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Patti Wilcox of Awestruck Ciders

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Meeting Patti in September at The Blogcademy, I was immediately taken by her sweet, spritely demeanor. But it is her badass business chops as founder/purveyor of the fine cider brand Awestruck that is the inspiration behind this week’s segment of Wisdom Wednesday. Since Patti is a busy entrepreneur and a traveler by trade and by passion, we hooked up via email to bring you the pearls you’ll read below. In the spirit of the New Year and in the pursuit of fulfillment professionally, creatively and spiritually, may you find something in the words below that makes you tick.

1. Tell us a bit about your brand, how you became involved and how you see the brand growing.
I am a founder at Awestruck Ciders.  Our brand is really focused on creating those “Wow” moments for adult beverage consumers.  I love when I see a customer’s face light up with surprise and delight, that’s what being Awestruck is all about.
We are currently distributed in only half of NY State and just beginning to break into NYC.  We are also going to begin exporting to Quebec over the coming months.  It’s my dream to build an international brand.

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2. What are the biggest challenges you face day to day as a creative entrepreneur building a brand?
This is such a beautifully personal question.  For me, it has been learning that I am the rule maker.  I have always been a really good rule follower and now I have this brand that I have to set the rules for.  It has taken me a long while to finally realize it’s up to me, and now my task is to make decisions, analyze outcomes, and create policies based on that information.
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3. What are the skills that you’ve cultivated throughout your life that help you in your work?
I think travel is the root of all goodness.  I have spent the past 10 years living for travel.  It taught me to bootstrap and prioritize, it taught me the rewards of hard work,  it taught me the
power of flexibility, and the good-will of the world.    The kindness in the
world is humbling and amazing.  I remember waiting in line at a street kiosk in Morocco to buy some candy (I love weird candies) and the man in line behind me was so overjoyed to see a visitor in his village he insisted on helping me choose the best treat and buying it for me.  It’s such a simple thing, but when we always stay within our comfort zone, we don’t’ have access to those special moments.
So we basically founded Awestruck almost as we would pursue a gap year.  We did our best research before hand and knew we’d have to learn along the way.  We have found the most wonderful mentors and friends on this path.  It brings tears to my eyes to think about the incredibly talented, intelligent people who are helping us grow and build our brand.

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Don’t you love to meet those people who just know themselves?

4. When you’re not working, what are you up to?
I love the feeling of productivity.  So I have serious problems not
working.   I really really like audiobooks, because I can go on a fun jaunt
in my brain while still getting things done.  I think my dream day-off would be to pick a random subways stop in an amazing ethnic neighborhood like Jackson Heights or Flushing and just spend hours getting lost and discovering new drinks, fashions, and cultural habits.  It’s amazing how authentic these communities are even so far from home.

5. What are your words of wisdom for other people on how to chase your dreams?
Start now keeping track of what you like.  Write lists of  things that make you happy.  Spend time thinking about what you enjoy and what comes easy to you.  Amass this information about yourself.  Don’t you love to meet those people who just
know themselves? And only you can do that for yourself.
6. What are the 5 items you can’t live without?
1. My Nokia Lumia 1020.
http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/mobile/phone/lumia1020/ Best phone ever.
2. OverDrive App https://www.overdrive.com/  (+ my Brooklyn Public Library Card http://www.bklynlibrary.org/)
3.  My IIID Foundation Palette from Maskcara – It took me forever to buy this, I was wincing at the price, but it is worth every penny, as a business woman on the road a lot, I don’t know how I went so long without it.
4. Credit cards that earn flight miles.  I’m always amazed at how far my Southwest miles go, but be sure to wait for at least a 50,000 point offer https://creditcards.chase.com/a1/southwest/25kPremierR
5. Apples.  I am awe-inspired by apples.  They are a staple produce.
They last for months without chemical preservatives.  They make delicious
alcohol.   They are genetically fascinating – did you know an apple seed
will grow into a tree completely unique unto the world?  They don’t just inherit the traits of their parents, they become their entire own varietal, they can only be exactly reproduced by cloning and grafting.

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For more on Awestruck Ciders, visit www.awestruckciders.com.

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Solstice: New Season|New Vision

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We gathered on Monday night to light candles, burn palo santo, make art and connect in Winter’s fresh wake. It was a solstice celebration in the best way possible–entering the next phase in the spirit you’d like to maintain. The dawn of a new season, especially one with the new year fast on its tail, always makes me think about what more I can be doing. Sometimes this can lead to a pity-party in thinking of the things I don’t make enough time for in favor of other, less creative/soul fulfilling activities like sleeping and eating pizza. But, other times, it presents itself as an opportunity to take inventory on what I am spending the majority of my energy on and which practices should carry on in this new chapter and which should be quietly dismissed into the night. Here are a few of those practices I wish to continue and grow…

C R E A T E :

One thing that I know I want to make more time for in this new season and new year is creation of all manner. Recently having taken on new responsibilities with a fabulous designer, I have found myself with less time to cook, collage, think and write. I am gloriously enthralled by this new professional role, but I do miss unfettered time to engage in my favorite activities. Spending time in the tangible hum of minds at work in peaceful creation on Monday night was invigorating. Anytime I feel uninspired to make something or write something or do something, I want to call upon my community of inspired souls so that we can bring out the best in each other and create some magic.

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C O N N E C T :

 

I am starting a new section of the blog called “Wisdom Wednesdays” as another way to reach out and connect with the people that give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. The essence of Naked City Style is a platform for me to share what inspires me in hopes of giving the reader some inspiration along the way. What inspires me most are the innovative and rad people that I interview and spend time with for these stories. What I hope to be a weekly installment, “Wisdom Wednesdays” will be q&a’s with admirable humans that push limits and create incredible things by sheer self motivation and determination (not to mention a little help from their friends).

And speaking of friends, I’d like to take a pause to truly appreciate the gorgeous goofballs | the true-blues | the insanely talented, special, radiant beings that I am lucky enough to call my friends. Thank you for all that you do to bring me up everyday.

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C OM M A N D :

What might seem like an aggressive goal for any new beginning, I view “command” as a positive, uplifting, life-affirming stance. In that vein, I want to take ownership for my choices and responsibility for all that I do, good and bad. In this new season and new year I won’t let my demons mandate how I view myself or how I spend my time. I will command the energy, the self love and the determination in myself to kiss the sun. And I will have a blast doing it.

 

With wishes for you to lift latches, swim in raindrops, never not smile, breathe fresh air and do something totally new, Happy Winter.

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Blue Suede at the Beach

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This winter has been full of surprises already. 60 degree weather, foggy mornings and feelings of spring-come-early have me all mixed up. But a weekend in the Hamptons on the beach was exactly the thing to do when the traditional and seasonably appropriate activities seem strange.

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Here, Rachel and Amanda unknowingly demonstrated two extremes of beach attire…in other words what to wear and what not to wear. While Amanda was able to frolic through the waters in her knee-high rubber boots, Rachel was land bound in her blue suede at the beach. A classic juxtaposition of fashion vs. function, you decide which look you prefer.

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Should the snows come eventually, we’ll all be tucked away inside until spring. So, for now, let’s make the most of this sunshine.

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Old Haunts

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To know that you’ve done your time in New York City is to have recognizable phases. To be able to look back and say, “oh, that was my couch surfing phase”, “that was my living above the bodega phase”, “that was my I had a ton of time and used to walk home from work/go out drinking on week nights phase.” These phases all have routines—kineticly responsive routes, familiar cashiers at the grocery store, Sunday morning rituals—that, as deeply entrenched as they are during the 3-5 years of your experience, become erased and replaced once you move on to a new phase. As quickly as these routines slip out of consciousness, they just as quickly flood back in a bathtub of nostalgia when spontaneity finds you back in your old haunts.

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I rode the M Train across the Williamsburg Bridge this past Wednesday night to meet the ladies out for dinner and drinks and to toast a new month. Walking through the station at Delancey/Essex was like stepping back in time. And I found it funny, as I actually stopped to read the signs to ensure I was approaching the correct platform, that  just three years before I could have traversed the subway station in my sleep.

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That particular stop on the M, and the surrounding neighborhoods (my former neighborhoods), symbolizes a time of extremes. The joys were extremely joyous and the trials, extremely trying. It was my youth. In a few splashes of memory, the time is marked by backyard birthday parties next to the fig tree, Nina Simone records at dinner time and feverish interaction with people, places and things that were all fresh and full of potential (and stories that were written and are still to be written). It was my phase of complete exploration in New York City as an adult, sandwiched between my time away in Korea and my current New York phase—that of blissful stability, overflowing abundance of gifts and gratitude for all that I’ve learned and all that I have to learn. A time when my youthful adventures are behind me and my heartfelt, bold, mature adventures are just beginning.

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I was moved, as I often am when I think about the Bushwick days, to look through old pictures from that time. A tapestry of art making, love, baby faces, best neighbors and growth into the woman I am filled my computer screen and filled my heart. It brings me joy to let these photos—these memories—have their place on Naked City Style as an homage to all that was and all that will be.

Cheers to old haunts.

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The Way Life Should Be

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This post features photos from our makeshift reunion trip to Maine, two weekends back, where we ventured for a little bit of salt air, togetherness and to experience the way life should be. Considering we ALL fell ill during the trip in one way or another (colds + hangovers + general old age…) and I’ve spent the past week in bed recovering and avoiding the world, these images are the latest and the greatest from my photo roundups!

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The weather was a perfect vision of fall in the Northeast, if not even a bit warm for the season. Once again I got to see my hometown through the eyes of people close to my heart and, this time, had the rare opportunity to have my eyes opened in turn to things I didn’t know existed. Our friend who still lives in Portland took us to the Flea-For-All, apparently open and operating for the past couple of years, which is three stories of vintage shopping heaven tucked away on the East End. I nearly had a heart attack at the discovery of this local haunt. Clothing, house wares, accessories and all-the-in-between can be found in bounty in this curated space. True treasures abound at the Flea-For-All (think thigh-high shag boots from the 70’s, antique card catalogue, and Cameroonian feathered headdress wallhanging, to name a few). I scored a vintage Bottega Veneta bucket bag and shearling throw for myself this time around and I plan to make this a regular stop on my trips to Portland from now on!

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The beginning of November had come in like a lion for me with many projects, new responsibilities and other matters to sort through. Even though months have passed since the end of summer it has been taking me longer than usual to get into the swing of things this season and I think the trip to Maine was just what I needed to gain a little perspective on everything and prepare myself to hit the ground running through the new year. Now, with this awful cold behind me, I feel my spirits lifting in preparation for all the holiday cheer!

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I’ll leave you with this “album cover” that we unintentionally posed for at the Portland Head Light! It pretty much sums up our trip north.

 

Cheers for now!

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Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life

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I can’t say that I remember exactly when my love for Frida Kahlo developed. Her tragic passion, her drive and talent, her admiration for the natural and the indigenous  and her infectious artistic spirit have always my greatest source of inspiration.  With that comes my love for Mexican culture at large, but, those who know me know that I have still yet to visit the country of my dreams and the birthplace of my idol. I am happy to report that (fingers crossed) this great folly will correct itself in 2016….but in the meantime, it was incredible to have Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life at the New York Botanical Garden. Not only does the exhibit delve into the art and life design of Kahlo, but creates a living environment transporting the visitor to the rainforests and deserts of Central America, providing a natural (and breathtakingly gorgeous) context for the colors, textures and subjects that permeate her work.

Last weekend was the Day of the Dead festival at the garden featuring parades, musical and dance performances and a pumpkin carving competition. It was a great time to visit (except for the serpentine lines stretching at great distances from each exhibit) because the halloween mood was truly in the air. It was appropriately chilly, the trees had turned and children were running about with faces painted. There are also events scheduled for this, the final weekend of the exhibit, and I would highly recommend the trip if you haven’t been to visit the show yet. For those of us in Brooklyn, it is certainly a trek, but a soul affirming pilgrimage for lovers of Frida Kahlo.

Wishing you all a fantastic Halloween. Let’s embrace the cycle of life and death, the spiritual journey of all living things and the celebration of the season!

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Halloween Inspiration from Unsplash.com

Mallory Johndrow www.vintagraphproductions.com

Working in digital marketing and branding always calls for the use of stock images. But interesting and original stock images are hard to come by which is why I love Unsplash.com, introduced to me by fellow bloggers.  The site houses gorgeous imagery by independent artists who offer their work for any use as long as credit is given. And, with the Halloween sprit that I am feeling this week leading up to the holiday, I thought I would curate a small gallery of Halloween inspiration from Unsplash.com to introduce the stunning photographs. The spooky images below are by artists Andrea Boldizer, Simon Wijers, and Jesse Bowser (featured image by Mallory Johndrow). Enjoy and pop over to Unsplash.com for all of your stock photo needs!

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Jesse Bowser www.jesse-bowser.com

Simon Wijers

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Vegas in the Fall

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It was brilliant being in Las Vegas in October. The sauna-like heat of the desert that I experience annually on my late-May visit for the Couture Show was replaced by breezy days, mid-70’s temperatures and evenings that require layers to sit comfortably outside. But, beyond the temperature, perhaps the most lovely characteristic of Vegas in the Fall is the dramatic sky that kissed the mountain tops in the distance and the towering hotels all around us. Although we were working long hours and didn’t make it outside much, we were always met with awe-inspiring views when we did.

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_MG_1670Vegas rarely allows for much time outdoors, be it the aforementioned infernal heat or the heavy work load (the only reason I have ever been to Vegas is for work, and it may be the only reason I return for the years to come as work finds me there at least annually). But I was happy for the long hours of work that this trip brought at the International Spa Show because of the truly great community I was introduced to. The press, vendors, and spa executives that we interacted with this past week had an infectious energy all in the name of wellness and health and I left with a reinvigorated desire to take the best care of myself, my family and friends, and my world that I possibly can.

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These gracious people shared their knowledge as well as their incredible products with us all (amazing gift bags were delivered to us all in our rooms each night)  and I have already had the pleasure of trying many of them. One morning, in fact, the long hours (and late night brainstorming) had made way for a rough wake up and I used the Shower Spa Mist infused with lemongrass and eucalyptus for a jump-start to the day. The Chaleur self-heating facial mask is also super, and the mineral process in each one sounds like the pattering of rain when you wear it in bed at night for a soothing treatment. I highly recommend it!

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I am looking forward to using all of these incredible wellness products to sustain me through the growing cold and through all of the hard work in the next weeks. The show also brought an amazing bevy of new opportunities that I am so excited to dive into.

Happy to be back in NYC!

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GROUPON Your Life!

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The number one great unifier of all entrepreneurs, freelancers and up-and-comings is the need for affordable health coverage. If we haven’t dealt with it ourselves, we’ve had a dear friend lament their lack of healthcare and their forgone checkups, and even trips to the emergency room. I don’t mean to enter the complexities of the argument in American Health Care here, I am merely on a mission to share with you an incredible life hack that I’ve just been taught: How to GROUPON Your Life!

I was openly complaining in the office about having to book a dental cleaning for what was sure to cost me no less than $300 with my lack of dental coverage. (I should say here that I thank my lucky stars and moons {and my dear boss and mentor} everyday that I have medical insurance). When my friend and co-worker told me to use GROUPON.

Oh, you mean the online coupon website featuring two $100 massages for the price of one and 87% off wine of the month club memberships? Yes.

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Apparently, what I happily discovered upon further investigation, GROUPON offers full dental check-ups including x-rays and cleaning for a fraction of what it would cost to walk into your regular dentist (you know, the one you haven’t seen since your insurance ran out two years ago…). I found a GROUPON for a dentist’s office around the corner from my house in Brooklyn that offered a consultation, cleaning and x-ray for $60.

That’s right, folks. An amount of money small enough to pay in cash.

Of course, I did a quick YELP search to ensure that this outpost was reputable and hygienic and when I felt confident enough that I was getting the DEAL OF THE CENTURY I bought the GROUPON, called the office and made an appointment with the effusively kind and helpful receptionist.

I encourage all of you to check out GROUPON for those practical never-thought-it-could-be-possible deals like this one. I sure plan to. And please let us know should you find any other life hack bargains on the site.

 

Happy Weekend! I’m off to Las Vegas for the week and will return with my photo round-up next Friday!

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The “Captain” Queen of Vintage

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There may be no better story suited for these pages than that of Nicole Katherine Alexander, aka The “Captain” Queen of Vintage. It was she that became my guardian goddess when I arrived back in Brooklyn after my year teaching and writing in Korea, feeling rather lost and in need of someone to shed some light onto my life and help me to distinguish the direction of my path. In essence, by example, it was Nicole that helped me get my feet under me and start finding my way as the creative hopeful I was in the big city. I had arrived back to NYC in the late summer of 2010 and came to work during the fall at the local Brooklyn boutique, A. Cheng, where Nicole was the manager at the time. My memory of those days is filtered through bright orange mornings, the sounds of gated store fronts clattering open and the smell of Gorilla Coffee. Nicole would always arrive to work in some vision of vintage: full skirts, dramatic capes layered over functional wool sweaters to protect against the growing cold and statement pieces of jewelry either collected or created by her. We spent our days tending to the shop and, in the moments of calm that occasionally came, talking about life, art, womanhood and our city at large. Nicole was perhaps one of my first examples of a life perfectly curated. What I witnessed in her was a cultivated balance of self-love and an outpouring of creative energy that is really, in many ways, the inspiration behind Naked City Style.
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Autumn and the weeks leading up to Halloween will always remind me most of Nicole, given the fact that it is when we first came together so many years back, but also because nobody brings the fire to a costume party like she. I once attended a Halloween party with Nicole where she was dressed in a fabulous outfit carrying a giant cardboard cut out of a phone. When people would ask her what she was dressed as, she would confidently reply, “Shhhhh….I’m on the phone.” Her humor, sense of style and craftiness make Halloween the ultimate playground. This must have been on our minds when I visited her Bedstuy apartment for this shoot, because our photographs took a turn in the direction of all things witchy and whimsical. I had asked Nicole how her vintage collection was coming along—perhaps one of her longest running passions for which she has an indestructible gift—and without missing a beat she asked, “Well, do you mean clothing, shoes or bags?” Anyone who has a collection thriving enough to necessitate breaking them down into succinct categories certainly has a lot to teach the rest of us. And so, without wasting time, she began to dive into said collection to pull out the choice pieces that are featured here. Nicole tried to suggest that she wasn’t the most comfortable being photographed. The camera immediately called her bluff. If there is one thing I’ve always known about Nicole, it is that her contagious (and seemingly unceasing) energy demands attention. 

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In fact, in the years after working at A. Cheng, Nicole has found her way to the stage. A place, in my opinion, she was born to inhabit. She and her team, Solarium, perform every third Saturday of the month at The Triple Crown Alehouse & Restaurant on the border of Chelsea and Midtown. But Nicole also occasionally performs solo, like during the recent Blood Moon Kaleidoscope. There she improvised monologues initiated by the audience, all in the name of sister witches, the moon and comedy. I asked her if styling is a big part of her performance, and, while she confirmed that she has done some prop building and costuming for her shows and for the shows of friends, it would seem as though her attention to dress is a part of her life that simply and happily permeates all that she does. Spending the day at her home was a performance in and of itself, watching her flit about piecing together enviable ensembles of vintage Versace, vintage Norma Kamali and a bounty of other treasures found on Etsy (she is a self-proclaimed “Etsy Sleuth”!) and across the United States.

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It is this contagious spirit, this laughter and love of life and inherent sense of style that make her such a prime example of supreme womanhood. But, moreover, it is her fierce femininity and her desire to help bring other women up that make her an idol. In addition to her incessant vintage collecting, her improv work and her days spent at the incredibly hip LES outpost of Love Adorned, Nicole also works as an organizer for the company The Artful Bachelorette which hosts parties at which women learn how to sketch live nude male models. Her business cards read (only naturally) Nicole “Captain” Alexander.

This beauty is a beacon of serious girl power vibes each and every day of her life. The world is lucky to have her.

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In closing, it felt only appropriate that I should ask Nicole to share some of her sage knowledge with us here, straight from the unicorn’s mouth:

What are your top 5 rules of wisdom that you would share with your 10-years-younger-self or a freshly landed creative about chasing dreams? 
1. Be your own best friend. This world is cruel and filled with people that will want to tear you down…be kind to your inner self & be forever encouraging, only you can stop you.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. The worst thing that can happen is a no – but I have found that in most cases, when you are clear about want you want and your intentions…the universe makes a way for it to happen.
3. Do some fucking push ups or something man!!! (I’m) slowly getting flabbier…(I) really should have gotten that base layer muscle in my twenties…
4.  Travel more. While I love the work that I do…I get ULTRA committed to it. I love being successful in my work, but am still working on that perfect balance.
5. WEAR SUNSCREEN. Why didn’t I do this????? Ladies & gentlemen, wear that shit everyday. Even though I have lived a life out of the sun more than others (I tend to burn), I still see the effects of sun damage (and old age).
When the little voice inside of you says “you’re not good enough” what do you do to quiet it?
This is a very good question…and relates back to “being your own best friend.” I’ve practiced this type of thinking since high school – and honestly it has been a saving grace in so many of life’s darkest hours. I am also sure to tell myself that everyone has to start somewhere – and if I do feel a lack of ability/confidence…I WILL FAKE THAT SHIT TIL I MAKE THAT SHIT. Then I always end up making it – truly, I do always have faith that I will. By now, I trust myself at 34, to get it done. I am very excited about what life is yet to bring…and the projects that I have yet to take on.

If you were to be stranded on a desert island, what are the most important items you’d take with you?

– Weed plant & weed pouch
– Beach boys ‘Friends’ album (with record player b/c they are married)
– A monkey best friend (will also accept a feathered tropical bird friend…or dolphin)
– SUNSCREEN – we talked about this
– Three HUGE shipwrecked crates of peanut m&ms
For more advice, to book parties with The Artful Bachelorette or to have the sleuth track down your most coveted vintage item, email Nicole at nka.brooklyn@gmail.com.
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