July 4, 2010


A few weeks ago, I woke up to the song of a bird at my window. It was happily tweeting away for several minutes. It was a nice way to start the morning, except that it was even earlier than my 5:30 alarm. Nevertheless, I went to the window to see who my sunrise serenader was. As I stepped out onto the deck, I saw that the bird wasn't in the tree, but on the roof of my bedroom. I'm not sure who he was singing for, but he looked very impressive. Despite the fact that I couldn't immortalize his song, I feel like he deserves a little place on the web:

I was sad that after only three days, this little robin disappeared again. I hope he comes back to visit.

May 2, 2010

A Day in the Life

After a whirlwind April that included visits from friends far and wide (including some two-year-old twins), I'm finally back on track with a new post. Hello again!

I feel like all girls my age kept a diary when they were younger. It was definitely the hip thing to do in middle school and high school. I occasionally would write entries in my own journal, but for whatever reason, I didn't feel emotionally connected to what I was writing. I jotted down the things that happened in my day, but it was usually pretty mundane. "I practiced piano today" and "I did my math homework" were pretty common entries and were even then only sporadically written. Despite the fact that I was a huge nerd and really self-conscious about it, there apparently wasn't a lot of angst that I needed to capture on paper.

Now, I'll occasionally go back and read journal entries and reminisce about things that happened to my younger self (like the field trip to DC in 8th grade when a few of my roommates decided it would be a good idea to give two 20-year-old military enlistees our hotel room keys). For the most part, though, I rely on pictures to bring back memories of the past. Like they probably do for everyone, my pictures remind me of things I've forgotten about or great times that I can't forget. Recently, my husband has taken to scanning pictures into the computer from all our old negatives. My favorites so far? One picture from my first big trip to Alaska with my mom when I was 5 and one of Chris and I standing on top of the World Trade Center when he took me to visit Manhattan. It's not that they're great photos, but they bring back memories I didn't even realize I had and stir up emotions that aren't even related to those specific events.

However, one thing that I dislike about my picture collection is that there are pretty much only photos of "special occasions" like holidays or weddings or vacations. But most of life actually consists of things that happen between those events. And I also think that posed pictures really capture what is happening at any given time. I mean, when is the last time you just looked up into the distance and just smiled for an imaginary photographer. It doesn't really happen unless you have a camera aimed at you.

So I decided to spend one day and capture the things that I saw that struck me. Most of them were mundane things, but were just happenings from everyday life that I decided to capture: going for a run, the beauty of flowers in spring, a delicious cupcake break, or just sunlight streaming through the window on a beautiful day.

You could argue that this images are still kind of fake constructs simply because of the fact that I stopped to look and take a picture, but I draw the line at wearing a camera strapped to my neck all day long. I'm hopeful that I'll look at these pictures in a year or two, or maybe even 20 years and have them conjure up things I can't even imagine right now.

March 22, 2010

Drag and Drop Movie Magic

I've always loved nature television and watching animals. Big Cat Diary is an inspiration; Wild Kingdom has fascinated me. That's part of the reason we decided to go on our Galapagos trip this year. Tortoises! Sea lions! Boobies! (That last one is my favorite for many reasons.)

Since we just purchased a Mac late last year, I thought that I would make use of its iLife suite. That's why we got this thing in the first place, right? What good is a Mac unless you use the fun stuff? (It's certainly not because it has made working from home easier. I miss you, Excel!)

I have to say that it seemed like a daunting task to make a movie. I mean, this stuff is usually best left to the professionals. One of my friends is going to film school to study this, and I'm investing a few hours with footage from a Canon point and shoot to do this? Ridiculous. This iMovie stuff had better work miracles!

It turns out that iMovie is one of the easiest programs to use. It loads all your videos in from iPhoto, puts them into nice visual representations and lets you edit in little bite-sized chunks. Because all of the iLife software is totally integrated, there's even a little toolbar on the side where you can pull in your music and photos. It was amazing - literally drag and drop! It took a lot less time then I imagined to cobble together a brief video representation of the wildlife we saw.

But enough shilling for Apple. Check out the movie!

If you have a Mac, try iMovie. It was tons of fun to put together these clips.

March 10, 2010

Color On My Mind

Despite the fact that I said that artwork is not my forte, I've been spending an awful lot of time blogging about artwork. I've started to spend more and more time on it, so I guess it's worth saying a few more words about it.

That said, I thought that I would talk a little more about color. A lot of you know that I really like color. When I was in high school, I had a pair of purple leather high tops and red suede shoes. I also had a bright rainbow stripe knit dress covered with little clear paillettes. Yikes. I've toned my clothing color down over the years with some coaching from some good friends (you know who you are), but I still love a pop of color.

Here's the irony in my artwork situation. I am so shy about applying bold strokes to paper that all my color looks totally washed out. Over the past eight art classes, I have noticed that everyone has artistic habits. One woman has a tendency to draw very hard outlines around her objects to define them; another has a very heavy hand when it comes to shadows. Me? Every image I draw is light. Almost ghostly. No one could accuse me of overcommitting to a line.

I started out thinking that this was a flaw. But I've come to feel that it might just be my artistic signature. For example, take this picture of pillows I drew in class last week. You could criticize it for being way too gray, but in a way, it creates a mood and intention. The background fabric was red, but I hated the color combination, so I made it a gray/white, which give the whole image a bit of a washed out look. Maybe you feel differently about it, but I like how sad the pillows look because of how pale they are and how gray the background is.

Next, over the weekend, I set up a still life in my own living room! Do you remember when I said that this whole drawing this is really messy? Ugh! I'm going to have to find a better solution. Anyway, I made a commitment that I was going to try to saturate my colors a little more. I think I achieved that goal, at least more so than I have in the past, and I achieved a pretty realistic look. However, does the picture says much other than here's a pile of pillows? I'm not sure. I like the image capture, and I love that I framed it a little differently by just showing the corners. But does the color say anything?

Lastly, here is the image we worked on in our second-to-last class. This is the first class in which I felt like I was able to really make use of my lack-of-coloring skills. Since we were working with black paper, the point was to really use the color of the background to greater effect. I used very little color to fill in the shape and color of the spools of yarn/thread, but I think despite the minimal line use, you can still tell what it is.

It was remarkable how different my image was from everyone else's. Overall, because I used so little pastel, it looks like the room is really dark. Everyone else drew spools that were 80% filled in, while I only filled in 20% of the spools. So far, this is my favorite drawing.

Obviously, because I have written so much about these pieces, I seem to be becoming kind of invested in this whole "drawing" thing. My last art class was last night (self portraits - scary!), but I think I'll be continuing to experiment a little more on my own. You'll be able to tell, I guess, if you see more posts in the future.

February 27, 2010

Reframing the Scene

Hello, again! I've missed you, and I'm sure the five of you who read my blog have really missed me. :)

I've been a little lax with my posts lately because I was away on vacation last week in... the Galapagos! But this little jaunt was a great place to get some new fodder for the blog. I embarked on a project that has been bugging me for a while.

You see, I am not a good photographer. I get jealous of some of my friends' pictures that feature fantastic scenery or portraits that seem to capture spontaneous moments. My hallmark is a posed picture. Where everyone is standing dead center. Like this:

Exciting, no?

It's not like I don't have practice taking pictures. When I was younger,  my dad was already toting around some camera or another. He had a big fancy Nikon SLR, and there were always a few point-and-shoots hanging around his neck or wrist.

When I was in grade school, I was given my very own 110mm camera with a big red button that made a hearty "click!" when you took a picture and that you had to wind forward with every shot.
For my seventh grade trip to the UK, my dad let me use his 35MM Kodak S-Series with automatic winding and an awesome sliding lens cover feature. Sometime in high school, I upgraded to a nice automatic camera with a flip lens cover and flash built in. AND, it had a zoom! In 2002, Chris and I upgraded to digital, and we've had a nice series of Sony and Canon cameras ever since.

Finally, life came full circle when I bought Chris a Nikon digital SLR (the D90) particularly so he could use it on this trip to the Galapagos.

I wanted to challenge myself to put together more creative images in my photography. I love the way some photos allow to me to experience something I've never seen before or show a totally different view of something familiar. I don't get to use the awesome SLR when Chris and I on vacation together since it's ultimately his camera, so I'm doing the best I can with a little digital camera. Luckily, digital photography has made life easier with on-computer editing.

Here are the results of my endeavor. I took hundreds of pictures - most of them mediocre to bad - and these are the ones that rose to the top. I've edited every single one of them to hopefully capture a mood, feeling, or funny moment. They don't exactly capture the experience, but hopefully you get a flavor for what I was feeling when I took them.

Do these pictures make me look like I had a good time? Because other than the crazy vertigo that lasted for 5 days after I disembarked from the ship, I had a great time.

Finally, a few guest shots. The first is from Chris, who captured a fantastic sunset on our last day on the islands:

Finally, one shot from a fellow vacationer that simply captures the magic of the sea lions in the Galapagos:

Materials used for this project:
  • Canon PowerShot SD800
  • MacBook Pro and iPhoto
  • The Galapagos

February 11, 2010

Remnants to Romantic

I've been wanting to buy a lot of jewelry lately. I think I have inherited my obsession with shiny things from my mother. Her jewelry collection is impressive, to say the least, but her collection is mostly in precious metals and gemstones. I have been the lucky beneficiary of her generosity - she buys new stuff for me, and also has bequeathed several things to me that she thinks she's too old to wear.

When I was little, and even now when I visit on vacation, we used to sit and she would tell me about the stories behind all her acquisitions. Some are mundane (QVC!) and some are incredibly meaningful (one of the only pieces my grandmother didn't sell off for cash before she moved from Taiwan).

And so, I think I may have developed a similar attachment to my own jewelry, even some of the cheapie pieces. I have been indulging in a few purchases lately to add to the repertoire. And when I say "indulge," I really mean that I have been spending $7.99 on cheap stuff at Forever 21. Then I suddenly realized that I already have quite a few items that would work in producing my own creation. Wouldn't that be an even better story to attach to a piece?

I'm a total romantic at heart, so this whole ribbons and bows trend in jewelry is completely irresistable to me. It's a good thing that those happen to be the materials I have at hand.

I had a bunch of beads left over from party decorations (from 2005!) that have just been sitting in my craft drawer...

...some black satiny ribbon that I intended to use in my latest holiday card...

...and a little inspiration from the blog psimadethis.com and this necklace from Ann Taylor:

At first I thought that I would just copy the Ann Taylor design, but I realized with such small beads, you would only see the ribbon, not the beads. So, I decided to alternating sections of 4 single beads with a little knot of ribbon in between each interspersed with 3 clusters of 3 beads each. I made it symmetrical, so there are 5 single bead sections and 4 cluster bead sections.

I was initially going to use the length of ribbon just to create a tie in the back, but I decided I needed a little heft to this necklace, so I went to Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft to pick up a metal chain and clasp. In order to keep it the necklace from being too hard-edged, I wove about 4 inches of the remaining ribbon at the ends through the chain and tied a knot to secure it. Then, using pliers, I got the chain to the length I wanted (leaving a little room at the end of the ring end so I can adjust the length).

What do you think? Does this look like I made it for less than $5? I wore it to work yesterday (Thursday) and didn't receive a reaction either way, potentially meaning that it looks super cheap...

Materials used for this project:
  • Plastic beads that look like crystal
  • 1/4" black satiny ribbon
  • Packing tape
  • Metal chain
  • Clasp
P.S. Definitely check out this week's psimadethis.com. Talk about a romantic creation!

    February 2, 2010

    Mid-week Creative Droplet - Shopping Bag

    Well, my husband's birthday was on Sunday (for those in Chicago, Katsu was deliciously authentic - try the egg custard with unagi), and the whole weekend turned into a rather lazy one. Hence, my blog entry isn't quite complete yet.

    However, here's a little mid-week artwork to keep the posting coming. In my art class last week, we started working on objects with a little more dimension - shading and the such.I have to say that I'm pretty happy with the fact that this think looks like it has dimension and creases. My favorite part? Check out the left front edge of the bag and how it goes from being defined by a white highlight at the top to a dark line at the bottom. Such a triumph! Yes, these are the things that excite me these days...

    January 24, 2010


    I have long been a fan of lavender. What started as a vague liking of lavender has become a near obsession.

    My college roommate bought me a lavender sachet as a gift from France - more than ten years later, it's still in my drawer, despite the fact that it really doesn't smell like much anymore.

    I visited Matanzas Creek Winery winery when I was still living in San Francisco. Don't tell the authorities, but I snipped a little stem of lavender from a bush and stored it in a Krispy Kreme hat that sat in our car for 5 years.

    I started a few lavender plants from seed this year, which yielded about 2 stems of flowers in total. I'm hoping 2010's crop will be a bit fuller.

    So this week, I'm making a dessert dedicated to my favorite flower: rosemary cupcakes with lavender frosting. An odd combo? Perhaps. Lavender-licious? Definitely.

    It seemed like it would be pretty straightforward. Find a standard cupcake recipe and frosting recipe and add some herbs and flowers. Easy, right? Eh, I may have hit a few bumps on the way.

    I went to epicurious.com - my trusty go-to site for recipes - and found this recipe for a simple white cupcake. Decent reviews, and it looked pretty simple. I made the recipe as stated with a few modifications. I accidentally used more butter than the recipe called for - 5/6ths of a cup instead of the 2/3 of a cup that the recipe calls for. Oops #1. That is a lot of butter. Yum/yuck. For anyone who doesn't do a lot of baking, it's a little gross to see how much butter it takes to make a measly cupcake. Truthfully, I don't think that more butter really hurt anything except my waistline.

    This is where things get craaazy! In place of the vanilla, I used 6 tsp of dried rosemary crushed into the smallest pieces I could muster with my bare hands. Oops #2. It turns out that spears of rosemary get a little bitter when you chew them. I recommend a mortar and pestle to get the pieces as small as possible. Then mix it in with the flour and milk.

    Warning! This recipe produces a lot of cupcakes - 18 to be exact. I don't recommend making this many unless you have a planned outlet for them. Perhaps you can write a blog and distribute them to friends who read your blog?

    I popped those bad boys in the oven and let them bake for a while. I must not be used to using my oven very much. Oops #3. At one point, instead of turning off my oven timer, I accidentally turned off the oven. No wonder the cupcakes seemed to stop baking at one point. They were a tiny bit crustier on top, but generally no worse for the wear.

    As for the frosting recipe - personally, my favorite part of a cupcake - it was a no-brainer. I used Sprinkles' recipe for its famed vanilla buttercream frosting. I then mixed in 9tsp of whole lavender flowers (easily found at my Jewel's spice section). I think this was maybe Oops #4. Similar to rosemary, I think the essence of the lavender would have been a little better if I had just crushed the buds a bit more with a mortar and pestle. Also, Chris made me add more lavender to the recipe because he didn't think the flavor was strong enough. I think you could get away with 6tsp and still be in good shape.

    Again, this frosting involves a lot of butter and a lot of sugar. 18 cupcakes = 4 sticks of butter in total. Sprinkles tells you that this is enough frosting for 12 cupcakes, but I frosted 18 cupcakes and still had some left.

    I used an offset spatula to frost the cupcakes, and voila! Lavender-licious.

    So, in the end, how did these cupcakes turn out? Not too shabby! I would definitely make these again as a unique alternative with the modifications I stated above. If you're interested, try it out for yourself. It was fun and weird to toss ingredients in to my cooking that I wouldn't normally use.

    Happy baking!

    (Recommended) materials used for this project:

    • 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2/3 cups unsalted butter, softened
    • 1 3/4 cups sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
    • 6 tsps rosemary, crushed with mortar and pestle
    1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare cupcake tins as directed as directed in the recipe you are following.
    2. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.
    3. In a separate, larger bowl, cream the butter. Gradually add the sugar, creaming until light and fluffy.
    4. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat well after each addition.
    5. In a small bowl, combine the milk and vanilla.
    6. To the butter mixture, add about one quarter of the flour mixture and rosemary and mix well. Add about one quarter of the milk mixture and mix well. Continue alternating the flour mixture and milk mixture, beating after each addition until smooth.
    7. Pour the batter into the cupcake tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cake springs back when touched.
    8. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, then turn the cupcakes out of the tins and onto a rack to finish cooling completely.
    1. In a bowl combine butter, sugar and salt. Beat till blended.
    2. Add the milk and vanilla and beat for an additional 3 to 5 minutes or until smooth and creamy.

    January 17, 2010

    Hike Up That Skirt

    My mother told me when I was younger that learning to sew would be an essential life skill. As a wife, I would be responsible for taking care of all the housework and ensuring that my husband's pants were properly hemmed. It turns out that my mothers' sewing mini-courses didn't really stick with me over time, so my skills are a little sub par. Luckily, I had a pretty strong backup by going to college, finishing grad school, and having a career.

    Still, I can't deny that knowing how to sew is a useful skill. This week, I've tried to put my skills to use - not on my husband's clothes, but on my own. It is an experiment in how I can improve my current wardrobe. No, I'm not extremely petite. I'm actually 5'4", which is the height of the average American woman. Unfortunately, clothing manufacturers seem to think that we're all Glamazons with 45-in inseams.

    I protest! But in the meantime, I have to make do with what I have. Short legs, meet long skirt:

    I've had this skirt for a few years now, and every time I wear it, I feel like it makes me even more of a midget than I already am. My legs shrink and become stumpy, and not even the highest heels can rescue the look (as evidenced by the photo above). Short girls, you know what I mean!

    As a side note, I've discovered that shopping at teen-oriented stores (like Forever 21) can actually be a better bet than the petites section at a chain store like Banana Republic because of the skirt length and variety of styles. Apparently teenagers like their skirts shorter. And their quality lower.

    Anyhow, I decided to take on the gargantuan task of figuring out how to hem a circular hem. If any of you have tried this before, you know that it's not totally easy to create a circular hem that's even and attractive. So, I took advantage of the layered construction of the skirt and decided to make the part that I was hemming invisible by showing only the fluffy crepe layer  (the shiny one that's not currently at the bottom):

    So, rip, rip, cut, snip, off come 6 inches of skirt! It was pretty easy to get all that fabric off because of all the seams on the back of the skirt, and there was even enough fabric to leave room for a hem that I could hide underneath the bottom layer.

    Using my mom's trusty old sewing machine, I did the best I could to shore up my loose end.

    I have to admit that I wasn't being that careful with the hem since I knew it would be mostly hidden, but my hem was REALLY crooked. Plus, when I got to the side seams, there was a fair bit of shortcutting required to make it all join together.

    Still, I think that you can't really tell from three feet away - I can just tell that I have knees again!

    So, what do you think? An improvement? Creative? Ruined? It's the right time to be thinking about performance reviews, so I'll be wearing the skirt to work next week to get some face-to-face feedback.

    Materials used for this project:
    • A skirt that's too long
    • Scissors
    • Seam ripper
    • Black thread
    • A sewing machine