Note: This is part of the group series called #Architalks led by Bob Borson (www.lifeofanarchitect.com). This month’s theme is Favorite ThingS
The holidays are over, and so is winter vacation. The mile long checklist of holiday decor, gift tracking, party schedules and travel planning is done with, and that little extra weight gifted with love from my favorite Panettone with coffee with linger for a while, until the trails and new trail running shoes become the voices in my head, calling my name. I work, work-out and find moments that I love in the fine work-life imbalance. I love all the things that I do- even being the designated parent-taxi driver. But what are my favorite things?
No, they are not raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens – I am humming it, but they are not.
Doors, Windows and Corridors
I have spent my childhood and teenage years in a city filled with historic monuments of architectural significance. What many saw as “ruined” I saw as aged with the stories of its time. Within these ruins, there were centuries of lost tales and stories untold. I reminiscence those times where I would sit down for dinner with my parents, inside the walls of these majestic palaces which were now restored to restaurants, talking about the story behind the windows screens with ornate designs, or the doors with layers and layers of religious influence creating a masterpiece that cannot be mimicked by any other. They say these walls can tell stories. I say the windows hold ballads, and the doors hold secrets to a story untold. I have walked through ruined and abandoned palaces, imagining the life that must have been within those brick confinements. I have peeked through the little windows with marble screens, composing a monologue about headstrong princess and their power hungry princes. During the sketching session of my History of Architecture classes, I have filled up pages drawings doors and windows, and the arches of the corridors. Of late, the historic is not centuries old, considering I live in Orange County, but every winter I make a trip within California hunting timeless and historic buildings, photographing their doors, windows and corridor, listening closely to the stories they tell, the secrets they share.
Coffee in Solitude
Two shots espresso and one ounce of milk, steamed. Not Americano, make it an Italiano. Long Black is good enough. That’s my witching hour fix. That’s also my favorite time of the day, coffee in solitude. It’s hard to pinpoint what I love about the afternoon coffee- is it the fresh coffee aroma when I open the lid of the coffee grinder.. or is it the way ground beans swell up my French Press when I pour hot water.. or is it the actual taste of coffee.. Or is it the act of drinking it alone, reflecting on things that are on my mind.. or blanking out..losing myself in thoughts that aren’t a part of the checklist. Self-brew is the best coffee I can have, but outside home, my favorite coffee is Vietnamese Coffee. I have never tried finding and fine tuning the recipe at home- not everything needs to be perfected and personalized. “Just the way you love it” happens to be the tagline of one of my favorite Vietnamese Coffee shops, and I will take their word for that.
Of all the office stationary I have, I love my writing instruments the most. The sharpened pencils, Staedtler Triplus Fineliner pens, Sharpies, Calligraphy set, Rotrings.. and my favorite one among them, the Mont Blanc. I don’t write much other than sign school checks and work contracts. Most of the “writing” just happens to be doodling and note taking during phone calls, and making checklists, or FAR calculation. But I make an effort to use pen and paper every day. Only during winter, if I have time, I can sit down and write neat Calligraphic messages and addresses on the Holiday cards. My office isn’t paper free yet, only because I hang on to my pens and the fine art of writing/ sketching the detail before drawing it on the computer. Speaking of writing, I have a stack of handwritten love letters I wrote when we were in a distant relationship- I don’t know where my twenty thousand emails are, but I know where my handwritten ones are, and I still love the pen I used to write them.
The smell of Sandalwood is woven into every memory of life. I have seen sticks of the heavy yellow wood in my closets, I played with my mother’s old toys still holding that faint sandal smell, sandalwood oil in silver containers with applicators on festivals, and sandalwood pens on my dad’s table. Growing up, sandalwood soap was my favorite. The State Government funded the soap manufacturing and sold it through their signature stores. Quality controlled. But like all good things, eventually the market sneaked up counterfeit “Made in China” soaps and ruined that memory forever..
I keep a Sandalwood pen in my purse always, neatly tucked with the checkbook. There is an intricately carved sandalwood box on my bedside to hold my jewelry. The beauty of Sandalwood is, it’s never an overpowering smell. It’s faint, and it’s long lasting, and it reminds me of all beautiful things. Recently found “Art of Shaving” kit in Sandalwood- I don’t think my husband will ever know about the unscented version. I just love the way he smells.
Drive to nowhere
I have a dream. It doesn’t involve anyone else, it doesn’t involve any milestones and items on my checklist. I want to drive without a purpose, without a goal and test my red’s all wheel monstrosity in a rough terrain that I am not familiar with, and pull up near a cliff, and just sit there.. without any thoughts at all. That would be my favorite thing to do, but I have never done that. Partly because my lungs aren’t the strongest. I tested them at Pike’s Peak last year. Within thirty minutes, I experienced what it is to surrender yourself to nature when you can feel your lungs breathing in and out, when your stomach feels light and you are slightly dizzy. My bones and lungs at thirty eight have the same capacity as my little eight year old’s. Maybe even less.
If I could, that would be my favorite thing to do – Once in a while, just enjoy solitude in a whole different arena.
I haven’t been anywhere I shouldn’t be, or should be searched by a team if lost- I try to live within the boundaries of reality. On Sunday mornings, we go on family hikes, up the mountains of Orange County, most of which end up with views of the Pacific Ocean. Crystal Cove hike is my favorite one, where I can stand at the Vista point watching the ocean.. and go home only when hungry and tired, every muscle in the body aching.
Of all the things I do for a project, (being a project management consultant, I start with FAR research, prepare design packages, then CDs and then take care of RFIs and that ..) my favorite thing is Site visit. I love going to the site, looking at the walls, windows and doors being installed.. the things that I drew on paper coming to life. It’s an overwhelming feeling to walk through the building I designed, remembering the story of behind that fire wall, or that roof slope. I love my job, but I have a favorite among all those things that I love. Wearing caterpillar construction boots and hard hat, and knowing how good or bad the drawings were from the contractor as the critic, and then showing off the building under construction to family..that’s my favorite thing about my work! Putting together a color board used to be my favorite thing for a long time, but after going through a decade worth of vogue and knowing what colors interest and represent the client more, it’s become a routine exercise with little excitement now. It’s a concept to construction journey with every project, and to see it standing, sometimes blending in with its surroundings, and sometimes standing out – that’s my favorite kind of happiness!
There are a thousand other favorite things..
Arabian Jasmine, Dark Chocolate, Mondovi’s Wine, Winter boots and all kinds of shoes, Silk Saris with a back story, cuddling with the kids on a winter morning, finding my shade of nude nail polish, and Toy Story collection..but these are the favorite ones..
And this song that has remained a favorite for a more than a decade..
What are your favorite things?
A list of “favorite thingS” by other architects:
Bob Borson – Life of An Architect
Marica McKeel – Studio MM
Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet
Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect
Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect
Evan Troxel – Archispeak Podcast / TRXL
Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design / The Missing 32% Project
Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect
Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC
Cormac Phalen – Cormac Phalen
Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture