Category Archives: My Favorite Things

My Favorite Things – The Wonderful Illustrated World of Izak Zenou

I’ve been a fan of Izak Zenou’s illustrations ever since I moved to the Big Apple.  His work is an inspiration to me for its chic, yet cheerful and fun vibe.  The illustrations look effortless and always capture lively movement.  And I love that his girls are often in recognizable New York settings.

Henri Bendel Holidays by Izak Zenou

Lately, I’ve even taken my hero worship a step further and have tried my hand at creating my drawings, a lá Izak, with ink and a bamboo reed pen.

Portrait of Pina Ferlisi Henri Bendel creative director portrait with Izak_LR

The beauty of drawing in ink and with a somewhat unpredictable implement like a bamboo reed is that each illustration is unique.  Furthermore, imperfections can become inspiration for the direction the illustration takes.  (Needless to say, no two illustrators will use the pens the same way!)

Portrait of Pina Ferlisi, Henri Bendel creative director from Retrospective opening night

As a “cyber disciple” of Izak’s, I was super excited to learn that this year’s Henri Bendel holiday windows not only feature Izak’s work – a collaboration that has spanned 20 years – but that the entire store has been fashioned as a retrospective of his work.  Even better, Bendel’s is hosting “A Very Henri Holiday Sweepstakes” this year.  You can enter to win the Grand Prize :

  • Win a trip to NYC for an exclusive portrait session with Izak Zenou, a one-of-a-kind Henri Bendel handbag hand-painted by Izak and a $1,500 shopping spree at Henri Bendel

And Two Runner Up prizes:

  • Two runners up will each win a one-of-a-kind Henri Bendel handbag hand-painted by Izak.

(Maybe Bendel’s will also create a prize specially for me so that I can just be a fly on the wall and watch Izak draw!)  

In any case, if you like Izak’s work as much as I do, you can enter the sweepstakes online at or in-store at any Henri Bendel store. The contest ends at 11:59pm ET on 12/24/15.


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Filed under art, My Favorite Things, support the arts, techniques, Tool Box, Uncategorized

My Favorite Things (Day 4) – Sydney’s Taronga Zoo

The temperature in Sydney dropped 30 degrees overnight (a welcome change from the 100-degree oven that was yesterday!) so my husband and I made our way across the harbor today to enjoy the Taronga Zoo.

We were welcomed by a noisy fur seal and two sea lions…

two seals and a fur seal

And from there ambled on to visit one of my favorites – the gorillas!  

Momma and baby gorilla

(The little one seemed intent on exploring.)

Baby gorilla goes sleuthing

Curious baby gorilla

curious george

Meanwhile, in a small pond nearby, this large beaked pelican was busy with some personal hygiene.


It was lunch time for the koalas…

Two Koalas

Koala eating leaves

And the chimps were returning home after a long day’s work…

Chimps coming home from work

Comparing the price of carrots…

Chimps comparing carrots

And seeing what was left in the pantry…

Chimp eating corn flakes

Big and little chimps eating lunch

Before they pooled their resources and had a family picnic.

family picnic

We moved on to the lemurs…


And to the giraffes.  Quite the view they have, isn’t it?!

Giraffe with view to the Sydney Opera House

Giraffe chewing on stick

We passed by one solitary elephant…

Elephant at the Sydney Zoo

A colorful rooter…

rooster walking away

colorful rooster

A turkey…




And a proud peacock…

Peacock portrait

(Who squawked at me for taking so many close-ups.)

Squawking peacock

In the Australian Walkabout section of the zoo, we came face-t0-face (no fence here, folks!) with kangaroos…

kangaroo sitting against the fence

Kangaroo looking to the side

Sleeping Kangaroo

A wallaby…


And a few emus.

Emu and friend


From there we made our way to see the meerkats…

Two Meerkats

Standing Meerkat

Meerkat standing in profile



And a rather restless sun bear.

sun bear standing up

sun bear

The Himalayan Tahrs were ready to call it a day…

Himalayan Tahr

And so were we, but I made one last detour to see the baby gorilla.

baby gorilla




Filed under Influences, My Favorite Things, photography, travel, travel photography

My Favorite Things (Part 3) – Sydney’s Cafes and Bakeries

One of the things that has struck me the most about Sydney, Australia is the seemingly endless collection of cafes and bakeries.  Not only does Sydney seem serious about its coffee, but the overwhelming variety of desserts, pastries, breads, tarts and treats leaves me with little else to say , except…

“Oh my!”

Here’s what’s caught my eye so far (Warning: Drooling may commence at any moment.)

Beautifully colorful little cakes, pastries and macarons at Zumbo Cakes in the Queen Victoria Building:

Zumbo cakes

Assorted pastries at Nosh2

Pretty little cakes at Zumbo

Macarons at Zumbo

Colorful cakes at Zumbo

Cupcakes, cakes, muffins, bars, and tortes at the Metropole Café

Assorted cakes at Metropole bakery

Assorted cakes at Metropole cafe 2

Assorted cakes at Metropole Cafe

And tarts, trifles and assorted treats at Nosh Box Cafe.

Lovely assortment of cakes

Assorted pastries at Nosh

Now you’re probably wondering which of these many cakes I’ve tried.  The truth is only ONE (so far)!  Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I had some time to spend together so we went on a lunch date to the Queen Victoria Building (fabulous collection of high end shops, not to mention quite a few of the cafes above).

After splitting a modest but delicious grilled wrap sandwich, we headed up to the Old Vienna Coffee House for dessert.  

Old Vienna Cafe in Sydney

Choosing from the decadent display of cakes wasn’t easy…

Cakes at Old Vienna cafe

But we eventually settled on splitting a piece of the Sacher Torte.

Sacher torte at Old Vienna Cafe

Happiness on a plate!


Filed under Dining, My Favorite Things, photography, travel

My Favorite Things (Part 2): Bondi Beach and the Coastal Walk

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of days spent on the beaches of Portugal.  And probably because of that, just hearing the surf and being able to stick my toes in the water makes me feel like I’ve REALLY escaped.

On Tuesday I escaped to Bondi Beach, which just happens to be Australia’s most famous beach.

Bondi Beach

The temperature was relatively cool (77 degrees), and just perfect for a stroll along the Coastal Walk.

Coastal Walk path

natural pools by the side of the ocean

Meandering along the natural rock formations…

rocks on the coastal walk

interesting rock along the coastal walk

The walk follows the bluffs taking you high up over the ocean.  The sights are spectacular at every turn! 

Ring rock

The bird’s eye vantage point (and a good zoom lens) offers great views of the surfers below.

surfers off of the coastal walk in Australia

surfers having fun

Not to mention a bathing beauty or two!

woman sitting on a rock near the ocean

At Tamarama Beach I turned back because I was getting hungry.  The views on the way back to Bondi Beach were just as spectacular of course!

Bondi beach coastal walk

Although it was mid-afternoon and I was famished when I got back to Bondi Beach, I had to stick my toes in the sand and water before getting lunch…

Selfie portrait in the sand

(Not to mention that it was fun to get some close-up shots of the surfers.)

surfer riding the wave2

surfer riding the wave

(And yes, the water is that turquoise and clear!)

Lunch was fried calamari  (rings just a little smaller than the O-shaped rock I saw on the Coastal Walk!) which I ate at a picnic table on the beach.  I couldn’t take a picture of my food since flocks of hungry seagulls were eyeing me greedily and I needed to be vigilant.

Even so, this Australian White Ibis swooped in over my shoulder and made off with my last calamari ring!  

Calamari Thief


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Filed under My Favorite Things, nature, photography, travel, travel photography

My Favorite Things – Walking Across the Sydney Harbor Bridge

On my first afternoon in Sydney, Australia, we made our way to the Sydney Opera House.

The view is majestic all around and I couldn’t help noticing the climbers across the bay atop the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

Sydney Harbor Bridge

So I announced to my husband that I, too, was going to climb the Sydney Bridge in the next days.  However, upon doing a bit of research online, I discovered that the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb was not only a bit out of my price range (think $150 starting cost), but also not as simple as I had imagined.  Each climber is outfitted in a bridge suit and tethered to the bridge.  No cameras are allowed and all jewelry, hair clips and other loose clothing must be left behind since the winds can be quite extreme.  Given that standing anywhere near the edge of our 30th floor balcony in our apartment in Sydney makes my knees go weak, I came to the realization that a climb like this was NOT something I’d enjoy.  Fortunately, the less daring adventurers like me have the more palatable option of walking across the bridge on the lower level…even better, this walk is FREE.

On Monday after walking my husband to work (did I mention that he’s a guest conductor with the Australian Ballet for a month of performances at the Sydney Opera House?)…

My husband on his way to work at the Sydney Opera House

I climbed the grand staircase of the Opera House for a closer look.

View from the grand staircase at the Sydney Opera House

An interesting view of the Sydney Opera House

Roofs of the Sydney Opera House

There isn’t an uninteresting angle here, and the reflections from the Opera House windows are pretty neat, too!

Reflection of the Sydney Harbor from the Sydney Opera House

Although I could have spent more time photographing, I decided it was time to make my way around the harbor to the bridge…

Sydney Harbor

And so I did.

Another view of the Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House from across the quay

Finding the staircase which leads up to the Sydney Harbor Bridge in The Rocks neighborhood wasn’t hard, and up I went.

Stairway up to Sydney Harbor Bridge

Walkers on the Sydney Harbor Bridge

As I started my walk, the bridge climbers were just starting theirs…

Two climbers ascending the staircase on the Sydney Harbor Bridge

And another group was on their way back down.

Groups of climbers atop Sydney Harbor Bridge

Speaking of, even from my vantage point on the lower level of the bridge, it felt like a LONG way down!

A long way down

And I had to hold on to the railings every time I stopped to take photos (but as you can see, I didn’t let this hold me back.)

Side view of Sydney Harbor Bridge

Far above the Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House as seen from Sydney Harbor Bridge

Sydney Harbor as seen from Sydney Bridge

At the highest part of the bridge, in a show of support for Paris during the recent unfolding of tragic events, the French flag has been flying along with the Australian flag.  (The Opera House has also been bathed in red, white and blue lights at night.)

French flag over the Sydney Harbor Bridge

As I stopped to reflect and pay my respect, I imagine that the climbers standing high above me near the flag were doing the same.

Sydney Harbor bridge walkers as seen from below


Filed under My Favorite Things, photography, travel, travel photography

My Favorite Things – The Colors of Fall in Central Park

I don’t think the fall colors are quite yet at their peak in the park, but we’re probably getting close!  You be the judge…

The lake in Central Park in the fall

tree turning colors in Central Park

San Remo towers through the fall foliage

fall colors reflected in the lake in Central Park

Fall colors along Central Park South

orange tree in the fall

fall colors against a blue sky

Ah, I do so love fall!


Filed under My Favorite Things, nature, New York, photography

My Favorite Things – Making Good Progress on an Illustration

Lately I’ve been throwing caution to the wind (or at least trying to!) and have been drawing my illustrations directly in India ink with a bamboo quill sketching pen.  The idea is to go with the flow, literally, and let the pen and its somewhat unpredictable lines direct the outcome of the illustration.

Last night this windswept girl emerged.

Windswept Girl

When I went to bed, I wasn’t quite sure exactly where she was going (or coming from) but today I had a better idea and with my Aquash water brush laid out a suggestion of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline in the background.

Windswept Girl 2

The addition of a lamp post and the darkening of some of the points of interest has now brought the illustration to this point.

Windswept Girl 3

What’s next?  Well, first a Wicked performance tonight, but hopefully when I return to my drafting table tomorrow I’ll be in the right frame of mind to add the appropriate touches of color!  Stay tuned…


Filed under Aquash pen, art, City Girl Designs, drawing, education, fashion illustration, fashion sketches, illustration, ink sketches, inspiration, motivation, My Favorite Things, New work, New York, pen and ink, practicing drawing, techniques, Tool Box