Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Christmas wrap up . . . before heading into the New Year

Hello and happy Wednesday (night)! Another week-- and another year!-- is almost over. As it seems my days have been lately, this week was also a doozy, from drama with the roommate's quasi-girlfriend who was staying with us after her parents kicked her out (l-o-n-g story) to a little extra stress at work because my editor is on vay-cay (he is proposing to his long-time girlfriend on NYE!) to the boy getting punched in the face at work today by one of his employees (wtf? again, long story). Safe to say, I'm glad tomorrow is Thursday and that Friday is a day off!

Since my last post, I still haven't gotten caught up on reading your blogs. Apologies! I am going through one of those times where I am super busy and can't seem to muster the energy to post or comment. And when I do actually have time to check back into the blog world, I have no motivation. Do you ever feel like that? Please say you do to make me feel better :)

Anyway, I hope everyone who celebrated the holiday had a wonderful Christmas. Mine was quite nice, though there was a lot of driving involved and poor Hazel was thoroughly exhausted by the time we got home. And the boy and I were exhausted too!

Here's some photos I snapped between opening gifts and eating a prime rib and baked potato dinner (yum!) at my parents' house:

Setting up my grandmama's hand-painted nativity set each year is one of my favorite traditions and a beautiful reminder of her.

Hazel got tons of toys and treats this Christmas, all wrapped in tissue paper for her shredding pleasure. Ripping open the packages was more fun for her than getting to the gift inside... though she's been having fun trying out (and squeaking!) all her new toys this past week.

My mom and dad got to open their gifts from us first.

Hazel "helps" my dad unwrap as the boy looks on. Side note: Isn't the mantel pretty?

My brother gives his new shades a thumbs up.

Hazel refused to look at the camera for mommy...

... both times. She was investigating upstairs.

Twinkle, twinkle.

My mom's snowy village.

We ended the night on a sweet note with a traditional Danish dessert that we have every Christmas: homemade rice pudding with raspberry sauce. We Danes play this game where you stir a blanched almond into the pudding and whoever finds it in their bowl wins a chocolate prize. (My mom won this year, but we all got smaller chocolate consolation prizes, too.)

Now that I'm older, the best part of Christmas is seeing the reaction of my family and friends when they open their gifts. I think everyone liked what I got them-- though it is hard to tell with the boy's niece, who as an only child received so many presents I think she lost track (she has a whole herd of Zhu Zhu Pets now). Still, the rest of his family were impressed by my unique (and handmade!) gifts: the pottery pieces and the beer soap were a big hit.

I took home some fabulous gifts, too. The boy's mom got me a great chrome-colored Kathy Van Zeeland studded bag (that I had picked out on QVC at her request) and my mom (and dad) fulfilled many of my wish list items (Anthro top and apron, Ruche jewelry, Urban Outfitters ruffle skirt, Marc Jacobs Daisy perfume, yellow wool jacket from Victoria's Secret... just to name a few. She always goes overboard!).

The sheen and studs give this bag some rocker edge. It is totally different than any other bag I have, which is why I love it. And it looks even better in person!

I love my pocket watch necklace and huge speckled yellow cocktail ring from Ruche.

The boy surprised me too. Turns out a girl can dream. He gave me a Coach bag. Being the Coach fanatic that I am, I could tell what it was when he pulled the wrapped box out of hiding. But still, I was shocked. (Not to mention the fact that the last time I unwrapped Coach boxes, I found a scarf in one and perfume in another-- not a purse!) He had said we should keep to a $100 budget this year. I went a bit over that but he blew the budget out of the water!

Now, I hate to share this next part but I will. Unfortunately, the boy didn't get me the bag I wanted. Somehow, he managed to pick the one style that I am not such a fan of. It is black, which is not really my style. Again, I hate to even say that I didn't really like the purse because I love Coach and it was such an amazing gift, but it's the truth. And I guess the boy knows me pretty well because despite my ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the tote, he could tell I didn't really like it. So it's going back. And the bag from my last post will find a new home.

Which do you like better?

So I know it's almost a week later, but how was your Christmas? What was your favorite gift? Did anyone get a down-right awful gift? (You know, a snowman sweater with pom poms, or something of the like?)

And what are you doing for New Year's Eve? As of now I have no plans. I think I'm going to ring in the new year at home. Open the bottle of wine I got from the boss as a Christmas present, maybe make some onion dip... a real low-key evening. That doesn't sound all that bad, does it? But who knows, I might change my mind! I'll let you know.

Till then, cheers!


Images via QVC- Kathy Van Zeeland, Ruche and Coach 

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa's on his way!

Hello there! I'm back! I can't believe it has been so long since I posted last. Sorry to have been so out of touch! It seems I've had a million things going on between shopping for gifts and meeting (early) deadlines. And I've had a million things swirling around in my head, some that I wanted to post and some I didn't. Ha! But here we are and its already Christmas Eve! I can't believe it.

Except I can because last night my dad and I did our annual "tradition" of last-minute shopping. He always waits until the very last minute to go out and pick up some gifts for my mom. He is not the best when it comes to picking presents, especially clothes, and he hates battling crowds so he puts it off-- but there were still plenty of people out and about yesterday.

We started our evening excursion with dinner at a local Mexican restaurant we love, because you can't shop effectively on an empty stomach, right? Then we headed over to a place I can't disclose since my mother reads this blog. (Hi, mom!) After about an hour or so we had our hands full and I think we got some really nice stuff. Guess we'll see how she likes it tomorrow!

In my second to last post, I mentioned that I was finishing up my Christmas wish list for my mom and that I'd post a snippet here... is it still too late to share? Nah. My list was primarily made up of clothes, even more so than in past years. But there's some beauty products and a bag thrown in for good measure. Take a look: (as usual, click image to see it larger!)


Diaphanous Tunic (can't find the link!), Manisa Dress, Cabin Fever Tunic and Grecian Top

Urban Outfitters

Victoria's Secret


and the Bag (a girl can dream, right?)

Coach op art chainlink Audrey (part of the Madison collection)

And, of course, I included several items from my Ruche wish list as well.

As for what I am giving others, I went the handmade route this year. Well, the buying handmade route, not the making handmade route. Since I have developed a love affair with Etsy over the past year, I made a little pledge to myself to try to buy as much handmade as possible this Christmas. And I have to say I was pretty successful! I'd say more than half of the gifts I bought were handmade.

I can't give too many details, but I can say that I bought some necklaces from Elephantine, sachets from Jewelweeds and  Cicada Studio, scarves and a desktop calendar from Michelle Brusegaard, a polaroid calendar from lifelovepaper, a hand-stamped silver and copper name necklace (for the boy's 7-year-old niece!) from The Two Beans, and beautiful pottery items from Miss Pottery, Mud Hutt and Utile Mud.

Now, finding something for the men in my life, that was the hard part. Etsy does have some great options but it still proved difficult. But I did pick up some lovely smelling beer soap from The Beer Soap Co. and personalized iPhone/iPod sleeves from in blue that I think the recipients will really enjoy.

And talk about last minute shopping, I still have to get something for my ever-so-hard to shop for brother! He just might get another video game.

So now I must run. To finish shopping, do TONS of wrapping, pick up my paycheck (yay!), go out to the cemetery to lay flowers and then get ready to spend Christmas Eve at the boy's sister's house. Tomorrow we will be spending time with my family, enjoying a prime rib dinner (which is a change of pace from the usual Thanksgiving repeat!).

I'd love to hear how you are spending Christmas, but wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope you are feeling the joy of the holiday... and that you are well fed!



Monday, December 14, 2009

Art lust

I am in lust with these images captured by Brooklyn-based photographer Joseph O. Holmes. They are stunning and gorgeous, of course, but I also love how yellow (my favorite color) is the focus in each. If I had my way, I would hang both of these photos on my white apartment walls (along with this beautiful snapshot of the Brooklyn Bridge-- a Ciao, Chessa! print I won recently in an Unbeweavable giveaway!) and convince myself that I was living in the city. A girl can dream, right?

Cue me singing Jay-Z and Alicia Key's song "Empire State of Mind"...

In New York,
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothing you can't do
Now you're in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let's hear it for New York, New York, New York

Don't you love that song? Sorry, I digress. Back to art.

While one glimpse at these photos was enough to make me fall head over heels, reading the stroke of serendipity that led to the creation of each image is what stole my heart completely. I'll let Holmes explain:

As I gradually become better at taking photographs, I'm learning the subtle art of twisting the elements of cliche into something archetypal, the hackneyed into something original. At the same time, I'm honing the skills needed to control the process—manipulating depth of field, light, motion, framing, timing—until using the camera becomes almost instinctual. Sometimes, I start to believe that controlling the process is mastering the art.

But then something happens to remind me that control is always at the whim and mercy of larger forces. I look through the viewfinder one day and all the yellow taxis appear out of nowhere to line up in a tidy curve, and I shake my head and thank the muses and the gods of chaos and chance. One day the woman in the yellow dress steps into my frame to humble me and remind me that all I can do is accept the gift when it's offered.

Isn't that lovely? How nature conspires and the stars align? How beauty can be found in everyday moments if only you take a moment to look?

A side note: These images can be purchased on 20x200, a wonderful online gallery that makes art accessible to everyone. (I have to thank Melanie of You are my fave for turning me onto this site today.) Fabulous works of art can be yours for just 20 bucks! Unfortunately, the two above have already sold out at that price but they are still available in larger versions for a bit more.

I also found a golf-inspired photo that I am thinking about getting the boy for Christmas to perhaps hang in his office. Have I ever told you that he is a head golf professional at a local country club? Well, he is. Click here to take a peek (but if you are the boy in question do not, I repeat, do not, click the link! :)

So, what's your relationship with art? Have you fallen in lust with any art or artists lately? Do you have much of a collection or are you still working on it? (I fall into the latter category.) And what is your favorite medium or aesthetic? (Mine's photography, if you couldn't already guess.)

P.S. Today is my brother's birthday! He's 23 and I can hardly believe he is that old. As you know, I am 24, so we are not that far apart in age, about a year and a half. Like the good sister I am, a bought him a video game he doesn't need (Assassin's Creed II, if you really want to know) and I am hoping to make some Rice Krispie treats too. Obviously, he doesn't read this blog!

Here's a rare pic of us together at a wedding in 2008:

Happy birthday, Patrick!

top images via 20x200 

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I love this time of year.

When the radio starts to play classic Christmas songs (I've been humming them all week) and your weekend schedule is booked with holiday parties.

When its cold enough outside to put on a scarf and boots and pull that jacket out of the closet that has been sitting largely unused most of the year (because you live in California, after all).

When eating copious amounts of cookies and other baked goods isn't frowned upon because it's practically a food group.

When walking your dog around the apartment complex is made all the more delightful because you get to admire your neighbors' Christmas lights and spy into their living rooms to see how their tree is decorated.

When you blow most of your paycheck on presents and start to stress when you realize Christmas is two weeks away and you still have more shopping to do. (You know you feel it too. Christmas time isn't all gingerbread and candy cane sweetness!)

But seriously, I have felt more joyous lately, even in spite of the looming debt. The holiday season never fails to lift my spirits. The only thing that would make it better is if we had room in our apartment for a Christmas tree. But at least I can count on my parents' house to fulfill that part of the holiday equation.

My mom always dresses up the living room with festive attire. Aside from the obligatory tree and stockings, the mantel and the banister are trimmed with garland, mistletoe hangs above the entryway, holiday class projects-- like my wooden snowman whose cap I made out of one of my old red socks or my brother's golden macaroni Christmas tree-- are set out on display, and dishes of candy tempt you at every pass through the room.

My mom lets me put up my favorite decoration, though: my grandmother's hand-painted nativity set.

Even though I started thinking about Christmas weeks ago-- getting the gifts, making the cards-- it didn't hit me until this week. For some reason it is hard for me to believe that Christmas is just around the corner, and soon after it will be a new year. Like one of my coworkers said to me today, Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye! It's so true. It seems like this year went by so quickly. But maybe it always feels like that in December.

Today was my company's holiday party. The office shut down at noon and we had a potluck. I brought my mom's sweet potato puree, which you may remember from my Thanksgiving plate. I made it because  my editor was bummed that I didn't bring him any leftovers after Turkey Day. Even though I had never made the sweet potato recipe before, it turned out well-- I did my mom proud, I think! Several people told me they loved the dish and even took home some extras; one coworker said it was her favorite item at the potluck!

I have two more "office" parties this weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, though they won't actually be at the office. Since I work from home (minus Wednesdays), it will be nice to hang out with coworkers for once, especially out of the workplace.

Also on the weekend agenda? Crafting more cards! For those of you who emailed me your addresses, I sent out your cards on Thursday so you should find them in your mailboxes soon! Making each individual card proved quite an effort but I enjoyed putting my artsy, creative hat on for a change. I hope you guys like them! (And I'd love to hear what you think, so feel free to drop me a line when you get yours!)

Speaking of holidays (great transition, huh?), I have to go finish my Christmas wish list. Yes, I make one. My mom still asks for it every year! The list is usually fairly extensive, which my mom appreciates because it gives her lots of options to choose from. Once I'm done I'll post a little snippet of what I hope to find under the tree this year.

Till then, I'll leave you with an adorable picture of Hazel that I snapped on Thursday when I went into the office to pick up my desperately needed paycheck. It was cold and gloomy out so I put on her jacket. Isn't she a doll? Look at that face! (I am unashamedly biased.)

Happy weekend loves!

christmas collage and gingerbread man both via we heart it 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Unique L.A.

Yesterday I journeyed to the 2nd annual Unique Los Angeles Holiday Show at the California Market Center, which is located in the fashion district of downtown L.A., just a mile or two from the Staples Center.

I heard about the show, which is the largest independent design show on the West Coast, on Danni’s blog, oh, hello friend. Danni was there along with more than 300 other designers and artists who were showcasing their goods—almost all of which are made in America. Yay for homegrown, local products!

The two-day event started Saturday, but the boy and I went Sunday. Though we live just about 45 minutes from downtown, we don’t venture into the city that often, so it took one wrong turn and a few circles on the one-way streets around the center before we found the venue and a parking spot.

Once inside the event, it was like sensory overload. There was so much to see! Neither of us had ever been to an event like this, an expo if you will, so when we entered the Green Room—which featured the work of eco designers, of course—on the lobby level, we were still getting our bearings and trying to figure out what to do with ourselves.

We soon ventured up to the penthouse level, the 13th floor, to see the rest of the offerings. Unfortunately for me, the show came at an extremely tight time financially—oh how I wish the show had been next weekend when I’d have a new paycheck to spend! Well, maybe it is a good thing I don’t have much money in the bank, otherwise I probably would have come away with bags and bags of goodies! There were so many wonderful things, it was like Etsy in real life. In other words: heaven.

Since I couldn’t shop till I dropped, I simply window-shopped. Or table shopped. You know what I mean. Booth after booth displayed new eye candy in all forms: clothing and accessories, bath and beauty, stationary, jewelry, house wares, artwork, ceramics, toys, photography, screenprints, edibles. See what I mean with sensory overload?

Walking around the show, I satisfied my urge to shop by picking up business cards and flyers from tables I liked. Kind of like hearting on Etsy, right? That way, I can “revisit” their shops later, aka when I get paid.

It’s hard to pick favorites out of the stellar crop of sellers that were on display, but here’s some who caught my eye:

:: Lori Koop ceramics- website, Etsy shop
Lori creates beautiful pottery that has a sense of whimsy and poetry about them, perfectly imperfect as she calls them, and they are different than a lot of other clay work I’ve seen. Even as we talked she was working a piece in her hands. She had the cutest little birdhouses, too, which I entered a drawing for (fingers crossed!).

:: Rock Scissor Paper- website
This boutique of colorful finds offers journals, mugs, coasters and owl paraphernalia that simply made me smile.

:: Scarlet Glass- website, collection
Sunny Scarlett crafts beautiful pendants out of glass and prettifies the pieces with images from nature. My favorite is the platinum peacock feather pendant that is strung on a sterling silver rope chain.

:: Steppie- website, Etsy shop
This shop is filled with all things adorable, but I was especially taken with the panda-printed tees and totes, as well as an “I Am A Ninja” tank in heather gray that looked super comfy.

:: Sharon Montrose Photography- website, Etsy shop
I think most everyone in the blogosphere has seen her gorgeous animal prints but if not, click over immediately. I love the deer and the owl and the raccoon and the baby chick and … you get the idea.

:: v is for violet- Etsy shop
Too cute plushies. Makes me feel like a kid again. (I had one heck of a stuffed animal collection as a child!)

:: anemone letterpress- website, Etsy shop
I love all things letterpress and there were several letterpress printers at the show. This is just one that I stopped to browse at after seeing a funny Mr. Roboto "thank you" card. Who wouldn't love getting that in the mail?

:: Dewi Designs- website
Light and delicate hand sewn jewelry that is like a work of art for your neck—it is even sold in the Museum of Contemporary Art gift shop! My favorites are the globes necklaces, though I don’t think the photos on the website do them justice. They are even more stunning in person.

:: p.o.p. candy- website
This Santa Monica-based shop sells yummy, all-natural butter crunch candies that come in flavors like almond, pecan, rosemary almond and a multi-nut blend. I tried the pecan and it was pretty much the best brittle ever; not too hard or sticky. Just perfectly crisp and sweet. It is so good, the owner told me they sold out of their confections on Saturday and had to spend all night making more for Sunday.

And finally, a special shout out to ex libris anonymous, which sells journals made from vintage hardcover books, for getting us into the show for free!

Though I showed great restraint at the event, I did walk away with two pretties, thanks to the boy. He bought me an iridescent Lacey Oak leaf necklace charm from London Manori and some happy tape—colorful masking tape—from oh, hello friend.

On a side note, Danni was as sweet and friendly as you would imagine from reading her lovely blog. It was my first time meeting a blogger “in real life” and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but even as shoppers flooded into her booth to check out all her beautiful items, she kept chatting with the boy and I. Before we said goodbye, we took a quick photo.

I probably could have stayed all day at the show but after about two and a half hours the boy was getting tired. And we were both hungry. So we headed out into the crisp scarf-worthy air of historic downtown, battled the typically congested L.A. traffic getting out of the city, and ended our trip with a stop at In-N-Out.

Who could ask for a better Sunday?

I hope your weekend was just as nice! And if you are looking for some fabulous, handmade presents for the holidays, check out the list of vendors who set up shop at Unique Los Angeles this past weekend. I’m trying to give as many handmade gifts as possible this Christmas, but more on that later…

P.S. It's been pouring rain all day here in Simi Valley! I guess winter, or at least El Nino, has finally come to So Cal. But it really makes me not want to do anything except snuggle on the couch and drink hot cocoa.