Mostly Handmade Holiday

September 22, 2011

I was happy to see that I’m not the only one preparing for a handmade holiday season before the first day of fall has even landed. Things are very tight this year so most my crafts have to pack a punch and be very inexpensive. I’m very into repurposing fabrics for projects or giving an old item a facelift. I looked through my photo library to see if I had any old projects or ideas to share. Maybe one of these will spark an idea for someone else.

I sew a lot. I have lots of fabric gift ideas, unfortunately most my photos are on my old computer. Luckily, I found a few. None of these are super new ideas but the result will be unique depending on your choices.

Bags are always fun gifts. Simple shapes are easy to knock out and the fabric choices are endless.

This Obi apron comes from a free pattern on Burda Style. I used a mustard linen like material and it’s super cute.

Maybe you can make a pair of custom café curtains for someone. This is a really personal gift and best suited for someone who you really know. You’ll have to measure their window and make refinements as you go.  These curtains were a hit in my old house and I’ve had lots of requests for them!

If you patchwork a bunch of fabric together for curtains and have leftovers, you can use it to make smaller items like pillows. This particular pillow was not sewn together great but you get the idea.

Market bags are always a nice gift. Especially if you live in a city like Santa Monica, Ca that has a plastic shopping bag ban! The styles and fabric choices are endless. Just make sure that they are pretty sturdy. This bag is made out of oilcloth, eyelets and interfaced cotton straps. Repurposed fabrics make great market bags. Think t-shirts, vinyl banners, nylon, and old dresses and skirts.

I love making fabric covered buttons. If you’re like me and have a ton of fabric scraps, this is a great project. You do have to buy the button cover tool and the buttons you can cover. You can get these at Joann’s.  I like to pick 3-5 buttons that compliment each other and attach them to a handmade card. These are great for crafters and non-crafters.

Using embroidery hoops as fabric frames is always nice. I like this giant hoop. You can print a fun saying from a hip poster or embroider it. I would add a wire across the back, like you would on a big picture frame, to hang it straight. You could also print on photo transfer paper for fabric and layer an image or words that way. Make sure if you use words to flip them before you print them or they will transfer backwards. I used foam stamps and fabric paint.

Never underestimate thrift store finds! I’ve found some awesome kitschy art work for just a few dollars. I look at everything through a spray paint lens. The ugliest things can become beautiful mantle worthy pieces with just a little primer and paint! Just make sure you gift these items to the proper personality.

Great framed embroidery thrift store finds! Love the orange frames!

Hard to see here but the wood framed stag etched on glass was a great cheap thrift find!

This white owl used to be a gaudy gold, green, yellow terror. A little primer and paint has transformed it into a cute piece that could grace any mantle. The pitcher/vase was also a thrift store find. Both would make cute presents.

Don’t be afraid to paint on canvas. The outcome may even surprise you! When I’m making a painting for someone else, I really try to see their personality in color. I start with color and I just begin to layer. I’m not a form based painter. I love the abstract and the process of building color, texture, and feeling through movement, experimentation  and emotion. Sometimes I write a special note, poem, or letter inside an envelope that I tuck into the back of the frame. Use a decent gallery canvas and don’t expect to finish in a day. Buy some painting knives, some painters tape and just play. I work on my paintings for weeks and sometimes years! If you get frustrated or disconnected from it just stop and come back to it later.

A painting for myself. Playing with color and texture and memories of sunny play days at the beach.

This painting was a gift for a good friend and represents her love for a complex city.

A painting in the works. Who knows if I'll ever finish it. It's already been about 2 years in the works. Sometimes inspiration just comes and goes.

The next best thing to handmade is buying handmade. Check listings for things like Unique LA and Renegade Craft Fair. We bought some great presents and Renegade Craft Fair a few months ago. One of my favorites is from a seller named Miles to Go. They print t-shirts, bags, etc based on books. The t-shirt pictured is the Stephen King book The Gunslinger. We recently gifted the book and the t-shirt to our nephew. It’s a fun way to get people to read books and support a great small business!

Our loot from the Renegade Craft Fair!

I hope some of these suggestions help or inspire some fun gifts for the holidays or anytime of year. I think gifts should be given all year and for no reason! Get those hands working on a project!

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Big Sur Heart

September 20, 2011

When I head north to Big Sur my heart swells knowing that I’ll be rhythmically winding around the edges of cliffs that drop off into a rocky mountain landscape. Around each bend an enchanting view reveals itself without noise. No imagery shouts at you, it just welcomes you. The water’s edge invites you to breathe, the mountains remind you of your size, and redwoods create a canopy of protection that keep out any agendas you brought with you. Big Sur is a place that calls me when I need healing.

Some days the morning fog settles over your soul and gives your heart a new story to tell. Seeing landscapes in layers can mimic the complex layers that we carry within us. When nature reveals her layers to us, bathed in morning light and dripping in heavy fog, the contrast of emotions can leave us breathless for a moment. For me, this is a moment of meditation that breaks through all our layers of  emotional crust. This is how I heal. It may only be a brief glimpse of a ray of sun casting light off the mountain and into the sea but it can change something in us.

This summer has been really hard. I’ve struggled creatively, professionally, and personally. I can feel paralyzed when all three circles overlap and show signs of stress. I think most people experience this feeling at one time or another. The pressure to have a career is intense. It’s double  intense when you haven’t a clue what you’d like to do in life. It’s triple intense when you’re 35 yrs old and everyone you know is a success. It weighs heavy on my heart. This summer I felt like it was the heaviest it’s ever been. It became near debilitating.

My creative life has suffered for a while. In my current job I teach art. I teach kids to trust themselves and their creative choices. I teach them to own their art and create with confidence. I then come home with great ideas and no action. Sometimes there are obstacles blocking my path that just need money and time. Other times it’s just me blocking my path. The more unhappy I am in other aspects of my life the more my creative life suffers. When that outlet closes up, I close up. I think this is true for many artists and creative types. It’s our life blood. Work is just a means to support creative life. It gets tricky sometimes because if that work drains us it can affect our creative life. For me, the two circles have lots of overlap.

My personal life overlaps with both of the other circles all the time . It’s been stressful. On the one hand, I have the greatest husband, friend, and supporter. I’m so lucky in that department.  I’m grateful every day that I get to wake up next to him. For everything that I’ve done wrong in my life, this was the one thing I did right! He knows me at my deepest core. On the other hand, I’m just pretty miserable with other aspects of my life now. I don’t like living in the valley. I hate my commute. I’m pretty stressed everyday . It’s taxing for everybody and on my body. Getting older isn’t easy. I’ve spent tons of time at the doctor getting poked and prodded and having tests done. This has added a whole new layer of anxiety to everything.

I know I’m not the only one out there that feels the heaviness of these three  areas of life overlapping and making life hard at times.  I do yoga, I meditate, exercise, eat right, and try to land on the side of optimism. Sometimes, it’s not enough to break through our layers. The healing process is different for everyone. For me, it was nice to hit the road with friends and wind through redwoods and listen to water crash on rocks. I may not have broken through all the layers but I was able to start cracking them open.

My suggestion for anyone needing a reboot ni life is to take a road trip. It would be awesome if you could go by yourself or with a trusted partner. Unfold into nature and peel back the layers of anxiety and stress. A great place to  start is in Big Sur, Ca. Drive up Highway 1 and visit the elephant seals in Sam Simeon. If they don’t make you laugh you’re not human. Continue on up to Big Sur and go camping in the redwoods. Take day trips to all the beaches and visit local businesses. Have a drink at Nepenthe and a coffee and pastry at Big Sur Bakery. Take photos, write, draw, paint or just look out into the sea. As Big Sur reveals itself to you, you will recover a piece of yourself in the process.


Happy travels!

                  

it’s been hot. very hot. when it’s hot i crave gazpacho from Le Pain Quotidien  (pictured above).  i owe this great this great discovery to my good friend amie who always knows where to find delicious gourmet foods. in a moment of synchrony a few years ago, we ran into each other at farmer’s market in santa monica.  i was walking around with my mother-in-law pauline and amie wanted to grab some lunch, so we tagged along. as always, she had the perfect suggestion for the moment. this is when i met the gazpacho i have grown to love so much. the reasons for the love are plentiful. something about the smooth texture of the purée with all the flavor notes just sings. the mango also sweetens the bowl and cuts some of the garlic and tomato acidity. the cucumber is delightful. the avocado, if you choose to add it is a great final touch. it’s also served with two types of rustic bread and butter. this cold soup paired with a mint iced tea on a hot day is difficult to top. it’s always consistently good. i personally can’t afford gazpacho everyday in the summer. peter and i went on a mission to recreate it as best we could this last weekend. we looked up some recipes but they were all chunky and had weird additions. we wanted it to be super fresh. we had some non-negotiable elements we wanted to make sure to include in the recipe. the soup  texture was very important. no onions because peter hates them. i wanted to make sure that we had mango and cucumber sliced into the purée for texture variation. i think we knocked it out of the park. it was so delicious. if you  have leftovers, it’s even better the next day. it seems that many people on the internet are searching for how to make this. hope this helps!

this is what we came up with. it’s a blend of a few random recipes on the internet and whatever we could remember  from the Le Pain Quotidien. for us, the most important part was the two different textures. smooth soup with some  sliced cucumber, mango slices, radish slices, and avocado  slices. nothing about this recipe is static! feel free to play around with it! it’s an easy one to riff on. it’s really healthy too. enjoy!

 

Gazpacho 

makes about 5 small-medium bowls

Ingredients:

10 on the vine tomatoes

2 japanese cucumbers or 1 regular cucumber

1 yellow, red or orange bell pepper

1 large jalapeño

1 mango

2 large cloves garlic

2 large radishes

1 lemon

1 handful of flat leaf italian parsley

1 handful of cilantro

1 handful of basil

*1 avocado

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp white grape balsamic vinegar or substitute with red wine vinegar

sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

Directions:

Dice and salt the tomatoes. Drain and reserve liquid.

In a food processor, finely dice/mix (almost purée) 1 cucumber, bell pepper, jalapeño, 1 radish, ½ a mango, parsley, cilantro, basil, garlic and  tomatoes.

You’re going to blend this mixture next.  I just find it easier to blend if it’s all been diced.

In a blender add the the ingredients you just diced, oil, vinegar, and  the juice of half a lemon. Puree.

Add the reserved liquid from the tomatoes as needed to reach the desired consistency. You may want to transfer to a large bowl and use a hand blender at this point.

Julienne the remaining cucumber (cut ½ inch in length), slice or dice the remaining mango and thinly slice the second radish. Add to soup and chill in fridge.  It’s ready to serve when it’s nice and cold.

*Optional: Add sliced avocado before serving.

Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with a lemon wedge.  Serve with crusty gourmet bread.

rediscovery

July 20, 2011

moving has been great for peter and myself. we’ve gotten out of the house more, recommitted to our creative paths, taken on new challenges, reconnected with friends, and really found a space to breathe. our old apartment was so small and our furniture so big that it just weighed us down.  there was no room to do anything, especially for people with as many hobbies as hipsters have clever t-shirts. it just felt like our creative and social animals were dying!

this summer has been pretty lovely so far. we’ve been out and about!

there are some simple pleasures in los angeles! often, longtime residents like myself become jaded by the plasticity of the energy that seeps out of every crevice of this city. it’s hard to find substance in a city that asks you to wear a mask all the time and where everyone wants to put on a mask.  we forget that we have a beautiful coastline and mountains nestled into that coastline. we have amazing music venues like the hollywood bowl and little neighborhoods that offer you something outside of your hood. there are so many great restaurants and gastropubs popping up that are serving fun food for decent prices.  our farmers markets are awesome and the bbq weather has been perfect! every weekend there is some sort of festival promoting food, art, music, craft, or all the above.  when i transferred some photos to my computer this morning i was looking at all these great moments.

our culture has trained us to move on. i just did all these activities recently, and already the pace of the city has made me forget the moments. i guess the lesson always lies in gratitude and remembering that creative and positive moments are sleeping all around us, we just have awaken and feed those moments!

go out and rediscover your city or just try to appreciate it! not everything is plastic here. most things but everything!

 

summer days phase 1:

hollywood bowl

 

bbqing at our friend chaz’s house

    

renegade craft fair (los angeles historical park)

playa del rey (my old stomping grounds)

the tripel (awesome post beach beers in playa del rey)

free subway rides (personally i loved carmeggedon!)

chinatown

olvera street

union station

staring out my new window

so excited for phase 2 because it involves camping in big sur!

california love

June 24, 2010

the crusty tight layer of the city that feels like paper mache around my heart begins to crack and shed layers  when i drive up  highway 1. i look forward to my annual pilgrimage to big sur.  you can imagine my heartbreak when i woke up the morning i was to leave for a family trip with terrible stomach pains and flu-like symptoms. the roads i look so forward to winding around began to take whatever wind i had in my sails out.  its hard to have a sunny disposition when you’re going camping with flu symptoms. while this trip was not one i’d put at the top of my favorites due to my nausea and tummy pains i still managed to see many beautiful vistas and spend time with peter and my family.  we’d never gone on a trip with my family so i was really looking forward to it.

we camped at plaskett creek which is close to the town of lucia. the campground wasn’t bad  minus the outhouse situation. it’s pretty far south of big sur and if you’re into camping with amenities this may not be your place. you can cross highway 1 and walk to sand dollar beach which is incredible! i heard jade cove is nearby but we couldn’t fit it in.the next campground up highway one is kirk creek and it looks awesome. it’s right on the ocean cliffs. it could be a wind nightmare or the most beautiful camp spot in california.

camping south of big sur was beautiful. it was a different experience than camping in the canopy of trees in the north. it has more sun and beaches.  i think i prefer the camping in big sur only because i love the culture of the hippies and artists that make their living in the redwoods. big sur is just such a magical and inspiring getaway. nature just can’t help but climb up into your soul…even if you have the flu!

optimal enchantment

April 25, 2010

it’s been a tough week. i’ve been living in this very emotional and stagnant place for too long. this past weekend i hit the wall with my thoughts. we really can become prisoners of our own minds. the cycle of repetitive thoughts, thinking about tomorrow instead of today and projecting fears onto ourselves. worst of all, this stagnant crust begins to grow and it  paralyzes us from being positive. i knew what i had to do. i had to seek optimal enchantment.

optimal enchantment can be found in a room on the second floor of a building on santa monica blvd in santa monica. i call it optimal enchantment because of the sign that says that inside of the building. i think that is what it says. regardless, it is what i wanted it to say in that moment. the real name of this place is santa monica power yoga. about ten years ago i stepped foot into this space nervously. what the hell was my friend making me do?

smpy has a lot of lovers and a lot of haters. people love it or hate it. for me, brian kest changed my life. he was my first yoga teacher. smpy is his donation based studio. when i started there, they had one location. a weird room upstairs that always had a crazy line around the corner for yoga. it’s a smelly room with no frills. its kinda what i love about it. some people don’t like the crowded room but i feed off it. the energy of people coming together to level out. there is nothing like it. some people don’t like his teaching style because it’s so physical. i argue what starts out as physical seamlessly evolves into a mind and body practice.

when i first started doing yoga, i was in a job i hated and had a lot of personal anger towards the world. i’m the shy and quiet type but my anger had just kept growing over the years. it was this cycle of anger and anxiety that found me in my first downward dog. when i first entered into my practice i wasn’t sure what was going on and didn’t totally know how to listen to my body. all i knew was that i was working some shit out. i noticed that i was calmer at work and my body didn’t hurt when i was on my feet all day. i actually even took up running for a while because i learned how to breathe.

i was lucky, my back corner spot was open. it was like no time had passed. my heart instantly began to feel full and we hadn’t even started class yet. it was a nice reminder that making the extra effort to level out and find balance is always worth it. i wasn’t even upset that brian wasn’t there to teach. travis took his place and i welcomed it. it was hard to remember to listen to my body until i tried to lift one leg in the air and realized i had a muscle pain in my leg. the kind that could rip if not listened to. this was a reminder of how important it is to move our bodies daily. that emotional and stagnant feeling builds up in our muscles when we stop caring for our bodies.

i stand on my feet all day on concrete floors, half hunched over teaching children or cleaning up their art messes. my muscles begin to forget that they need opening up. that crusty layer of ick began to peel itself off as soon as i entered into my first child’s pose. it was amazing. i left class and i felt like i reset my mind. i felt like i connected with that moment after my very first class,10 years ago, when i emerged from this room and everything was crisp. leaves on every tree were vivid and alive. i felt open and ready to heal. next time i feel like fear, anxiety and my own thoughts are cocooning  around me, i will remember to seek optimal enchantment in that special little hidden stinky room above the radio shack on santa monica blvd. namaste.

cultivating patience

April 2, 2010

it’s  that time of year in southern california when the weather seems unseasonable compared to other parts of the country. early spring hikes, premature wearing of flip-flops and our first pair of shorts find their way into our wardrobe rotation. its invigorating and exciting to watch our natural world wake up. leaves unfurl themselves, pesky bugs begin snooping around my plants and the farmer’s markets begin to fill with tantalizing fruits and veggies.

last year we began growing our own fruits and veggies in our garden. many were a success and some went to that farm upstate where bad plants go to live out the sad end of their lives. this year we are trying again to be our own farmers. allow me to preface this by saying that we’re growing all our veggies and fruits in containers. we have a small yard and no room to plant in ground, so we’re going the container route.

peter has started many seeds inside the house, while we already have some larger plants growing outside. the picture above shows his sprouting seeds from hatch, new mexico. peter grew up in el paso ,tx  and often drove through the chile fields in hatch and has quite fond memories of fresh delicious sun-kissed hatch chilies. that being said, we were sadly informed that hatch chiles can only be called hatch chiles if the are grown in hatch, new mexico. so we are calling them our hatch inspired chiles! they are doing great so far, probably because I’ve had nothing to do with them!

we’re also working on sprouting some carrots, peas and radishes. outside we’ve planted swiss chard, eggplants, strawberries, jalapeños and grapes. many people may say “why bother?” i say, because it feels so good! i love being connected to my food. whether we get to harvest all these plants or not, we get to watch them evolve and learn about the process of growing food.  one day when we have a larger garden it will be so rewarding to be able to plant rows or chard, lettuce and chiles and perhaps know what we’re doing. these are all test rounds. farmers aren’t great farmers overnight.

the other aspect of growing your own food that is nice is the meditative process of cultivating patience. peter has taught me that, by tending to his baby seeds everyday. it is amazing to watch another person connect to the process the way he has. patience is everything with gardening. perhaps that’s why i’m not the most talented gardener!

if all goes well, we plan on having a nice harvest party at the end of the year. we’re vegetarians and also live a gluten-free lifestyle. this makes it so hard to join dinner parties or even accept an invitation anymore. i think people feel that we’re a pain in the ass. this is true. we’re a pain in the ass. we can’t eat a lot of things! hopefully our harvest bbq will show that we can be social and eat at he same time. we also hope to showcase some delicious gluten-free and vegetarian foods complete with recipe book! it should be fun and enlightening experience for everyone!

lets hope our plants all make it to harvest!

it was a sunny and beautiful weekend here in los angeles. more importantly, it was the kind of day where valley dwellers like myself wake up and realize you have to go out and enjoy the day. soon it will be too hot to breathe and taking in the outdoors becomes very unpleasant, unless you are digging your feet in the sand at the beach. we headed out to malibu canyon. believe it or not, i’ve lived in or near los angeles my whole life and I rarely explored hiking in malibu. it almost seems like I should be kicked out of california for not deciding to do so until now.

we took the grassland trail (I think) off of mulhulland. first we came across this silo tower structure. it was on top of a hill that only had a narrow trail leading to it. we decided to go for it because the color gradations on the tower were so beautiful. coppers and rust colors decaying into each other against a beautiful backdrop. we’ve been drawn to these copper rusting techniques lately being used in backyard designs. i needed to get a picture to add to my color and texture folder that I keep for art projects and things of that nature. so up we went.


when we reached the top we noticed a tiny door to the structure. i was terrified that it was filled with rattlesnakes. this is a rational fear as many rattlesnakes reside in the brush of the canyons. we peeked our heads in and gasped. the only lighting in the structure is provided by a few cut out circles in the roof. the walls were completely covered in  graffiti and paintings. after doing a quick animal and snake check we went inside. so many cool things to take pictures of. the lighting was intense too. with my claustrophobia creeping up on me, i began to freak myself out after swearing that I heard snakes and quickly snapped a few pictures and then squatted down and squeezed through the tiny door.



we descended the little hill and got back on the trail. a few feet later we saw a rattlesnake slithering into the brush. see, i’m not crazy…rattlesnakes. we kept moving on. we didn’t have any idea where any trails went. we just decided to hike out to the site where MASH was filmed. there were lots of gross parts where there was stagnant water and flies and mosquitos but overall not to bad and not too strenuous….but kinda far. we hiked around for about three hours. the MASH site was anticlimactic…but i’m glad i went to see where all the action took place. all in all it was a great day to be outside and the scenery was lovely. also, i got to spend the day with pete which always makes me happy.


sculpting nature

March 27, 2010

over a year ago we found this amazing palm frond on a walk. immediately peter and I knew we had to turn it into a sculpture. here we are a year later and we still have not mounted it onto wood. we want to attach it to a block of wood so that it’s standing on top of it. stay tuned for the results. i should warn you not to hold your breathe. we’re moving like turtles on this one. perhaps this is due to it’s natural beauty. it gently leans against walls in our house perfectly content not to be mounted onto wood. perhaps this piece is speaking to us and we just can’t bear to alter it. ah, but mounted on a would block it would look so sweet!

i love creating bold art inspired by nature’s lines and curves. I endlessly search for these big huge fronds but I never find one as beautiful as the one we found on accident. we keep expecting it to erode or dry out and crumble but it hasn’t. perhaps, the frond’s impending impermanence is it’s main draw. just writing about this sun baked frond is making me restless for an early evening walk somewhere like malibu canyon park. I already have my shoes on….

california woodcut prints

September 5, 2009

October_Splendor

lately, I’ve been researching california artists. one of my favorite california artists is frances gearhart (1869-1958). her woodcuts are bold in color which veered away from the subtle color tints of japanese woodcuts. her woodcuts are  from  all over california. i’m drawn to the warm colors of her woodcut prints. you can view a collection of her works here.