Monday, March 31, 2014

Renovating a French Chateau

Awe-inspiring wanderlust blog Messy Nessy Chic featured a great piece today about a couple who bought an abandoned 18th-century neoclassical French chateau and are, little by little, renovating it.

You guys! It looks like Downton Abbey!

Looks like Australian couple Karina and Craig Waters snatched up this treasure in the French Midi-Pyrénées after it sat on the market for four years. They've been documenting the process of renovating it on their blog.

For someone like me, who daydreams about making it big one day, renovating a chateau in the French or Italian countryside, and inviting my friends to summer with us ("summer" becomes a verb when you're fancy and rich), this is an amazing peek into a dream world. Of course, the fantasy is probably much more fun when it's not your own money that you're spending on tearing down walls and excavating old staircases, and you're not wading through governmental red tape and waiting for months on end to get building permits from the French authorities.

The reno has also yielded some cool archeological discoveries... construction workers recently found a 3-meter wide space below the floorboards, which - surprise! - has a vaulted ceiling. A vaulted ceiling, you guys.

Could this be the ancient remains of a former emperor's palace? Or just some old wine cellar? We'll see...apparently the builders are excavating to see where it leads.

I can't wait to see the finished product, although it'll be a few years. Good thing Karina and Craig rescued it from the former owners, foreign investors who were planning to convert the chateau into seventeen luxury apartments. Can you imagine if this place was renovated to have a gym and a Starbucks on the ground floor? No thanks. In the meantime, I'm following the renovations on their Facebook page and on their blog, and I'm working on getting my own European chateau or villa. If you want to come summer with me in the future, you better be nice to me now. Thanks to Messy Nessy Chic for spreading the word about this amazing project.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Getting Clean, Inside and Out

I'm one of those people who just can't focus if my home is feeling dirty or messy. Call me OCD, but I feel restless and unhappy if there's clutter everywhere, or if balls of cat hair roll around the floor like sagebrush in a Western. Nothing makes me happier and more content than a clean home. When the apartment is clean, I feel light and carefree, and I actually get more work done. I can also actually relax and read a book on the couch, because I'm not too concerned about how much fur is getting stuck on my clothes or how I should be doing that giant pile of dishes.

Naturally, the same goes for my body. There's nothing like 5 weeks of post-HIMYM celebratory face-stuffing. Seriously, I've eaten more calories in the last month than I probably have all year, including multiple pizzas, pastas, cocktails, sushi, sandwiches, cookies, donuts, cakes...It was all delicious. I gots no regrets. But it's left me feeling pretty gross. My sleep has gotten progressively worse, my skin is breaking out and so dehydrated that I suddenly have forehead lines (!), I've been feeling slugging and slow, and my stomach has been hurting almost every other night. I've been suffering from stomach pain since my teens, and no gastroenterologist or drug has ever been able to cure what ails me. It's gotten better with some dietary changes, but it always comes rushing back every time I go on one of these junk food benders.

The most LA thing I do is probably the occasional detox cleanse. It's a habit I picked up when, a few years ago, I read the book Clean, by Dr. Alejandro Junger, on the recommendation of a few different friends.

I'm not one for homeopathic potions and elixirs, and I'm always a little skeptical about the logic behind your body having to "detoxify." After all, isn't that what the kidneys and liver and all your organs are made for? Why would we have to do something extra to get rid of "toxins" in our bodies? Aren't cleanses just fads designed to make money for companies cashing in on gullible, health-conscious folks?

Well, some are, for sure. Many are pricey and useless, capitalizing on people's desperation to get thin quick. But not all are like that. What got me on this book was that Dr. Junger, who's got an MD from NYU (one of the nation's top med schools) and did his fellowship in cardiology at Lenox Hill, is an actual practicing doctor with a background in Western medicine, as well as having studied Eastern medicine in India. He has a well-rounded grasp of both medicine and holistic health, and his research and conclusions are backed up with legit scientific studies and explanations.

Enter Clean. It's hard. It's not fun. It's 21 days of hard-core dietary restrictions -- no caffeine, no added sugars, no alcohol, no preservatives, no red meat, no eggs, no dairy -- only whole, organic fresh foods and tons of water. And you don't have to buy anything extra beyond the $12 book (although they do have powders and supplements if you want to). It makes me antisocial (I'd rather stay in than have to sit at a restaurant watching others devour their pasta) and cranky (when I'm deprived of sugar and pasta, I get pissed). But every time I've successfully completed the Clean Program (and not every time has been successful), good things happen in my life. Part of the program is also making time for your mental health -- meditation, rumination on why your body is reacting one way or another, on whether your hunger is emotional or actual hunger. And by the third week, I'm usually feeling much better. My skin glows, my energy levels are high, my sleep is deep, and my stomach...gasp! It stops hurting. And when I mean good things happen, I mean these things that I am doing are actually making me feel better about myself, and most likely, affecting how I deal with things in the world and how I present myself. I go into auditions feeling stressless and free. I feel good about myself. I've booked jobs, signed with new representation, relieved depression, enjoyed days without pain, gotten a new lease on life -- all in the wake of my previous times doing the Clean Program.

Of course, it could all be mental. But who cares is if it is? If eating better and naturally for a few weeks can help me approach life differently, more positively, then why not? It's not for everyone, but for me, taking the extra effort a few times a year to pay attention to my body and what I'm putting in it, and to remember to breathe, is worth it.

Today is Day 1. I started with a mango, kale, and almond milk smoothie, and since I was still buying necessary groceries today, I took a short cut for lunch and went to the awful Whole Foods prepared foods bar to make myself a salad of quinoa, black beans, guacamole, organic chicken, and beets. Morale is still high. Usually, Week 1 is the time when I feel like I gotta choke a bitch. But so far so good! Let's hope by the end of the week I'm not all Wayne Brady...*

*Mobile readers, the video won't pop up so you'll have to use the good old computer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Brighter Side of Los Angeles

Every time I hear myself getting down on LA and singing the praises of New York, talking about how LA is a cesspool of strip malls and shallow people while New York is the international epicenter of culture and cool, I just remind myself of the produce...

Say it to yourself in Helen Lovejoy's voice:

"Think of the produce! Oh, won't somebody please think of the produce?!"

And then all is well again.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

LA's Answer to Downton Abbey

I've spent the last weekend sick at home with a cold, but it's been time well-spent: catching up on season 4 of Downton Abbey!

Highclere Castle / Downton Abbey
It's not just the frequent sudden deaths of main characters and the various injustices that Mr. Bates can suffer that keeps me watching. Just a few episodes of the show can inspire a pretty bad case of house envy for those of us design-obsessed.  I am now full-on lusting after those British floral living room wallpapers and lush green English landscapes. My desert succulent garden looks boring after seeing Grandmama's roses.

Apparently, in the English countryside, you can visit Highclere Castle, where they shoot the show [putting it in my Google calendar as I type], but for now I'll have to do with LA's answer to Downton Abbey: Greystone Mansion.

Greystone Mansion has a long and storied past (including gold prospecting, old money, and good ol' fashioned murder-suicide), but it's now become a public park and events location for the rich and famous.

For us plebes, it's just a place to stroll around after brunch when you've got an extra hour to kill.

It's not this...

...but I'll take it. For now.

ps. Speaking of the English, I played a Brit last week on CBS's new sci-fi show Intelligence  (starring Josh Holloway). Shoine ye' shoes, guvnah? (B

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

DIY Homegirl and Liquid Starch Walls

The lovely Angela over at DIY Homegirl featured my framed vintage wallpaper panels on her post last week about ideas for brightening up spaces of renters who are stuck with white walls! Click below to go to the article...

I go through phases of loving white walls versus wanting color and wallpaper, but I appreciate all the ideas she's got. I'm especially liking the idea about the temporary chalkboard wall and the electrical tape chevron. Also near and dear to my heart is using fabric with liquid starch...a cheat we use on low-budget set design for indie films.

For the set design of my short film, Mouthbreather, we used fabric and liquid starch to create the richly textured and wallpapered home of a cat lady, all without pissing off my landlord (yes, we shot it entirely in my own apartment).

Here's the before and after...

The original wall was white, and I painted it with Behr Silver Screen for that lovely grey with lilac undertones. A far cry from my cat lady digs. Once we put up the wallpaper for the set, I kept up the kitchen wallpaper after we wrapped and didn't take it down 'til I moved out two years later.

Tribeca Film Fest & Maker Studios' online channel Picture Show featured Mouthbreather just last month. You can watch the full short film and see the full on wallpaper/starch set design here.

Thanks, DIY Homegirl, for the shoutout and for your awesome ideas!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Decoupage Experiments

I love me some John Derian. If you've seen any of this New York artist's stuff at local boutiques or home decor sites, you'll know what I'm talking about.

He takes found images from old botanical manuals, vintage maps, etc. and makes all sorts of awesome paperweights and dishes from them. Genius and ecofriendly, right? His home goods shop in the East Village is filled to the brim with these gorgeous little treasures.

You know what's not so genius and Emily-friendly? The prices. His plates usually run about $55-180. For that price, I can buy myself 1/4 of the Rag & Bone boots I've been eyeing! Which would I rather have, boots or decoupage plate? I'll take the Rag & Bone boots, thank you.

Since it's the holiday season, I decided to try out some homemade gift-making with my version of the John Derian decoupage glass plates. I picked up some vintage glass plates at my favorite thrift shop. 6 vintage French glass plates for $2? Yes, please.

First, a silly guinea pig, using my usual kitty inspiration and some Kate Spade wrapping paper...

Success! Sort of...
Onto the real tries. First, I used the holy water of crafting...

...Mod Podge! I decided to take a stab at the square plate, which seemed easier.

Then I cut my fabric to size (the silk Duralee Kalah that I used to reupholster this regency chair):

Using an angled sponge brush, I painted a coat of Mod Podge on the back of the glass plate.

Then, I carefully laid the fabric face down onto the back of the glass plate, directly onto the glue.

How 'bout them nails, eh?

Here's the flip side.

After about 30 minutes, I trimmed the edges with serrated fabric shears (mistake!...don't do this!) and laid down another coat of the Mod Podge over the back of the fabric.

I don't love how the edges show through, but that was a lesson to learn.

Now, an attempt with the round glass plates...this time using a map of Italy.
First, I found the part of the map that I wanted to highlight on the plate...

Va bene, Sicilia.
Traced the edges and cut out the dish shape with scissors. Since it's a circle shape with slightly curved edges, pasting would prove molto difficile. So I cut that map into slices of pie...

How I wish this were blueberry pie.

...that would overlap when pasting the paper onto the curvature of the glass. Again, a coat of Mod Podge and the same ol' rigamarole...

One hour after drying, this plate looks pretty damn bellissimo!

Here's another I did with that same Kate Spade wrapping paper. I stamped it with a gold ink ginko stamp in the center, which isn't very visible.

I then spray painted the backs of the dishes with my trusty gold Rust-o-leum, for a classier finish...

Once I got on a roll with these, they were pretty easy to make. I ended up making a bunch, using both found materials and pretty paper I got from Paper Source. I found that fabric was the easiest to work with since it bends and curves along with the dish. Also, in the future I'll stick with square plates.

I originally bought this lovely fabric to reupholster the regency chair with, but changed my mind when I saw it in the living room. Which left me with a yard of fabric to play with! I didn't take any pics, but I used a bright pink paper decoupaged over the back since I love the pairing of pink and green - makes me think of prep school.

Next time I head to the flea market, I'll look for some vintage botanical prints that I can use for my second foray into decoupage. I ended up gifting all these plates above with a personal note...

...but I kept my favorite dinky one for myself.

It makes me laugh every time I look at it.
I still haven't perfected the art of decoupage, but at least I'm 25% closer to those Rag & Bone boots.