Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goals for 2014

I'm not that girl who makes a fitness goal every December and then berates herself for not sticking to it by the time February rolls around. I know myself better than that. I can't make goals about changing my body. I have to sneak around those kinds of thoughts and try to make it sounds like fun instead of an assignment with an expected result.

1. I'd really like to take the dog on walks more often.

2014 will be a big year for me. It marks 10 years since Declan and I started dating. It marks 10 years since I asked my parents to put me into treatment for my anorexia. I can't believe how far I've come. It feels like a lifetime ago that I was that scared, hurt, hungry girl, and Declan had to drive me to all of my various doctors' appointments because I couldn't stay awake long enough to drive myself. It marks 10 years since I decided not to die.

2. I'd like to eat more of a variety of foods, and plan meals/try new recipes with Declan.

Thinking of the last (almost) decade I've spent with Declan is surreal. It really doesn't seem like that long. I have to remember that feeling when I look at the progress I've made with my physical and mental health. That part seems so far in the past, but it was all happening at once. I need to remember that it wasn't really that long ago, and when I feel like I haven't done enough in my life, I try to put that all into perspective and be realistic.

3. I'd like to be less critical. (Of myself and others. And limit negative speech. Everyone has a story.)

Creativity has always been my saving grace. I'm incredibly grateful that I have the drive to work hard on the things I care about. When I'm feeling down or even self-destructive, I stop making beautiful things, which is obviously the worst possible decision. I want to see some ideas hatch and transform and touch people, even if they just reach me. Art heals.

4. I'd like to feed my mind and my heart. I want to do more watercolor painting, creative photography, clothing reconstruction, baking, cooking, drawing, reading, and singing. (And get better at reading music, too.)

Relaxing is terribly difficult for me. I feel like I'd be more fun to be around if I felt more okay with just BEING, even once in awhile. I think Declan would like that.

5. I'd like to do some yoga. Even if it's just a few asanas, or one sun salutation in the morning. I need it.

6. I'd also like to take better care of my hands and wrists. I need to let them rest. I need to listen to my body when it hurts.

I feel like all of these goals will help me come to terms with the fact that my body is part of me, and I need it, and I need to respect it. I'm amazed at where I am now, versus where I was in 2004, but I still want to improve, and I think that's okay, as long as I don't compare myself to others or give myself unreasonable goals to reach. Forming good habits is much safer for me than trying to stick to a list of black-and-white pass-or-fail resolutions.

Here's to a year of health and happiness and love.


Inspiration: 1970s calico

I absolutely loathe my work clothes, partly because I've been wearing a hibiscus-printed tee shirt 5 days a week for the last 7+ years, and partly because it's a hibiscus-printed tee shirt in the first place. In my real-life wardrobe, I own maybe 5 tee shirts, only one of which I love- boat neck, black, with a screen print of Bambi on it. I love coming home from work and transforming from work-Lauren to real-life-Lauren.

 Maybe it's because I live in the Northwest now and seasons are happening. Maybe it's because my dreadlocks make me look like a hippie. Maybe it's because I read a lot of historical fiction as a kid, or because my Pandora stations have been kind of James Taylor/Fleetwood Mac/Carole King/Simon and Garfunkel heavy lately. At any rate, my current jam is wearing lace-up boots and 1970s/80s calico prints. It started with a navy blue Gunne Sax skirt I found while thrifting this spring, and has escalated into an entire sub-genre of my closet. Vintage prairie chic. It's happening. I was also peer-pressured by my dear friend Jaime (Tinker Tin Trailer Co.) to try on a fabulous pair of Free People bell-bottoms at a resale shop one day. I was hesitant, but I LOVE them now. Lace-up boots + those jeans + vintage plaid = comfy AND figure-flattering. (I typically go for form over function, but it's nice when the two marry so well.)

All I'm missing is the perfect Carly Simon hat. Though, with my hair in dreads now, I'm not sure if I have much of a future in hat wearing.

Monday, November 11, 2013

I don't get out much, but when I do, I buy old clothes.

In January of this year I decided to stop buying new clothes (aside from stuff like underthings and foundation layers), because it's better for the environment and it also affords me a lot of creativity. Besides, nothing beats the feeling of finding a piece that fits perfectly and imagining the story of the person who first loved it.

Back home, one of my favorite afternoon adventures would be to drive down the coast to Encinitas, get a cup of tea and a croissant at the Pannikin, and head over to Flashbacks for some treasure hunting. The Encinitas Flashbacks was always a great place to find used Anthropologie and Free People stuff, but the Flashbacks in Hillcrest was my favorite. It's a few doors down from a fabulous used books store, and right across the street from a Buffalo Exchange. Hillcrest was a day-off adventure, because of traffic, mostly, but also because I hate to be in a hurry when thrift shopping. Some of my favorite Flashbacks finds are my pale yellow Betsey Johnson prom dress, a mink collar, a navy blue Gunne Sax skirt, and an olive green Anthropologie jacket that I scored for $38.

Since moving to Oregon, I've found some really fantastic vintage pieces, mainly while thrifting in Portland. Buffalo Exchange, House of Vintage, and Goodwill are always good, but I've yet to venture to "The Bins," a Goodwill outlet where clothes are sold by the pound... I have a friend who is a seasoned veteran of bin shopping, and one of these days, when our days off are synced, it's going to happen. (More on Portland another time... I need to explore it better.)

I've not been impressed by much of the "fashion" I see around Corvallis, but there's one shop downtown that I adore for vintage. Cosmic Chameleon has a super eclectic blend of old and new. I found an Anthropologie sweater there for $22, a 1920's inspired mauve blouse with gold sequins, along with some pretty Bakelite bangles. Most recently, I found a champagne colored 1950s cocktail dress that I need to get tailored a bit before I wear it around, but the owner saw how much I adored it and lowered the price for me, which was really lovely of her. It's a tiny shop that's packed to the brim in a wonderfully overwhelming way. I've never rummaged through an attic of old clothes trunks and costumes, but that's what it feels like to shop there. You could go through every rack over and over and find something new each time. It's like the Universe left you a treasure and you just have to hunt it down.

While I was in Baton Rouge in September, I found the most wonderful vintage shop, Time Warp. Erica (my co-worker who was on the trip with me) had never been vintage shopping before and this was THE perfect place to take her. She loved it! She bought a great leather belt with some man's name branded into it. They had a ton of men's clothes, which were all at the front end of the store. Usually resale shops have a pathetic range of menswear, and I was so bummed that Declan wasn't with me to see the collection of Pendleton shirts they had. (I bought him one, though, don't worry.) But the women's clothes... good grief. You know when there are so many beautiful things and you can't breathe because it doesn't feel real? Yeah. Loads of flawless 1950's formals for the mini-waisted busty women of yesteryear, piles of crinoline petticoats, and really reasonably priced fur outerwear. They had a whole rack of Gunne Sax, which was awesome. I ended up with a black maxi sundress accented with ivory crocheted lace. It's magnificent. I also bought a 50's day dress- pinstripes of dark olive, burgundy, and brown. Everything there was in really great shape, considering it's age. If I ever find myself in the south again, I'll be heading back to Time Warp for sure.

We visited Austin, Texas last spring and I had some luck there as well. The boys (Declan, Chris, and Mark) gave me 15 minutes in Buffalo Exchange. Not enough time to even browse the whole store. However, I stuck to the dress racks and found a Marc Jacobs dress for just $34 and an Urban Outfitters dress for $17. I can only imagine how many other wonderful things were in there. After being disappointed with the prices of things on South Congress Street, I checked online for other vintage stores and happened upon a few that were all close together AND near a coffee shop and left-wing bookstore to keep everyone entertained. (I really am grateful for these guys... they're so patient with me.) The shops on North Loop were incredible! I bought a 1970s/80s snowflake (I think?) pullover sweater at Blue Velvet, browsed the antique mall, which was wonderfully cluttered and colorful, and then ended up at Ermine Vintage, where I found a homemade (from fruit-themed upholstery fabric) dress that fits like it was made for my exact body. It's as though someone took my measurements, went back in time, sewed this dress, and then it waited for me to to show up and buy it. So I bought it. Also a pair of amethyst earrings. I think my total was under $40. Yay Texas.

One of Declan's sisters lives in Atlanta, and I'd love to go visit her and check out some vintage and thrift stores in that part of the country. (She has also talked up her local farmers market, so I kind of need to check that out too!) Even though we have loads of family in Arizona, I've never had a chance to really check out any vintage stores in the Phoenix area. Next time, though, I'll make a point of it, and I'll bring Declan's other sister with me.

I'll add photos of some of my favorite treasures when the sun is cooperating. Our house is pretty dark these days. So different from California!


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Canning projects!

Even after filling my largest mixing bowl, the tree was still overloaded with fruit!

In the middle of May, all of the loquats on our tree were ripe. What's a loquat? It's a tiny, yellow-orange fruit that's both sweet and tart, with a few large seeds in the center. There were about a billion of them on the tree, and I couldn't stand to watch them ripen and die like they did the year before, so I decided to be a hero and turn them into jam.

There are nearly no recipes online for anything loquat-related. Why? Because they're awful to prepare. I harvested 6 pounds or so and spent the next 3 hours blanching, peeling, seeding, and chopping only to yield a dozen 4oz jars and 2 half-pints. My fingers were stained from the seeds, and they ached from the repetitive motions of peeling, etc. (Sorry for the lack of in-progress photos. I did this all on my own and my hands were far too sticky to touch a camera!)

The work was worth it, but not something I think I'll ever repeat. I decided to add to the complexity of the flavor with some ginger. Fresh, candied, and powdered. The result was a bit stiffer than I'd hoped, since the loquats were naturally high in pectin. Oops. The flavor was fantastic, though, and so far, I've used the Triple Ginger Loquat Preserves as a glaze for oven-roasted salmon (yum) and as a topping for pound cake.

My first solo canning project- I was so relieved and excited when the lids ALL sealed! Success!

Recipe and more canning adventures after the jump...

A fresh start...

Our first sunset in our new town, just before we arrived at the house.

Two weeks ago, with 3 vehicles, 4 friends, a sister, and our critters in tow, Declan and I left our long-time home of Vista, California to start a new life in Corvallis, Oregon.

The traveling and settling in parts were fantastic- like a week-long sleepover with some of our dearest friends and Declan's youngest sister. It was really humbling that people were so willing to help us- that they love us so much that they'd sit in a car for 2 straight days with us and drive with us to our new home. We arrived in Corvallis around 9:00 pm on the 25th of July. We all worked together and in 45 minutes or so, we had all the boxes and furniture out of the truck and into our new house. For the next few days, we worked on getting the house set up- finding the last bits of necessary furniture to replace the Craigslist pieces we left behind, organizing and re-organizing the kitchen, and hanging artwork. We went to the Farmers Market, ate at some great local places, rode bikes, and got to know the town a little bit- with people we love. Saying goodbye when we drove everyone to the airport was awful. Coming home to a silent house was difficult after it was so pleasantly full for so many days. I really had enjoyed waking up early and making breakfast for a houseful of friends.

Going to work at our new Trader Joe's was scary (for me). For the past 7 years that I've been with the company, I've been pretty much exclusively a sign artist- with a tiny art room (with a door), an iHome, and every color marker known to man. I was able to use my creative skills and earn a steady income with benefits. In order to get the transfer to the Corvallis store, I had to agree to be a regular "Crew Member." At the Oceanside store, I spent maybe 30% of each day helping the rest of the crew- breaking down pallets, working up product, running a register here and there- but NEVER all day. And never without the ability to hide in my sign room for a bit and shut the door to be alone. For an introvert like myself, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Yesterday was my first shift without Declan. I definitely cried all the way to work- and then on the sales floor later on, in front of co-workers and a manager. Thankfully, people were cool about it, but seriously? I'm 27 years old. The work isn't difficult or anything, it's just so different from what I'm used to, and that, coupled with a new crew of people and a new store in a new town... I'm trying to be optimistic, but I know that "it just takes some time." So, while I wait, I'll do some re-cap blog posts of what I've done so far this Summer- posts I didn't get to write because I was too busy tackling this move.

Suki loves it here. So many windows to sit in!

Thanks for reading, guys.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Fear Monster

My friend Jonnie over at Grey Theory Mill wrote this post the other day. I was silently agreeing with every word of it- nodding my head, even. Her honesty inspired me to go to that vulnerable place, acknowledge the feeling, and then send it on it's way.

I'm going to start out with this: I am happy. I have a happy little life filled with love. But I'm also scared half to death. I try to do everything at once. I try to balance a full-time job and a small business with creative baking projects, general housewifery, keeping the home clean and the animals cared for, and oh yeah, being the perfect wife/daughter/sister/aunt/friend.

There's a part of me that is so intensely terrified all the time. A little rabbit in my heart that's shuddering at the idea of making a mistake- of failing somehow, of disappointing myself or someone else, of not being productive enough, good enough- of not being perfect. It's been a constant battle between me and that scared bunny for years now. Usually it's okay, but occasionally the mini heart attacks get more frequent when I think about the things I want to be doing- things that should make me feel so happy, but instead they frighten me. I'm afraid of losing the happiness. I'm afraid that if/when Fox and Finch gets bigger and needs more of my time, I'll stop loving the process. I worry that something else will slide. I worry that I'll have too much demand for product. I worry that I'll get successful and then ruin it all somehow. I worry that I'll always want to do more/better.

Irrational? Perhaps. Jumping the gun? Most certainly.

I'm at a place right now where I need to get my jewelry line into more shops. Already I'm in 3 local stores, which is so exciting! But it's not good enough. This is probably stemming from my since-childhood need to "feel heard," but I want people to see/love/wear/gift my stuff. The shyness fades away when there's a physical manifestation of my heart/mind/voice for someone to touch/wear. Herein lies the problem. If someone doesn't want to sell my pieces in their store, I know I shouldn't "take it personally," that it's just a matter of taste, but dudes... that's my work. So it's scary. It's scary to write a pitch letter and send samples to retailers. It feels like I'm just writing, "LOVE ME! Love, Me." But if I don't write the letters and visit the shops and talk to the strangers, then no one will see my work or hear my voice.

This is a list/note I wrote up a year or so ago. Being creative does make me happy. The happiest. So really, I have nothing to be afraid of. I'll always strive to do more. To do better. And that's okay. But I need to take a step back once in a while to remember how far I've come. To give that little rabbit a snuggle and calm it's nerves. I need to let myself use the fear to climb higher, to row farther, so I can use my voice to help others do the same.

Thanks for reading. :)


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Once Upon A Time: Ice Cream Colors

My dad and I built a Victorian dollhouse when I was young. It was a really memorable time for me. I want to say it was fun, but I took the whole project so seriously, like homework. It was overwhelming and challenging and I learned so much- not just about building miniatures, or about Victorian times, or measure-twice-cut-once, but about my dad and his creative process. He thought of every possible detail. What color the mortar should be for the faux brick trim, what type of furniture was historically relevant, what type of people would live in the house if it were real. He would get wistful and nostalgic for a time he never even knew... and I totally absorbed that trait from him. His precision and detailed care for every little roof tile and every individual tiny wooden floor panel meant so much to me. He went through all that trouble just so I could have a perfect dollhouse. (But mostly, OCD.) He wanted this house to be historically accurate, so we scoured dollhouse catalogs for the best photos to emulate. When we shopped for tiny wallpaper, we stood for several minutes, carefully considering light blue versus light pink moire. (We decided on the blue, so I could use pink accents in furniture and decor.)

*Sidebar- Seriously, guys... how did we not know my dad was gay?

Part of what made the experience so memorable was the fact that I was allowed into his office each night after dinner to help him work. Even though our home was enormous (roughly 3,000 square feet... epic for hide-and-seek), it was hard for my parents to ever find a place to have peace and quiet, given the four of us kids were constantly someplace/everyplace. My dad spend nights building models in his office downstairs, and my mom, upstairs, would sew.

Being Broadway obsessed, my dad would have an appropriate musical selection for whatever project he was consumed with. We listened to the cast recording of "Ragtime" and the soundtrack to "Meet Me in St. Louis."(While building a miniature covered wagon years later in the eighth grade, we listened to "Paint Your Wagon," obviously.) A concept that was re-visited often in our design process was that of "ice cream colors," in reference to dreamy pastels that would have been seen in house paint of days gone by. Think town homes in San Francisco's well-curated Castro district, or a bowl of melted pistachio or peppermint stick ice cream, or, hey! These lyrics from the Prologue of "Ragtime:"

"...The skies were blue and hazy,
Rarely a storm. Barely a chill...
The afternoons were lazy,
Everyone warm. Everything still.

And there was distant music,
Simple and somehow sublime,
Giving the nation
A new syncopation-
The people called it Ragtime!

The days were gently tinted
Lavender pink, lemon and lime.
...Ladies with parasols
Fellows with tennis balls
There were gazebos, and...
The were no negroes.

And everything was Ragtime..."

(Uh... just ignore that last bit... and P.S.- congrats to Mississippi for finally abolishing slavery.)

Anyhow... Pictures?

The color scheme ended up super similar to the color palette my mom chose for our kitchen, conveniently, as evidenced by the background of the second photo. Oh, 1990s Waverly prints.

More color inspiration photos will be added later... When I figure out how to do html on my tablet without yelling at it.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Fancy Cake

It was just my 27th birthday. Equal parts yay-exciting and face-palm. So I made a cake. I've been borrowing (read: I've practically hi-jacked) a friend's "Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook." It's a great cookbook- each recipe is prefaced by a bit of contextual history... which I'm a total sucker for, ever since the American Girl Doll (and book) franchise began in the 90's. Several girlfriends and I have been getting together each week to watch Downton Abbey and eat whatever treats I decide to concoct for the occasion. Originally, I viewed them as a neutral audience to test new recipes on, but now I feel like I have to impress them! I should have started out simple with rice krispies treats instead of citrus genoise with almonds. Oops. At any rate, it was time to raise the bar. I've been waiting for an excuse to make the British Battenberg Cake recipe, and I figured my birthday was as good a reason as any.

The cake itself is an almond sponge cake with apricot jam sandwiching the layers. I know. Heavenly. But it gets better. The entire confection gets covered in marzipan. Whaaaaaat? Dream come true, right? Typically, this cake is baked in a square pan and then cut into long strips and ends up like a checkerboard. I plan on making one in the traditional style, which is more appropriate as a tea snack, but I thought for a birthday cake, I wanted a bit of drama.

So, occasionally I'll wake up in the night with a brilliant idea, and this was one of them: hand-painting marzipan with food dye. I'd been anxious (anxious-nervous AND anxious-excited) to try it. I saw the design in my head completely finished before I even started, and I seriously couldn't wait for it to get there. If Declan hadn't taken a picture of it in progress, I wouldn't even know how it got completed. I love that type of creative surge. Nerd alert: my heart was aflutter the whole time I worked on this- like I was getting ready for a first date or something. For a first attempt, I'm fairly pleased with the results. I need more dye colors and I should have used some smaller brushes, but in my defense, I was trying to get the thing decorated and get myself out the door in a timely manner.

I plan on making another one and taking photos all along the way, because I had a total blast working on it and it was way easier to create than it looks.

For reference, here's a link to a traditional style cake. 

Recipe after the break!