there was something along those lines again in the media. Everyone loves to learn about beaches! Tourism is essential for many local economies around the world. If you are at a beach this summer, even a local beach nearby you, please be mindful and pick up after yourselves. It is truly shocking how much waste is left behind on shorelines. If we want to enjoy the ocean for the time we can, then we must also honor it. Here is my Top 10 dreamy beaches list…

2. Saona Island, Dominican Republic (Fun fact: This is where Pirates of the Caribbean and The Blue Lagoon was filmed.)

3. Makena Cove, Maui

4. Grace Bay, Turks & Caicos

5. Monuriki Island, Fiji (Fun fact: This is where they filmed the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks. Additionally, the TV show Survivor is also filmed here up to this day)

6. Spiaggia Rena Bianca, Sardinia, Italy

7. Anna Maria Island, Florida

8. Pink Sands Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas

9. St. John’s, Antigua

10. Sandy Point Beach, Saint Croix, US Virgin Islands

Life is a beach!

xoxo Bianca

Esther Williams: A Swimming Pin-Up

“Somehow I kept my head above water. I relied on the discipline, character, and strength that I had started to develop as that little girl in her first swimming pool.” ~Esther Williams

Esther Williams is the embodiment of the summer lifestyle we might all hope to have… The timelessness of the swimsuits that she wore (can we bring back those prints and styles to mainstream?) and she kept a glamorous elegance poolside and in the pool! It’s because of Esther that we have waterproof makeup. Her Hollywood career in the water prompted the idea for this. Esther Williams was born August 8, 1921 in Inglewood, California.

The glamorous bathing beauty was a competitive swimmer and actress. In the 1940s and 1950s, she made a series of films called “aquamusicals,” which were “elaborate performances of synchronized swimming and diving.” Ms. Williams was also a skilled business woman, she invested in a portfolio of diverse investments – ranging from a swimwear line, to a restaurant chain, to a service station, to a metals products plant. She was dubbed the “Million Dollar Mermaid,” and was featured in at least one of the 20 highest grossing films between the years of 1945 – 1949. Esther was on the pulse of what works across a range of industries, and in my opinion, her style and taste, still works. She caught the eye of MGM Studios talent scouts while working as a model in a department store. MGM created a movie star swimming Venus with good reason. I think her joyful personality also played a big role in her success.

Esther served as a commentator for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Esther would have competed in the 1940 Summer Olympics had there not been the outbreak of World War II… I am most in awe of the ability to reinvent herself through this adversity. Clearly, Esther was a talented, energetic, and motivated young woman for a time that preferred to hold women back from achieving all of their dreams. Esther also had an active personal life, she married four times and had three children across her marriages.

I hope that Esther’s story inspires and reminds you to aspire to overcome any barriers of the time you are in and to recognize the good that so many women have been able to achieve throughout history. Esther Williams was much more than a bathing beauty alone; she was a skilled business woman, talented actress, and kept an athletic mindset throughout her career and life! She passed away at the age of 91 of natural causes in Los Angeles. Her ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean. Esther Williams clearly lived a fascinating life, and perhaps we can all learn a thing or two from the Million Dollar Mermaid.

My Ayurveda Journey

My path to Ayurveda as a lifestyle practice began recently with naturally enjoying the benefits of yoga and meditation each morning. However, my practice was not truly rooted in spirituality at its core and I was missing that. It was only when I stumbled onto Sarah Beth Yoga’s beginner friendly YouTube channel, which includes the practice of Savasana (final resting pose) did I realize the intricate connection between yoga and meditation as a spiritual practice.

I knew about Ayurveda and Aveda as a lifestyle brand for living naturally (the founder, Horst Rechelbacher, was from my mother’s hometown in Austria). I recently connected the dots for myself between the benefits of yoga and meditation as one part of a broader Ayurvedic experience I could craft for my everyday life. This began with learning the Chakra system and actively learning how to align my energies. If you are committed to learning about Ayurveda, you must learn the basics of the Chakra energy system. My Chakras are balanced now through a daily Ayurvedic routine that I am living into. This daily routine, or Dinacharya, is my centered lifestyle experience now. I am still in the early phases of this lifestyle shift, but I am committed to living an Ayurvedic life now. Here are some examples below of how I practice Ayurveda.

We all have a Dharma (purpose) and if you are interested in entering an Ayurvedic journey, you can cater your Dosha (you are either Vata, Pitta, or Kapha) to your professional experiences in your life as well. I am learning how to apply my Ayurveda journey to all aspects of my life! Deepak Chopra’s website has been a wonderful resource for me in beginning my studies of Ayurveda. I hope this inspires you to begin your journey!

πŸ•‰ Yoga: Vinyasa, Yin, Kundalini

πŸ•‰ Meditation: Vipassana

πŸ•‰ Aromatherapy: Lavender oil, Rosemary, Mint, Chamomile

πŸ•‰ Haircare: Vegan products like Aveda

πŸ•‰ Skincare: Homemade face masks with honey

πŸ•‰ Chakra Crystal Healing: Labradorite

πŸ•‰ Mantra Chant: Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo

πŸ•‰ Massages: Abhyanga, Marma, Shirodhara

πŸ•‰ Dosha Work: Vata, Pitta, Kapha

The Chakra System

The Enduring Charm of Lilacs

Lilacs, also known as Syringa, are sensational and delightful flowers. Unfortunately, they are lesser known or less mainstream compared to other flowers we love and enjoy today. Perhaps their classic, Victorian-era quality is what makes them seem less contemporary. However, lilacs are incredibly beautiful and meaningful flowers. They symbolize love, especially the first feelings associated with love due to its Greek origin story. The naming origin of the Syringa in Ancient Greek stems from the word “syrinx,” meaning “pipe,” referencing the tubular shape of the flower, where the musical instrument of the flute also originates. Essentially, the lilac (Syrinx) transforms from a woman to a tubular shaped flower (also considered the flute). “Syrinx” is the classical name of the myth associated with lilacs. The common name of “lilac” originates from French.

The Greek myth of Syrinx is a fascinating one:

According to Dave’s Garden,

Syringa was a beautiful wood nymph in Greek mythology. The god Pan spied her one day, lusted for her and took chase. Depending on the version of the story, to get away from him, she either transformed herself into a reed or a lilac bush, both of which make great flutes. Ultimately, Pan won because he made a flute from her disguise and it never left his side from then on.

This is a short summary of a story which appears originally in Ovid’s Metamorphoses poem. The famous musical composer Claude Debussy wrote a song called “Syrinx” which is played on the flute and is about the lost love of Pan and his mourning. Pan also transcends his lost love with attaining the joy of the flute (which he obtains when Syrinx transforms herself). Clearly, the Greek myth of Pan’s lost love represents a bigger story related the beauty of lilacs and how they originate.

Lilacs are the state flower of New Hampshire and there is also a consistent mentioning of lilacs in the 1930 Nancy Drew novel, The Mystery at Lilac Inn. Lilacs are a beautiful and sensational kind of flower that should be more commonly embraced. The painting below depicts Syrinx escaping Pan to become a lilac by French painter Edmund Dulac. When you are considering what flowers to choose for your next bouquet or which flower scent to choose for a new perfume, consider the lilac.

πŸ’œ xo Bianca