present joys

Week of February 6, 2024


Words by:

Joyce Chai + Michelle Jolliffe-Saper


Dancers wearing costumes by Rei Kawakubo

Merce Cunningham & Rei Kawakubo

I picked up a few DVD’s on a recent trip to Vidiots, including a recording of Merce Cunningham’s Split Sides. Two sets of choreography, music, costuming, and sets were created for this piece and the resulting performance would vary based on a series of dice tosses to determine which elements would be paired and performed. With Split Sides’ scores created by Radiohead and Sigur Rós, this had me curious about Cunningham’s other collaborations. I discovered the list is as long as it is impressive, including John Cage (Cunningham’s life partner), Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and more. A personal favorite collaboration is Scenario (shown above) in which Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo created the costumes. Kawakubo’s lumpy, bumpy costumes remind me of this article written by Su Wu as an ode to Issey Miyake. In it, she writes:

Miyake’s clothes, in their billows and points and general ill-fittingness—as well as in their material investigations—leave a legacy of us not looking our best. Instead, they suggest what other pursuits there exist for fashion beyond flattery, and desires far better for which to fall.

I just love this sentiment of clothing to be worn sans any illusory intent (to look smaller, taller, etc.) but as simply an expression of one’s own self.

Still from Minari

Magical Thinking

I recently spotted Minari director Lee Isaac Chung in line at my local coffee shop. Admittedly forgetting his name, I googled “Minari director” and found this article which revealed the impetus for his 2020 film. While sitting in a South Pas coffee shop, the words “Willa Cather” simply appeared to him. As the article explains, this incident led him to researching Cather, an American novelist, and eventually finding his own story in Minari. I’ve been feeling somewhat aimless lately, lacking some of the hope a new year usually provides me, so reading this article gave me an unexpected lift. It was a lovely reminder of what magical thinking exists within reach of our subconscious if only we allow it.

Bruce Log

I always say that having a dog elevates your baseline level of happiness, but the ways in which that is true sure have been fun to realize. Whenever we take Bruce out for a walk, it’s inevitable that we’ll be stopped by many a doting passerby. I started keeping an incomplete log of responses that Bruce elicits, my own personal Overheard LA of sorts. It’s so cute to witness the uninhibited joy a puppy brings out in people and the supplemental commentary leaves me chuckling.

Washi Paper Incense

My friends Jon and Nas recently returned from a trip to Indonesia (with a layover in Japan) and generously brought back so many fun gifts from their travels, including these washi paper incense strips. The incense comes with a little standing clip with which to hold a single strip as it burns. Beyond being fun to use, they smell incredible and I absolutely love that each strip is printed with a mini mantra. Strip burning today reads: “Have a lovely day!”

Sunday breakfast for Van and I

Nourishing Meals

Lately, I’ve found so much and joy and inspiration from being in the kitchen. Rather than approaching healthy eating with a restrictive mindset, it’s been so freeing to build meals with more in mind. More herbs, more colors, more variety. I’ve been happily squirreling away in the kitchen–roasting vegetables, soaking beans, and simmering stews. Highly recommend the Dimes Times cookbook if you’re in need of some meal ideas. It’s chock full of nourishing recipes presented within an unconventional (but not annoying) cookbook design.


Darning is darn good fun, but also takes ages, like most skills worth learning, to do well. I had a fantastic time learning the ins-and-outs (literally) of visible mending from Ariana MT (@dizzydarns) at their tac-tile mountain workshop a few weeks ago. I’m looking forward to continued exploration of this craft and to keeping my dearly loved, overly worn clothes for many more years to come. Keep an eye out for future workshops! Aliana also hosts @rovingsocialclub, a biweekly maker and artist circle established to create shared community.

Credit: @big.inhackney

Positive Self-Talk

In the past few months I’ve begun learning about the power of the mind in shaping our realities. Much of what I’ve been reading makes so much sense that I find it utterly confounding that I can simultaneously understand and agree with the content, but then irrationally(?) continue to be so hard on myself. It’s a WIP, as are all of our lives, but I’m enjoying giving more grace (and space) to the process. Open to any and all insights or resources on this. More thoughts on the topic below.


My best friend Nina handed me this lovely, homemade card last weekend when she was visiting. It was so cute and thoughtful just as it was that I didn’t think to turn it around to see whether there might be something on the other side, which of course there was: an invitation to be Winslow’s godmother! Not being religious or having any children of my own, I was at first puzzled by the question. Who me? Are you sure? No, not me. Fortunately, that moment of self-doubt was quickly usurped by feelings of love and expansiveness that I hadn’t felt in quite some time. This ask, this opportunity to nurture a closer bond with Winslow and her parents, was not something I should be worried about, it was something I should embrace and show up for just as I am. It made me consider the other areas of my life that I may be limiting because of a fear of being “lesser than” and how perhaps that fear can just as easily be converted into opportunity if I choose to see it that way.

Dates with Tajín

I saw these at Sprouts the other day as I was browsing EVERY SINGLE AISLE as any sane, methodical person does, and, I swear, I stood at this display for a solid two-three minutes. The temptation to buy these treats was immediate, but, alas, I resisted as I knowingly had both dates and tajín at home (purchasing a full box was too much of a commitment without knowing whether I would actually enjoy the combo). I headed home and tried the pairing…YUM! The trick is to cut the dates into strips, dehydrate them a bit in the oven, and then finish them off with tajín while still warm so that they cool down into a single sweet and spicy treat. Other great tajín pairings on rotation at our house: grapes, papaya, jicama, cucumbers. For the fresh fruit and veg, make sure to add lime juice too!

The bar area at Bar Chelou. Credit: @tommy.lei

Bar Chelou

If you’re looking for a date night spot on the east side, Bar Chelou is fantastic. The food was incredible and the cozy, dark, and atmospheric bar area was really lively, but not too loud. Situated next to the Pasadena Playhouse, Bar Chelou and a show would be a perfect night in my book.

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