Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Blog Tour: My Writing Process

My fellow lover of poetry and sister of salsa y merengue Jennifer Cendaña Armas invited me to join her on a "blog tour": Basically, each writer answers four questions about their writing process and then passes on the baton to two more writers the following week.

Well....I kinda dropped the baton the last few weeks given all the recent changes (oopsies!), but now that I'm holed up in my hotel and fighting some sort of sinus infection, it seems to be the perfect time to finally pick that sucka back up. I was never good at relay races where you have to pass on a baton, even when I ran track for like a semester in high school before quitting in favor of watching Duck Tales at home after school because the dumb coach was so mean.



I've been grappling with writer's block the last, oh, year or so...but maybe this will jumpstart my engine.

What are you working on?
Multiple things. I have a feature-length rom-com that's been sitting on my desktop for a year in its ninth incarnation, a sitcom pilot in its early seed stages, a web series that I'm co-writing with this talented lady, a fiction novel that hasn't been touched in five years, a few short film scripts, and this blog about creating home. Ba-dum-bum. Non-writing wise, I've been working on television. But since this blog is the only one that I can actually say I've been working on with regularity (and even that is debatable), I'll focus on this. 

work.

How does your work differ from others' work in the same genre?
A lot of home design bloggers focus just on decor, interior renovations, style, or on DIY crafts. My blogging is more a reflection of whatever happens to be going on in my life - whether it's reupholstering a chair, battling rodents in the garden, getting married, lusting after a chair, shooting a commercial, or feeling homesick. I also don't really write for an audience; the OCD in me just likes to compulsively document how I reupholster things or how lush my farmer's market bounty looks. Sometimes my blog is less about home decor and more about creating a space called home, whether it's real or only in ze mind.



Why do you write what you do?
Because I have to. Because if I don't, something inside me starts to feel stale, sick, commercial. Because I have dreams where I live in a beautiful place. Because I want fruit trees. Because sometimes I have to remind myself. Because there was only Joy Luck Club and Amy Tan when I was growing up, and I always choose worst quality crab. Because I'm obsessed with before vs. after. Because there's only so much I can say say.


How does your writing process work?
When it's creative writing, once on a roll, I can't stop. I'll sit there for hours, I won't eat (the only time ever this is true), I will hold my pee in until the absolute last minute. I don't have much structure or process, I just write write write. Throw it all up on the page. And then, I'll take a break, and come back to it with editor eyes, and just keep whittling and whittling away at it until it starts to take shape. Kinda like an ice sculpture!

With this blog, I tend to get inspired by whatever furniture/house-thing/design-related stuff I tend to be obsessing over at the moment. I'll go to an estate sale or the Rose Bowl and see a beautiful antique mirror or an old Nintendo game, or I'll refurbish a dresser, or our glass coffee table will shatter into a million shards and I'll go scouting for a new one (true story). I'll snap some pics, I'll whip it up, and voila, it's up on the Internet for all the world to see. There's an audience potentially, but I don't know if they're watching. And in the end, who cares? There's something refreshingly instant and unplanned and unretractable about it, and it's mine.



Who's up next?
Uhhhh...I'm not sure. I didn't really plan so far in advance, okay? Who are you, the writing police?! Oh, you are? My bad. Perhaps my friends who are reading this? Huh? I'm kidding. You really don't have to. But do so if you'd like to.



Sunday, July 20, 2014

Georgia on My Mind

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm temporarily hanging out in Atlanta for work. I'm only shooting on certain days, which means I've got a looooot of time on my hands. I don't know many people in this city, and the one friend I had here working on another TV show just left to go home to LA today. The past few days have been filled with a lot of lonely me time, which is always good for the soul. Right? Right.

It's taken me about a week to get used to calling a hotel home. Don't get me wrong. I love room service, and I love housekeeping. I love the pool with food and beverage service, I love the spa, and I love the brand-new gym, stocked with cold towels and green apples and free headphones and water. I feel so absolutely spoiled. I'm ecstatic that I'm here. But maybe it's the germaphobe in me - I can't help but think about how many sticky fingers have touched the remote control! Plus, when it comes down to it, I'm away from home home, which, when you've got a loving husband and two furry kitties there waiting for you, is...well, hard. So I'm trying to refocus my germaphobic energy toward exploring this amazing city, and trying to build a little temporary home space for myself out here, even if it resides only in the mind.

Atlanta is bawse. It contains glimpses of cities I've known and loved and lived in: New York and Chicago, as well as the South, obviously, plus a healthy dash of Portland. The Southern food here has really blown me away, as well as the general friendliness of people. Here are some moments that made me at "home" in my mind.

High Museum of Art

The High Museum currently has a really cool outdoor design installation called "Mi Casa Your House." Basically, it's a bunch of red hammocks on a very green lawn! When I walked up, I just made a beeline straight for a hammock and spent the next half hour, swinging. This reminded me a lot of LACMA's outdoor installations in Los Angeles.


Inside the museum, I saw a Mary Cassatt painting that immediately brought back the feeling for me of my shoes echoing as I walk around The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC - my favorite place to go on days when I was cutting school hanging around in New York City before I ever lived there. I have the best fuzzy memories of high school field trips where somehow we were all left to our own devices to wander the grand galleries of the Met, staring at paintings, sketching our own, and walking around the Upper East Side.


This Hopper painting and the similar one below it gave me a Cape Cod-y, mid-Atlantic vibe -- those marine blues and whites, that coastal breeze -- a nice feeling when you're feeling hot and muggy in the South.


Georgia Aquarium

Exploring the aquarium by myself, surrounded by hundreds of kids, reminded me of my time in Chicago, when I was working with these awesome refugee kids from Uptown. I brought them everywhere I could in the city that was fun and enriching and kid-friendly, and I have great memories of them oohing and aaahing at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.


Piedmont Park

Two words: Central Park.






Saturday, July 19, 2014

Homemade Granola

Ahoy! I'm in Atlanta working on a TV show right now - and more about that soon - but now that I'm living in a hotel away from my home in Los Angeles, I've been thinking more than ever about the perks of having a kitchen at your disposal.

Store-bought granola is so damn expensive and never all that tasty, so I've recently started making my own granola and giving it out as gifts. It's super easy and can totally be customized to whatever you happen to have in your cupboards. I based my granola loosely on a mashup of this recipe from Smitten Kitchen and this recipe from author Heidi Schulz

For those who've been thinking about making their own granola - do it! I'm not much of a baker or a cook, and I can't be bothered with time-consuming or difficult recipes, but this one was easy as pie and well worth it. All I knew was that I wanted yummy granola, and to use the large amounts of coconut flakes, coconut oil, and pumpkin seeds I had in the cupboard.

First, I threw all the ingredients (rolled oats, coconut flakes, almonds, pumpkin seeds, dried blueberries, dried apples, cinnamon, and salt) in a big bowl and mixed them up:


Then, in another bowl I beat egg whites (this is key to making it clumpy!) and mixed in grade B maple syrup, vanilla, and coconut oil before distributing it thoroughly in the dry mixture.


Then I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper and pressed it into a big ol' donut shape, to ensure each section got toasty...



...and threw that in the oven for about 45 minutes at 300 degrees, 'til the edges started to get a little golden and crunchalicious.


The problem with homemade granola is that it doesn't cluster as well as store-bought granola, but check out these babies! The egg white trick really does seem to work!


Kept some for myself...


...and distributed the rest in repurposed jars. This is an old Bonne Maman preserves jar.


My first feeble attempt at packaging a granola gift...a big ol' nope!


My first batch went out to my twinsie actress/blogger friend, Lynn, of The Actor's Diet.


Then, I decided to man woman up and just buy some Ball mason jars at the new Orchard Hardware down the street...


...which made the whole gift packaging thing a lot cuter.


And off they went! I love giving unexpected homemade gifts to friends, especially something they can eat for breakfast.

Homemade Clustery Granola 
(A Mashup of Smitten Kitchen's Big Cluster Maple Granola & Heidi Schulz's Clumpy Granola)

1 cups rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup almond slivers & whole almonds
1/3 cup grade B maple syrup (or honey)
2 egg whites, beaten
1/4 cup dried blueberries (or whatever you have on hand)
handful of dried apples (or whatever you have on hand)

Preheat oven to 300°. Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites til frothy, then add in oil, egg whites, maple syrup, and vanilla.

Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl and mix thoroughly, ensuring everything is well coated.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and split mixture evenly between the 2. Spread evenly and press down firmly into a thin donut-shaped single layer with a spatula (this prevents an uncooked middle).

Bake in the oven for roughly 45-55 minutes. When it is golden brown on the edges and dry to the touch, remove and allow to cool. Gently break up granola into whatever size clusters delight you.

Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks, if it lasts that long. Serve alone or over yogurt with fruit. For me, one batch only lasted me about five days because I just wanted to eat granola, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Vintage Tea Cup Terrarium

As I promised last post, here's what I did with those dollar succulents I picked up from the Melrose Trading Post last week.


So it all goes back to the last time I was visiting my parents in New Jersey, I promised to clean out their basement for them. In an old, dusty box, I found the dinnerware set that I grew up eating off of as a little kid:


I remember many a plate of spaghetti bolognese served on these plates on a Sunday night after Chinese school. Turns out this china is Myott/Staffordshire's discontinued Finlandia line, manufactured in 1982 in England.


As you may remember, it's the little old lady in me that can't turn up an old tea cup that was made in England, Japan, or basically anywhere but America or China (unless it's like, old China china). Sadly, cleaning means getting rid of stuff, so I donated the whole set to Big Brothers Big Sisters, in hope that someone will need a beautiful set of dishes to eat off of. In the meantime, there's such nostalgia for me when I look at the print...it's just such a gorgeous hue of blue on white.


I stared many hours at that sugar bowl on our breakfast table, and though my parents rarely used cream in their coffee or tea, we used it on nice occasions. As a kid, I remember thinking that cluster pattern on top looked like weird grapes. And it looks like I'm also not the only person who has an appreciation for this pattern. Blogger Anne Marie, who runs the site Thriftyamos.com did a whole post on how lovely the Myott Finlandia is...

From Thriftyamos.com
 And check out what seller Botanicalgems made for sale on Etsy from an original Myott tea set:

From Botanicalgems on Etsy.com

A pretty awesome jewelry holder!

Had I found that image before I donated all our dishes, I would've kept them and made my own jewelry dishes with them. Or at least sold them on eBay...looks like I could've fetched a couple hundred bucks at the going rate. D'oh!

But alas, old dishes must go, and actors must fly to Los Angeles with carry-on luggage, which means...I saved four pieces from charity. Yes, four of these tea cups were wrapped in underwear and sweaters and stuffed in my suitcase and flown across the country.


Not pictured above is the sugar bowl. Just looking at these makes me happy, but I rarely drink from teacups like that. So I decided to repurpose them in a way that I know all too well...

Just grabbed some basic potting soil and added some perlite...


...and mixed these suckers up, topped with some pretty white rock and sand.


Here's a close up of one of them, sitting pretty on my cluttered kitchen window sill.


I'll give a couple away as gifts and keep the other two so that I can think of my childhood while I do the dishes.



Thursday, July 3, 2014

Flea Circus

Made it out to the Melrose Trading Post last weekend with my pal Cynthia, who was on the lookout for some cheap succulents.

My friend Kai calls it "looking at junk," but I can't resist browsing through all the fun antiques and oddities at the flea markets that pop up all over California on the weekends. Where else can you find a bunch of old typewriters upon which to write the Great American novel...


"It was the best of times; it was the blurst of times."

...mirrors you can turn into trays for your vanity table, or as I did from my Rose Bowl find, a liquor tray for our dining nook...

Just stare into your empty-eyed reflection as you swig the last of that vodka, you sad animal.

...and that Snoopy goodies jar from the 1980s your mom used to keep all the lollipops in?

Yum!

Plus you'll never know when a saddle will come in handy (complete with rope to lasso)...

Yee-haw!

...or when you'll decide to dig out your old Nintendo from your parents' basement and defeat the entire Legend of Zelda game.

Up up down down left right left right B A select start.
Here's King Triton's chest of mermaid jewels...

I consider myself a reasonable merman.

Ah yes. And the succulents. It's easy to forget what you came in for, since there are so many diversions.



Only a dollar each! What a total steal. I picked up a few and decided to gift them by planting them into some little terrariums. More on that in my next post!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

It's Peony Season

Peonies are a heck of a flower.

The Chinese believe peonies symbolize wealth and fortune, as well as noble status.


The Japanese poets memorialized the peony in haiku:

The Peony
Made him measure it
With his fan.
-Issa

In the stillness,
Between the arrival of guests,
The peonies.
-Buson

The stamens and pistil
Of the peony gush out
Into the sunlight.
-Taigi

Whoah there, Taigi. Don't get too excited.

I loooove these floofy, dinner-plate-sized flowers. Not only are they gorgeous, but they can withstand snow. How's that for badass? When I visited Japan in winter, I noticed gardeners would build a little hut for each peony so it wouldn't get crushed by the weight of the snow.


Every time they're in season, I go nuts stocking up. Trader Joe's in Southern California must have a great dealer, because they are packed to the heavens...


$6.99 for five stems? That's insane! At a fancy Silver Lake florist last year, I bought three stems for 24 dollars ($8 each) and all the petals fell off within 24 hours. On the contrary, my Trader Joe's peonies or the ones I pick up at the farmer's market (at about $3/stem) usually last me up to two weeks.

My guy has caught onto my peony craze and bought me some gorgeous tulips and peonies for my birthday this past week...


And for now, our home is filled with these lovely power puffs of color.





Aaaah. Now doesn't just looking at that make you happy?