Monday, February 28, 2011

Beautiful World: Azalea Topiary

The garden at the Getty Center.  We took Christine here for her visit to see us in L.A.  I'll be showing you more of that later.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Beautiful World: Blooming

Just a little project from last weekend.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More Room/Less Plants

As you may remember from previous posts, my plant room got a makeover.

It used to look like this:

and now it looks like this:

The reasons for this are complicated.  First of all, do you remember all of this business?
That's me trying to start seedlings INdoors.  This is a common practice, but usually you later plant your seedlings OUTdoors.  I was trying to create an indoor, vine-y, blissful bower.  That didn't so much work out. 

See, I had this naive idea that because this room is composed of windows on three sides it would function like a greenhouse, and allow me to grow plants indoors that really should be grown outdoors.  I have since pinpointed two problems with that approach: 

1.) The windows are darkened glass which doesn't actually let in enough light for outdoor plants to feel happy. (Who designed these apartments anyway?  What's the point of that?) 
2.) There are windows which I need to open to let air in- the circulation of which is important to outdoor-plant well-being, but which then also let in pesky things like 40 degree night air, rain, and desert dust.  Rain, dust, and 40 degree night air are not things you want in a room of your apartment.

I've made a number of changes to accommodate my space restrictions.  First, I moved the plants that really needed more sunlight outdoors.  Second, I re-focused my plant-acquisition (it's a bad habit) to house-plants that are more tolerant of low light and poor air circulation conditions.

I then also decided that I should make some attempt to furnish this space in a live-able way since I wasn't going to be able to choke it with green and leafy things.  I managed to re-claim two chairs from the plywood board (piece of someone-elses's dumpstered furniture) I was using to support my plant collection- I can actually sit on them now!  At a desk!  Where I can work on projects!  Extra bonus: I am also no longer required to bend over or crouch on the ground to see/tend to/water/enjoy most of my plants.  I even managed to do this fairly inexpensively thanks to the transformative power of IKEA.

At my long-awaited second trip to IKEA, I bought 2 LACK tables: $7.99, one of the small VIKA AMON/VIKA CURRY table and leg sets: $19.99.  We already owned the two dinner-table-style black chairs (also IKEA) and I found the large black chair next to a dumpster.  A total of $35.97 isn't bad for a total transformation, wouldn't you say?   
I also managed to find a place for this family jewel, a mobile that hung in my paternal grandparents' home for as long as I can remember.  The crystals make rainbows all over the plant room/living room for about 2 and a half hours in the morning.  Lovely!
Good Times!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Picture "Poppy" Project, Epilogue

Just in case you're curious, click here to see what my book for Poppy's birthday will look like.  I love that lets you preview books like this!  It's okay, Poppy doesn't use the internet, so the surprise isn't lost!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Picture "Poppy" Project

As I've mentioned a couple times before, I've been working on an awesome project for my grandfather's upcoming 90th birthday.  I've always been close with my grandfather (we call him Poppy).  He's a real family-man, lavishing attention on his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Back when he was a little more mobile than he is now, he was also a fisher, a golfer, and a builder.  I still have a beautiful dollhouse he made me.
On top of all that, he's probably a large part of why I was a history major and want to take that passion further.  He has, over the years, put a lot of effort into gathering and documenting the history of his ancestors, including letter campaigns for documents to far-distant family members. He's made an effort to be accurate about documenting our family history, but then he also has no problem at all with embellishing history for a good story.

In honor of the effort Poppy has put toward documenting his family, I thought it would be nice to make an effort towards doing this for his own not-inconsiderable life.

For his birthday, my family members have been scanning and e-mailing me various family photos from various eras, and I'm making them into a photo book in vaguely narrative format.  The back has several pages guests at his birthday party can sign.

To do this, I've been using "booksmart", the software program lets you download for free to make digital scrapbooks, which, once you decide to publish them, will be printed by into real, physical books you can keep.  It's amazing!   
This is what booksmart looks like open on my computer.  It's pretty neat.

I've done this in the past for photos from the two plays I directed in college: Hello, Hamlet! and West Side Story (1).  It's amazing how much this digital scrap-booking medium improves on the original photo album or scrap-booking methods.  It's especially nice for preserving family photos because it allows you to duplicate and give extra life to treasured images that will degrade over time.  There are no acidic glue or gnawing rodents to be concerned about, and no worry that photos will fall out and get lost.  I love it.

I know that other digital photo printing websites allow you to do this; do you guys have other programs that you like?  I'm really interested in learning more about the possibilities of this format.

Anyway, the point of this is the photos themselves, and let me tell you, I've really relished getting to see more of them.  As you can see from this photo of my grandfather with my nephew, he's great with kids:
Poppy and my grandmother Mary (we call her Honey) have been married for 66 years.  That's quite an achievement.  As you know, I am involved in a few weddings, and I have to say, I'm extremely grateful that none of the brides in question has asked me to wear a mini veil or sheer elbow-length gloves.   
Here is Poppy with his brother O. J. during WWII.  Poppy was in the Army-Air Force band stationed in San Antonio.  Again with the style comments:  What was my great grandmother wearing on her head?
Here he is as a drummer in the Army-Air Force band.
 Poppy dressed up as a pretty hot dame for a USO show once.  Cute?  Um...
Here Poppy is with Honey before they were married.  Geez M, why haven't you ever taken me on a hot chicken-feeding date?
Poppy in my uncle's garage, trying out some vehicle I don't even know the name for.  Looks like a total bad-ass, no?
My great-grandfather was a dance instructor for a while, so needless to say, Poppy too a lot of dance classes and performed in a lot of recitals.
He was also an avid golfer for a great amount of time.

Another awesome old picture of Poppy as a child.  What a great costume, no?  I wish I knew what this was from, but I can't ask him until we get the book made and mailed to him. 
As you can see, his love of dressing up didn't leave him after childhood.
For years and years my grandfather made the family Christmas cards by staging photos with my mom and my uncle and then cutting those photos out, gluing them to poster-boards that he or my grandmother painted, and then taking pictures of the poster-boards to distribute.  Super retro chic, no?
It is so important to preserve these family gems.  These are the priceless little bits of ephemera that prove that forgotten generations had personality and humor and quirk, I hope Poppy enjoys this book, but I'm also looking forward to having it around for my kids and their kids as well.

1. I would like to stress that I did not take the majority of the photos in the photo books for Hello, Hamlet! and West Side Story. The majority of those credits go to Taylor Johnson and Deian Tabakov respectively.  I just directed the plays and put the books together, and since the books were intended for my consumption alone, I was casual with photo crediting.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

IKEA Trip 2.0: Plant Room

I finally finished reorganizing my plant room.  Later in the week/weekend I'll do a more detailed before/after post including pictures of the current configuration featuring sunlight.  I'm just really happy that this room now looks like a place you might want to spend some time in rather than a room with a bunch of plants almost on the floor.   
I'm not usually huge on silk flowers.  I kinda see them as dust-traps, but the dark windows in this room (Really, who builds a sun room with dark windows?  Kinda missing the point if you ask me!) make it hard for me to grow anything with actual flowers in here.  Also, they were free.  I've had to shift my attention towards more humidity-loving plants with lovely foliage, and that seems to be working well.   
That's our Christmas tree up there, sans decorations. I hope to do some kind of creative work at this table once it gets warmer.

And just in case you've been wondering, this is the view from our living room. Sorry it's a little messy. I'm telling you, this is good for a Wednesday night.

Beautiful World: Lobby Light

This is the lobby of the building where I work.  It's quite striking, no?  It is wonderful for letting light in.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Beautiful World: Chocolate and Secco

These are our Valentine's Day plans:  A bottle of pink champagne, and a box of Belgan chocolates.  And yes, in case you are wondering, the heart-shaped box that holds the chocolates... is also made of dark chocolate.  Sure Valentine's Day is all about consumerism- but when you are consuming things as nice as this, who cares?

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Showering with Joy

It's just that time.  That time in my life when I have a lot of friends and family members getting married.  Sometimes, having all of these weddings in my life can be really stressful- for example, there's the pressure to hurry up and get married myself.  There are the sad times when I can't make it to a wedding or celebration and feel guilty.  There's also the various organizing and planning and listening that scaffold weddings and bridal showers and bachelorette parties- all that can be stressful too.  But then there are days like this:  

I know that today, on the day of her (third) bridal shower, the one that I helped to organize, JJ will be having plenty of fun.  She will be surrounded by beauty and joy and friends who all wish her the best in her soon-to-be wedded bliss.  She will be in her hometown, feeling love from her family, from the people she went to school and church with, from people who have known her the longest.
I know that K and M, who, like total champs, took my absence in stride and carried on organizing and coming up with craft ideas, buying party supplies and making food, will do a wonderful job hosting the shower.  I know that everything will be perfect with or without me.       
I also know that even though I am not able to be there, my presence and well-wishes will surround her too, in the form of snowflake garlands, rings of paper hearts, and framed pictures of her as a child for the guests to guess at.  I am so proud that my mom and grandmother are crafty, thoughtful people and that they taught me to be the same, so that I can use those skills to make other people happy from afar.
On the day of the first bridal shower that I have (sorta) been responsible for, I'd like to offer some toasts:

Here's to good friends who have known us for a very long time, and who rise to the occasion gracefully.
Here's to seeing hard work pay off.
Here's to family and loved ones who help make us better people through their advice and example. 
(Let's be honest) Here's to getting presents! 
And finally-

Here's to that time of life where people pull together to celebrate love!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Beautiful World: Ice Cream Parasol

TGIF, amIright?  Even my ice cream needs to kick back and relax.  Except that I ate it.  Sad ice cream.  Happy me though!
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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Beautiful World: Valentine's Presents

This picture has two beautiful things in it:  First, finally enough sunlight in my apartment after I get home from work to take a picture.  And second, the Valentine's Day presents my parents mailed to me and M.  My parents have always given me Valentine's presents (November baby and such), but I didn't expect them to give M one too.  How nice!

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A String of Pearls: Shower Invitations

One of my best friends from high school is getting married in March and her three Texas bridesmaids are throwing her a bridal shower in our good ole' hometown.  Even though none of us lives there anymore, lol.  Because I am stuck in L.A., unable to actually make it to the shower, I volunteered to do the invitations:
The scanner bleached the color of these invitations. Also, the various lighting conditions under which I took pictures of the invitations caused wild color variations to appear throughout the post. Sorry for this.

JJ's wedding colors are Tiffany blue and white, and we decided to use her wedding colors for the shower as well so it would feel in theme with her suite of bridal events.  But, just to be different, we added pops of red and pink throughout; this works especially well since the shower will be two days before Valentine's day.  And because pink is pretty.  And romantic.  Like us.

JJ's personal style trends toward retro elegance- think Jackie O. and Audrey Hepburn. She prefers cocktail length dresses and often wears a string of pearls. Once she gave me Amy Vanderbilt's book of etiquitte from 1955, and we sat around reading it.  Don't give me that look- it was both hilarious and informative.  That's the kind of people we are.  Because she is that type of person (awesome), she requested a shower that felt like a tea-party.  Tres chic!  Because of this I decided to go with a pearl motif on her shower's invitations.  I like to think that they reflect the bride's style.

These are the supplies I used to make the invitations:

Michael's "Recollections" invitation sets, flowers punched using Martha Stewart "hydrangea" punch and card- stock in pink, shiny heart stickers, a small paint brush, glue, a mechanical pencil, and acrylic paint in white and champagne metallic . 

Luckily for me, Michael's carries sets of invitatons and matching envelopes- some in fold-able card form, and some in single pieces (ironically called "cards") of cardstock - in a color that's close to the elusive Tiffany's-robin'segg-mermaid bluegreentealturquoise of J's wedding.  I went to to download (for free) a font that looked like it would be appropriate for a vintage retro tea-party.  Next, I formatted the invite on MS Word, changed the quality settings on M's printer to get the darkest black available, and then printed them out:  Easy peasy!   

To make the strings of pearls I used acrylic paint in white and champagne metallic- equal parts each- and then the eraser of an unused mechanical pencil as a stamp.  On the back, to emphasize the different salient points, I stamped three extra "pearls".  This was my favorite part of this project.  The eraser on the pencil even happened to curve a little in the middle, creating the effect of roundness to the pearls. 

Earlier in the year I bought a Martha Stewart craft punch- "hydrangea"- just because I wanted one; thanks to the invitations, I finally got to justify use it!  I punched out two pink flowers per invitation.  I can now report that it is the easiest craft punch I've ever used; it also imparts joy!  Still waiting on the riches.

I glued the flowers to the invitations to fill empty spaces I'd left in the wording, and painted designs or "seeds" in the center of each flower.
This is was a project that required a lot of time to sit around waiting for things to dry:

Finally, I used heart stickers to help secure the invitation, and King and Queen of Hearts stamps to pay for the postage. I like the outside of invitations to be pretty too.  That way people know they just received something special.  Yay for love and mail! 

See what I mean about color variation?  The lighting in my apartment at night is very yellow, which bleaches my photos.
Random rant fun fact:  You know how invitations ask you to RSVP?  RSVP is an abbreviation for "répondez, s'il vous plaît"- which basically means- please reply- but in French.  Because the French invented etiquette.  Or were better at it.  Or something. 

Anyway.  When you receive an invitation that asks you to RSVP you should respond, according to Amy Vanderbilt, within three or four days, whether you will be attending or not.(1)  This is in contrast to the informal- "Regrets Only" also used on invitations- which assumes you will attend unless you say otherwise.  It's never cool (or correct) to use no response as a way of saying no.  Because then whoever invited you will be afraid that you will show up at the last minute and- being unaccounted for- have no chair or food.  Which would be sad.  A travesty really.  Even though you deserve it for not RSVPing. 

If you were like that.  Which none of you are.  Thank Goodness!   

1. Dunnan, Nancy; Vanderbilt, Amy; Tuckerman, Nancy.  The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette, 50th Anniversary Edition.  Random House, Inc., 1995. p. 208.