not cheap shoes

I grew up in a family where we didn’t have a lot of money, but it was always far more important to have quality rather than quantity. I would still happily rather own two really good dresses than 10 cheaper ones, but once in a while I succumb to the really strange notion that maybe I can get a little bit of quality (whatever that is) for a little bit less. And what happens? Cheap shoes, like the ones I wrote about in my last post.

Every time, after I’ve tossed “the deal”, I swear to myself, again, that I will never, ever, let it happen, again. Over the years I have gotten better; I succumb to the strange notion less and less often. It’s always a waste, buying inferior quality in order to “save” money—a waste of time, energy, resources, and yes, money. So, I have made a rule. (It only works if you actually like to shop, but it does work!) This is it: Never shop for what you need when you need it…

Yes, stores still stock things seasonally, but because so much shopping is now done online, this is not the factor it was when you could truly only buy winter coats after school started. Just think ahead a bit, and keep your eyes open. It’s so much more fun shopping this way. Got time to try it on? Go ahead! Can’t deal with the line for the waiting room? No worries. Pleasure! Do you ever get lucky frantically searching through racks and racks of dresses for the perfect little black dress that you absolutely need for this weekend’s party? Not me.

And, and, get this. Sometimes you do get lucky. You walk into a favorite store and see something you love, and need, and it’s on sale! And it’s quality, so you buy it, and you take it home. And even though you aren’t going to wear it until Fall, just the anticipation makes you happy! And that’s what happened to me, the weekend after I threw out the cheap shoes. These are my All Saints puppies. On sale, but not cheap, shoes.

shoes-allsaints

A.

cheap shoes

Cheap shoes. It’s a term I find myself using for anything of inferior quality. The umbrella you bought at the drugstore because you left yours at home, the one that turned inside-out with the first little flutter of wind? Cheap shoes. The extra bathing suit you bought on vacation at that “boutique,” the one that mysteriously became see-through the moment you exited the water? Cheap shoes. That inexpensive scarf that looked so good on the rack, the one that caused your neck to turn purple? Cheap shoes! 

I was surprised when I saw these shoes on a blog that I admire and read every day…

cheap-shoes

I was surprised because I own a pair — and had already regretted buying them after they’d given me blisters a couple of hours into their first wear (first sign of cheap shoes). Then the other day, I got caught in the rain without my spare pair of flip-flops (carried by every smart NYC woman in summertime, especially when a torrential downpour is expected) and this is what happened to my feet after walking in these shoes in the rain.

dirty-feet-crop

I will continue with this rant soon, but now I have to go and soak my stained feet. Cheap shoes! 

A.

vacation or travel?

I just got back from what I would call a vacation, a mini-vacation on Cape Cod. It was a vacation because I had to do very little. (Honestly, next to nothing.) That, is a vacation. It’s the lounge on the beach, go eat a lobster roll for lunch, come back and lounge on the beach until dinner time kind of thing. On the other hand, there’s travel. Travel entails much more work: preparation before getting there; enduring the mode of travel and amount of time it takes to get there; and then, while there, navigating the culture in order to see and do the many things one is supposed to see and do while there. That’s travel.

It seems to me, though, that some few people know how to combine vacation and travel. They know how to relax and do, quite simply they know how to experience. These people are neither lethargic nor frenetic. They don’t spend all of their time sitting in cafés, but they don’t need to keep a running list of the museums they’ve breezed through, either. People that know how to strike the balance seem blessed. When you add in a third element—work—finding the balance seems even more of a challenge. Two people that appear to have all three elements down are Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg of Ann Street Studio.

Ann Street Studio is a blog, but to call Beck and Burg bloggers is to miss the point entirely. They’re artists, travelers, innovators, models, stylists—and raconteurs. If you like beauty, travel, and photography, check out their travel section. Because they know how to combine vacation, travel, and work you’ll be able to experience something special. The Paris sections are especially wonderful. You won’t be disappointed.

You’re welcome.

A.

Ann, continued

To see Ann, part 1 click here. Below is part 2, my interview with Ann.

On Yoga 

How long have you been doing yoga? And how long have you been teaching?

I’ve been practicing yoga since 1991. I took my first classes with a teacher who had been stricken with arthritis as a child. By the time she was twenty she had to crawl up and down stairs in her home. But when I came to study with her, when she was in her 50′s, only her feet showed signs of the disease. Her poses were limber and graceful, and she said she owed her recovery in large part to her yoga practice. She was my first inspiration. I taught my first yoga class in England, back in 1992, when I subbed for my teacher who was out of town. I took my first official yoga teacher training in the spring of 1994 and have been teaching yoga ever since.

How many times have you been to India?

I’ve traveled to India to study yoga with yoga master, BKS Iyengar, several times over the years (read about “guruji” here). When I go there, I rent an apartment and stay for a month or two and practice about five hours of yoga a day. It feels incredible. Immersing myself in the yoga and the vibrancy of the Indian culture is a liberating tonic. I love India’s raw beauty and chaos. My ethnic roots also hale from there, so it’s a homecoming of sorts. 

Where are you teaching at this time?

I teach my group classes and trainings at the La Jolla Yoga Center, in La Jolla, California. I also own a small studio there, where I teach one-on-one classes to students with therapeutic needs.

Look at Ann’s lovely website here!

On Beauty 

How do you know when you are seeing something beautiful?

When I see something beautiful, my face softens and my body relaxes. The object or the experience engages and absorbs my attention, and I feel inspired and grateful, happy to be alive.

How would you describe your beauty?

Physically, I guess I’m lucky to be well proportioned. I’m small and sturdy. Good peasant stock, which matches my earthy nature. My inner beauty comes from my strengths and sufferings. Strength-wise, I’m determined and rise to difficult occasions with gusto. As for sufferings, I lost my first husband when we were both quite young. His death broke my heart devastatingly open, but it also awoke a level of compassion in me that I had never experienced before, and which has only ripened with age. Teaching yoga to thousands of different students over the past 20 years has also taught me a lot about patience. Kindness, consideration, and being non-judgmental are all beautiful traits that I aspire to.

 When do you feel most beautiful?

As a child I was raised in the English Roma culture. We’re a wild and unruly tribe of people, with little regard for authority and a disdain for being told what to do by others. Through life I’ve had to learn to develop self-restraint and discipline, and to cultivate myself enough to conform and survive in regular culture. But at heart I’m still untamed. When I’m in touch with that untamed part, is when I feel most alive and most beautiful.

What/who taught you about beauty?

My mother is my role model for all things beautiful. She has lived her challenging life with strength and courage. She’s also more feminine than I, and has an elegant European flair to the way she carries herself that I admire. Ultimately though, the sometimes ecstatic and sometimes jarring experiences of life have been my greatest teachers. Beauty resides in the magnificence of nature, and in inspired art and music. In love and happiness and laughter. But grief and loss and pain can also lead to beauty in the end.

Name one beautiful thing that makes your heart leap.

My husband, Arnold. 

♦♦

Here’s to the tamed and untamed parts of all of us! And here’s Ann in a twist (bharadvajasana) and the sweetest child’s pose (balasana) I have ever seen.

ann-twist

ann-childs

Thank you Ann, my untamed gypsy friend.

A.

Ann

This is Ann Tapsell West. She practices, teaches, and largely lives yoga in San Diego. But that’s not all that Ann does, or is. She travels, she reads, she pays attention to events and—most importantly—to her friends and her students! Ann has always seemed bigger to me than most other people, more fully alive. During the first class I ever took with her I felt a lot of openness and love—and that’s rare, even among yoga teachers. When I got to know Ann better, when she sent me to her teachers for teacher training, when I started teaching at her studio, and when I started taking more advanced classes beside her, I found that she remained open and loving. Yes, Ann rings true, she’s clear like the sound of a well-tuned bell.

ann-headThis is Ann in La Jolla California. Those of you who do yoga know that to master this kind of headstand (sirsasana in Sanskrit) takes openness, attention, and love.

Tomorrow, more about Ann and her answers to my questions about beauty.

A.