olend backpack in green

I came across Ölend the way one usually finds beautiful things: by accident. And when I discover something this unique, I go to great lengths to find out all about it. Adriana Dumon and Fran Rios started making backpacks by hand for their friends. They loved doing this so much that they turned it into a business. Ölend is an example of the comeback of slow fashion – a return to small-batch production and the use of locally-sourced materials. The Barcelona natives’ love for the craft is what keeps their young entrepreneurial spirits alive, despite a dismal Spanish economy that does not readily support young business owners. Inspired by the alpinist’s packs of the 50s, each canvas backpack is made-to-order, and all colors and trims are picked by the customer. People are catching on and business is flourishing. Even in the midst of a full schedule of orders, Adriana still took the time to answer my questions.

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There is a scene in many movies where the girl is in a record/book store, flipping through vinyls/books, and some slick guy comes up next to her to start making conversation about whatever title/artist/author she is looking at. If movies actually depicted reality, that scene could happen in The Truck Store. But in reality, it’s a Hollywood fabrication to appeal to all the hopeless romantics out there, because these indie record stores are fighting to survive and increasingly harder to find! If you read my post about Oxford earlier this week, you may have noticed I mentioned The Truck Store. The shop is a rare gem belonging to the dying breed of independent record stores. It’s a place for vinyl collectors, music connoisseurs, people still stuck in the 80s, and those who believe their life is secretly a movie.

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With a Friday off work, and an urge to explore, a friend and I decided to spend the day in Oxford. We got on a bus from Victoria station, and headed north-west, into the green English countryside. It felt good to leave the grey chaos of London behind, and slow down from our usual walking pace. We wandered through one of the most visited cities in England, though trying to appear as local as possible.

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GOOD READS Everywhere

A word of caution: none of these books are new. Nor are they on this year’s NYT best sellers list, or on the entry table as you walk into your local bookstore. They are, as the title simply suggests, good reads. And while they may not be the hot pick for book clubs this month, a good read is always a good read; worth revisiting if you’ve already shelved them.

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MONDAY TUNES: #7 Everywhere

I like songs with a story. Maybe it’s because I like writing them. Stories, I mean. I also like music videos with a story; these short films that reveal a song’s narrative. And then there’s our story; the one that we think about when we hear a song. There’s always a place where we first heard the song, and the people it reminds us of become the characters. It turns out there can be several stories in just one song…

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We’re looking forward to longer days and pushing the clocks ahead this weekend. We’re looking at a diary full of summer plans, future travels, and a best friend’s wedding. We’re looking forward to a Barcelona music festival in May, and the beginning of Texan heat in June. We’re anxious about graduations, finishing a chapter, and opening new books. We’re looking forward to family visits in London and August in Madrid. We’re looking at our emails for promising results; looking forward to hearing back from that writing contest entered last month. We’re looking forward a lot lately, because sometimes seeing what’s ahead is the only way to stay calm in the present. Looking ahead shows us the point of not giving up today. Where we are now is the only place that will get us to what we’re really looking forward to.

[Photo credit: c/o Carmen Gonzalez]


One of the great things about falling down the rabbit hole of the internet, is that you can find another world at the other end. In this case, an illustrated world. On one of my recent trips through the internet, I came across the colorful site of the Tokyo Illustrators Society. Their new page archives the work of some of Japan’s finest talent (and provides a somewhat addictive gallery of inspirational material). This was where I found the work of Kondo Yoshie, and her charming illustrated city guides.

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We can’t seem to get enough of Italy around here recently. It was only a week ago that I spent Saturday getting lost (literally) in the streets alleys of Venice. And, if I could plan my ideal weekend right now, it would be sitting along the edge of the port, sun on my face, ice cream in hand, feet dangling over Canale di Fusina. Not a car or bus in sight. But I guess that’s what daydreaming is for.

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Given the general subject matter of my blog, I’m surprised it has taken me this long to create a Monday playlist with this theme. But be warned: this is not a “world music” playlist (that genre is bogus anyway, because world music is essentially all music. But that’s a different debate for another day). No, this Monday’s tunes are from different places but also for different places. There is music for lying on a beach, music for the open road, music for dancing, and music for dreaming about dropping everything and going somewhere; anywhere. There are rhythms that will make you want to stop and look at everything closely, but also rhythms that will make your feet itch with the desire to just get up and go.

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When I was in Venice last weekend it seemed I was on a futile hunt for a few postcards to send to family and friends. I am a postcard junkie (my wall is covered in them) and I am still old fashioned in the sense that I like to send a hand-written note when I travel. What I don’t like, however, are old fashioned postcards – the kind with the 90s ‘WordArt’ lettering which have yellowed from sitting in the twirling stand for so long. You’d think a place as photo-op friendly as Venice would sell a decent postcard! I certainly didn’t find one… So that’s when I decided to try out the new postcard app,

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