CHIC EATS: CHEESE, CRUDITÉS AND CHARCUTERIE BOARD


I recently hosted Book Club... for the very first time since I first joined this amazing group of women about 5 or 6 years ago. The group was started by a fabulous woman ten years ago, Jenny, who has created such a wonderful space for us all to share our accomplishments, goals and struggles in the most safe and reliably empowering way. I don't always attend regularly but the monthly get together has always left me feeling apart of something so impressive; a bunch of women who support one another. Each month the group rotates homes all over Los Angeles and I was very excited for everyone to come see mine, meet Arthur and little Pierre, and hopefully feel as welcomed as I always do. Since we have such a variety of of women in the group we all aim to be more conscious about other's dietary preferences and so I always try to bring something dairy free, vegan or gluten-free. So when I was thinking about what I'd serve/have Arthur make us, I wanted something inclusive and also me. And since my only culinary talent lies in creating beautiful cheese plates, I figured I would expand it to include crudités, which is just a fancy way to say chopped veggies and dip. So I got Arthur to whip up some vegan/gluten free pub cheese dip and I found all the pretty vegetables at the store. The purple cauliflower was probably the most impressive of them all, but I gasped when I found the cute baby carrots with their little greens leafs attached! The goal for me was just a variety of color. The vegan/gluten free hummus I found isn't pictured but was a perfect addition with all the veggies. I typically do about three cheeses, so in addition to my vegan cheese dip I added my usual suspects, manchego and a creamy brie adjacent, camembert. When it comes to picking cheeses you always want diversity in texture and taste so I always have something creamy and something crumbly. For accompaniments, I always do something salty and something sweet: toffee peanuts, olives, dried fruit, peppered salami and the star of the show, raw honeycomb, which is fully edible if you're wondering, and where all my bragging rights stem from! Enjoy!


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-MGN

#DENIMDAY, SOME AUTHENTIC THOUGHTS

In the 1990s the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape case because they assumed that since the victim was wearing tight jeans she must have assisted her rapist in getting them off, thereby acknowledging consent. The next day, women in Italian parliament wore jeans in solidarity and for the past 19 years Peace Over Violence has run the #DenimDay campaign, to raise awareness about sexual violence. As a mental health therapist and social worker, raising awareness and speaking out about sexual violence and advocating for gender equality has always been an extremely important passion of mine. The majority of my work has centered around empowering survivors of trauma, and sexual trauma is unfortunately one of the most common and complex experiences to navigate given the all too common stigma and shame it's often associated with. That is why the #MeToo  movement has always been a human issue for me, not a political one. Brené Brown researches and presents about shame, vulnerability and empathy, all things I know have so much power over people and how they live out their human experiences. She says; 


“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” 
-Brené Brown

And she is right. Bringing this topic to light is the only way we can make a change in the larger culture. Making sexual trauma less taboo is the only way to help people feel empowered to seek help. My role as a therapist has always been to make the uncomfortable, more comfortable. To peal away the shame by openly speaking about those things we hide away out of fear; it's the only way to make them less scary. Brené Brown says that shame can't survive being talked about and this is exactly where we need to start. This is how we change culture, we expose difficult truths and find ways of dealing with them. We talk to each other, we don't always have the same opinions but we all listen, we all learn, we all shift. This is magic of conversation and connectivity. And this is why we have things like #MeToo, #TimesUp and #DenimDay. We aren't letting shame take our power, our voices, our experiences from us. We all have a responsibility to welcome one another, listen to one another, help one another.


So when you have this opportunity to listen, to help, to sit with someone sharing something that could easily fall into shame- what do you do? Well again, Brené Brown puts this so simply, something I thought only therapists could do. She says we can sit in the dark with someone. We don't need to console, we don't need to give feedback, we just need to share. Share yourself with someone, be present, be there to listen, be there to take on some of the pain by simply acknowledging, validating, being real. For example, when a client shares something extremely painful or just straight horrific with me, I respond as a human, wow, that must have been so difficult, I'm sure that was painful, I am so sorry that happened to you, what was that like? Before going to graduate social work school, I spent so much of my time trying to 'fix it' for everyone else. To have those magical words of advice and say the 'right thing' that would instantly heal someone. As well intentioned as I was, I realized I was really discouraging my friends from authentically expressing their feelings. Having the right answer was about helping someone else, but it also meant I was superior in some way, that I knew everything. 

Sympathy is about feeling sorry for someone, empathy, however, is about understanding them. Empathy requires us to tap into our human-ness and find a way to connect with another person's pain. Not all humans have the exact same experiences, but we all have felt pain in some way or another and we are all capable of having the same feelings. Empathy evens the playing field, as it reminds us all that whether we are currently suffering or not, we all are equally susceptible to it and we share that with one another in this human experience. We are all equal and therefore pain is not to be shamed, but to be shared. As a therapist all my clients have told me about experiences I have not personally had myself, but I have never not been able to imagine what it must feel like when they share their stories with me. This is why we cry when we hear songs, watch movies, listen to stories. I'm not married to a country singer suffering with addiction but I did cry when Lady Gaga sang that last song in A Star is Born. We are all capable of empathy, of having some smidge of an understanding about what it must have been like to go through something challenging, painful, scary, violent, terrifying, exciting, inspiring, hopeful, fulfilling, lovely. We can relate, you can relate, and it's really all we need to do for one another. 

So when we have a day like today, #DenimDay, we don't have to be victims of sexual trauma or therapists. We just have to be willing to sit in the dark, to listen to the stories of our friends, family members, neighbors, colleagues. To make the scary feel a little more safe by allowing these difficult conversations to take place, making the world more aware, making shame less powerful. 

CLASSIC STYLE: LONG PLEATED SKIRTS IN CHARLESTON


Pretty, pretty pleats... I will admit, I have never been a long skirt wearer, most likely because of my short height and the fact that higher hemlines have always been much more flattering on me. Let's blame Fran Fine for all her fabulous jackets and mini skirt sets I saw growing up watching The Nanny. But since I was visiting the South, a place I always imagine is a bit more in touch with the past, when women wore full long skirts and seem to float around so gracefully, like in the first twenty minutes I watched of Gone With the Wind. And I think Julia Engel, who lives in Charleston, embraces this sprint so beautifully and helped push me out of my short skirt comfort zone! I found this skirt and earrings at Zara a month or two ago in store and can't seem to find it online, same with the top from Forever 21. But I did link similar options below, as well as all the other long pleated skirts I really like. I paired the skirt with a breezier top considering how humid Charleston was that weekend, but I love, love, LOVE, the sweater and silk skirt trend. You know how much I love a sweater, no matter the season, no matter the temperature, I will do it. And ever since women started wearing these long silk shirt dresses and skirts I have always thought about the possibility. I think I would need a fairly cropped one so I can have a torso but I've seen it look great with longer ones too. See all my picks and pics, haha, below. Enjoy. 



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More pleats please





-MGN

All photography by Gladyxa Mari

CHIC PLACES: WHERE WE ATE IN CHARLESTON

Exploring the restaurant and food scene... has become one of my favorite parts of traveling to new places and perhaps the best part for me is doing all the research beforehand, which of course I did for this trip. Thanks to Instagram, it's fairly easy to find pictures of delicious food and beautiful restaurants to venture to. I love using the save tool in order to keep track of all the great spots that come up on my feed and my Charleston section was completely full well before I even booked my tickets! As expected, we had the best time eating our way through the city and a very hard time narrowing down all the selections! Charleston has become a foodie destination in many respects over the last 10-15 years and I certainly did not get a chance to explore as many places as I wanted to. I honestly just needed about 5 more meals there to feel complete! But we did hit a bunch of amazing spots and I can't say I was disappointed with any of them. So without further ado, our full eating itinerary. Enjoy!


Friday afternoon I visited the stunning Camiella's at Hotel Bennett for afternoon tea. The tea selection was great and they had yummy little savory and sweet treats. It wasn't the most outstanding tea service I've ever had but I certainly would go back with a group of girlfriends or my mother. It's also a ladies lounge at night, a perfect place to grab a drink before or after dinner. More to come on Camiella's because the decor is just beyond stunning and quite frankly deserves it's own blog post! Friday night I ordered room service at The Mills House after being just too exhausted to go out and find something by myself before my sister arrived. I must say, I was not disappointed by how delicious the fried chicken sandwich was, which checked my box for eating fried chicken in the south! The fries were actually really good as well, topping my room service food expectations exponentially! 





Saturday we had a quaint lunch on the porch at Chez Nous. This place is so picturesque as it's located in a small house off the main road with a big courtyard and small, cozy inside., somewhat reminiscent of a ski chalet. We had a delicious fish of the day and salad, which might sound simple but was actually really good and felt special since the menu here changes every single day. And side note, the chef has beautiful cursive handwriting, as he physically writes new menus every day! Since both of us were recovering from colds, we opted out of the extensive wine list but I know whatever they offered would have been great and paired really well with the menu. This is a great place for a nice lunch but probably even better for a romantic date night. 



Saturday afternoon we had a little cheese happy hour if you will at the infamous Goat Sheep Cow North, and it totally lived up to the hype! We ordered a small cheese and charcuterie plate and everything on it was outstanding. I wish we could have ordered more cheesy snacks like the mac and cheese or grilled cheese sandwich but this was meant to be a precursor to our actual dinner reservation so I held back a bit. There is nothing I love more than an opportunity for some gourmet childhood favorites. We frequented their second location in North Charleston, which in addition to having a large selection of cheeses to purchase deli style and sandwiches to go like the original South of Broad location, it also has a large dinning room and big beautiful bar. In addition to everything we had being delicious, the decor was spot on. I loved the combination of the large checkered floor and gorgeous marble bar, a design combination I am planning on taking into our condo remodel, fingers crossed. Overall, I would highly recommend visiting as a big group or small, for any cheese mouses like myself! 




Saturday for dinner we ventured to the well known King Street for The Darling Oyster Bar, casually known by our Uber driver as little darling, which is just SO CUTE and so southern. My sister Becky loves oysters and she was perfectly happy trying the entire selection on the menu that day. The space was very beautiful and I kind of wish we could have gone during the day so I could have seen the decor pop a bit more. I didn't exactly love the blue crab tagliatelle I ordered and definitely wish I went for the lobster roll instead but I had my skinny margarita and fries to share so I was good. Also, if you order fries and love aioli like me, request the special sauce to dip into, it's delicious and not too spicy. 




Sunday morning we got some lattes and yummy pastries to go at Hotel Bennett's cute little patisserie. This place is adorable and I imagine a great spot to get some work done if you have some time to kill. They had a wonderful selection of French pastries and they even make macaron towers, in addition to selling mini ones individually. Becky and I grabbed some vanilla lattes and macarons to take on our ride to Magnolia Plantation and were instantly cheered up from the rain. 




Sunday for lunch we headed to the highly recommended Italian restaurant Le Farfelle which is yet another beautiful space with high ceilings, a clean white palate, bistro bar chairs and some beautiful navy banquettes. They also have a patio that I am sure is very pretty but due to the rain pours that morning it was out of commission. Of course Becky ordered oysters and I ordered a carbonara pasta without the guanciale and both were so good. My pasta cravings were met with happiness and even Becky couldn't help take some for herself. We also order the whipped ricotta, which I liked but we both were surprised with how sweet it was. My aperol spritz hit the spot and I would definitely come back. 





Sunday afternoon Becky and I headed to Zero George to have a glass of brut rosé before dinner and take in the porch life that appears to be the norm in Charleston, or maybe just the south in general. Sitting there for an hour in the afternoon really made me crave a simpler, slower afternoon on a porch type of life, until I realized how quickly I like to walk and my type A, anxious personality that I am not that equipped to change at this point in my life. But regardless, Zero George is a perfect spot to soak in an afternoon with some refreshments and also another beautiful place to have dinner. Their dinning room looked very quaint and romantic, so I would certainly put that on my list for next time. 


For our Sunday dinner and our last meal together, we ventured to what everyone has unanimously described as a the best barbecue place in Charleston, Lewis Barbecue. For the majority of the weekend, I had planned for us to go to Leon's Oyster Shop, but then realized they weren't known for barbecue and given that I had my fried chicken moment already and Becky had likely eaten enough oysters for one weekend, we decided barbecue made the most sense. So it was Lewis's but then one Uber driver recommended Rodney Scott's BBQ, another Bear E Patch Cafe, Willie Jewlls Old School BBQ or Bessinger's, I was completely unsure. So en route to Rodney Scott's, our next Uber driver convinced us that Lewis was the still the best so we redirected our ride and ended up there after all. I wish I had more meals to try out all of them, but perhaps I will just have to come back and do a barbecue tour of the south. Lewis did not disappoint and was delicious! They didn't have chicken but I loved the turkey and my sister was very happy given her high standards after having lots of barbecue experiences in college. My favorite part, however, was hands down the mac and cheese! I can't explain how delicious it was, all I can say is that it's the best I have ever had, hands down. And I have had my fair share of mac and cheese! I would actually go back just for that, my sister had to coax me out of ordering a second portion! Worth the hype!




Monday morning I didn't have much time before my 1pm flight back but I did get a chance to stop at Sugar Bakeshop for a cookie to go on the way to the airport. I grabbed a ginger molasses and chocolate chip for Arthur and had the gluten free chocolate chip myself to pair with my latte while I waited for my flight. They were all spectacular and Arthur was very happy when he picked me up and the airport and received his little treat. Overall, a weekend well fed!

These were all the places we tried out ourselves, but I have lots more places to recommend in my Charleston Guide, coming soon. 

-MGN

VISITING THE AMERICAN SOUTH: SOME THOUGHTS


I visited Charleston... for all the common reasons most Americans do. The historic homes, delicious cuisine, charming and colorful streets, the experience of being in a place that despite it being the year 2019 takes great pride in conserving the character and history of a place with deep, old American roots. A place that appears to be consistently praised for and perhaps also haunted by its history. So when coming to visit for the very first time, those same roots that created these pastel colored homes and shutters I knew would flood my Instagram account, also unfortunately represented some of our country's most shameful narratives. The word roots itself always takes me back to a few days in middle school when  my classmates and I watched what felt like hours and hours of the 1977 mini series Roots. I remember those days so very clearly because it was the first time I ever was exposed to the concept of slavery at this magnitude. Of course I had learned about the slave trade, colonialism and the plantation model in history classes before, but the impact of what I learned in books just did not compare to seeing the story with my own eyes. To be honest, it was really scary, what the therapist in me would label a secondary or vicarious trauma. And let me preface this by saying, that for me to even say I was somewhat traumatized by watching a fictionalized story of slavery, is a privilege. The reality is that so many Americans' ancestors lived it and these narratives have passed down not just amongst enslaved peoples but also those of the South. It's impact is far reaching even beyond the constraints of the Mason-Dixon Line as slavery impacted all areas of American life. When I think about what that impact means today the term intergenerational trauma rings a bell. The concept that we ourselves can be impacted and suffer as a result of the suffering and traumatic experiences of those who came before us. That suffering and the effects of suffering, can be passed down. 

Traveling through Charleston was as beautiful and charming as it felt heavy and wrought with my own unresolved feelings about our nation's history. So much of what I loved about my visit had major ties to the contributors of West African and Caribbean culture- the music, the cuisine, the landscape, the architectural details, the lemongrass baskets I couldn't stop swooning over. When we pulled into the Magnolia Plantation and toured the slave grounds I felt a smidge of what life must have been like to be so far away from home, or to call something home because it's all I ever knew without having any real ownership or rights to. To be somewhere where you aren't free. I know that despite the incredible horror and hardship slaves endured, there was a large amount of real spirit, an inner connected source of strength amongst a group of people that had no choice but to overcome suffering. I think that is something that all Americans can relate to in coming to terms with the narratives that got us here, despite the differences in how we all experienced our shared history. Even those of us not directly related to slaves or slave owners, have been impacted in some way or another by these tragedies. I also know that despite slavery being abolished, the impact of having kidnapped, abused and exploited a people didn't just end there. No matter where in the country we are the impact is often pretty clear, we still have severely immobilized many African Americans and Black citizens with the continued impact of Jim Crow laws and now extremely disproportionate incarceration rates. Economic and educational opportunities have certainly improved over time, but at a much slower rate than most other groups. 

So as a I walk through the places where so much history happened, I can't help but feel some of the weight of what it means for myself as an American. I will always believe in the power of progress and I believe we have certainly made so much already. What I would like to see more of is just simply an acknowledgement of what has transpired, the ability to recognize the systems of power that have both caused and resolved a lot of the world's traumas. By walking through these streets I felt a weird sense of balance, seeing that there was acknowledgment and thoughtfulness about where we were and how we arrived there. I felt pride in knowing I was also one of those people, someone who walks through the world not pretending to know everything, because I don't, but as someone who acknowledges the truth. Someone who's curious and cares about knowing. They say ignorance is bliss but I think authenticity is everything. How else would I be able to sit here on this porch, enjoying the sweet drinks, kind people, beautiful homes, slow pace, without acknowledging the suffering that came before, and probably still exists in some form or another. After all, what are we made of if not our stories? 

 { Gullah Sweetgrass Baskets - more info on them here


 { The Slave Quarters at Magnolia Plantation}





-MGN

CHIC PLACES: AERIN POP-UP SHOP ON MELROSE PLACE


Aerin Lauder has remained a style icon... of mine for many years. She is one of those people who just has it, if that makes sense. And by it I suppose I mean she has a natural eye for beautiful things and places, a seamless sensibility that translates simply. That is perhaps my favorite style, effortless chic. So of course I’ve always admired her own products and made mental notes to visit her gorgeous boutiques in The Hamptons and Palm Beach. When I finally caught wind of her shop in Los Angeles, located of course on the very fashionable Melrose Place, I immediately made a visit a top priority. Once I arrived I was informed that the shop was in fact only a pop-up, making my trip there all the more special. I was extremely impressed, but not too surprised, that the space appeared permanent grade with beautiful decor and a stunning outdoor setup that I’d like to spend a whole afternoon at. The shop is a collection of Aerin’s pretty perfumes, candles and trinkets, with the welcomed addition of all her curated finds from other amazing designers. I love how easily everything she has collected for this shop comes together and it is easy to see how her relaxed, yet always upscale sensibility shines through. So if you are in the Los Angeles area before April is up, I highly recommend you pay a visit! I've linked some of my favorite online items from all the many retailers that carry her products-particularly the collaboration with Williams Sonoma that I still can't get over. Enjoy!

Some Aerin Favorites











-MGN