Sunday, July 29, 2012

On Goodbyes

I lost a friend this week. Today was her funeral, or rather, celebration of life.

         Donned in the only black clothing in my suitcase, I reflect on how I will miss her presence. I was not there, though. At the funeral. Instead, I am writing from a plane headed back to Tennessee after saying goodbye (for now) to my love in Texas. As usual, I was dreading saying goodbye to him, even for such a short time (our last goodbye from the Houston airport was for 6 months) and I was complaining that as many times as I've had to bid farewell to people I love, it never, ever gets easier. Not in the slightest. I was also frustrated (and complaining) about not being able to get an earlier flight to make it home in time for the celebration of life. 

          It wasn't until I was sitting and waiting for my flight, mentally complaining to myself, that I realized that saying goodbye is a privilege. I've been fortunate enough in my life that in time, almost all of my goodbyes have been followed by hellos. Yet I still dread them. Every time I have moved abroad, I told people I wouldn't leave without saying goodbye, but I'm a huge liar in this department. So I snuck away like the evasive goodbye-hater I am. When I say goodbye to someone, I think about all the things I will miss about them while we're apart. It makes my heart hurt, so I selfishly avoid it. It sounds trivial perhaps, but this has been a big shift in perspective for me, to look at this parting ritual as a privilege and not an unpleasant but required social custom. I wanted to be there today, at her funeral, to pay my respects. I wanted to be there, to mourn with others who are grieving the same loss. I wanted to be there to show support to her family and her loved ones, my presence a meager attempt to show them how many people loved this wonderful girl. Most importantly though, or perhaps tied with the last desire, I wanted a chance to say goodbye. I haven't been home or to work since it happened, and it almost doesn't feel real. I wanted to be by her, though her body may be only a vacant vessel now, to mourn the hole she will leave in innumerable hearts and the empty space that we will all feel at work. I'm looking out the window of the plane right now, gazing across the dark profile of clouds, admiring the most striking and boldly-pigmented sunset I have ever laid eyes on. It's so fitting it almost seems corny. I wanted to be there today to say goodbye to the smiling girl in the funky necklaces. However, goodbyes never seem to cooperate with me, so this seems as good a place as any to say goodbye, miles closer to where heaven is said to be, surrounded by a radiant sky and beautiful, dark silhouettes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

2 More Early Projects

While I am a creature of habit, I am also susceptible to phases, and I have been out of the furniture phase for a few weeks now. I've recently starting to venture back down to the studio, but it just isn't as tempting as it used to be since it has been hotter than hell here the past few weeks (the best joke I've heard so far is "satan called, he wants his weather back"). I don't have anything new ready to write about yet, although I'm still working on the super secret project and am also in the midst of reworking an old rocking chair for my oldest friend Claire, who recently moved into a cute house in East Nashville (I am so jealous and I haven't even seen the place yet!).

I thought that while I'm airing my clumsy first attempts at making stuff funky that I might share another few early projects. The dropleaf table in the post below was my very first, and while I was huffing around and being generally frustrated by my failed attempts, I painted this giraffe thing that I used to love so much when my childhood room was Indian/African/travel themed. I wish I had known to take "before" pictures, but alas all I have now are "after" photos. It was originally a very typical yellow, black, and red palette and had great texture and shape (which was a huuuuuge pain when it came to painting and waxing, let me tell you). I painted it the only colors I had at the time, Duck Egg followed by a coat of Old White, clear wax, and finally dark wax. I think it's definitely a strange piece, but I really like it and can't wait to have an awesome place to put it!

     One thing I always make sure to bring back from somewhere I've traveled and loved, beyond photos and memories and presents of course, is a little something to hang on my wall. I like to have something visual and unique to serve as a reminder of all the things traveling to that place taught me, as well as to provoke that surge of memories that so often start to fade. Something I splurged on a bit for myself in Chile (well, splurge in the typical, broke-backpacker sort of way) was a small tapestry from San Pedro de Atacama (see a few posts down). I bargained for it with a kind man at the far end of the dusty main street, Caracoles, on my last day in town. It shows 6 bright, stylized flamingos, very representative of San Pedro and Bolivia because the vividly cyan and red lagoons throughout are teeming with the delicate pink bodies of 3 species of flamingo. I envisioned displaying it in a floating frame in which the tapestry would be pressed between to panes of glass surrounded by a simple wooden frame, the wall showing around the sides through the glass. But, being broke and cheap, I instead chose to hunt through the house for materials to fanagle into something like my vision. I found an ugly brass frame to work with, and in the end I went totally the opposite direction with it and ended up loving it even more. Like seriously, I am in love with this frame. It completely embodies my personal taste. It looks much better in person though, and I would have preferred a thicker, more visible wire. Also, it was a pain in the butt to wrap with all that wire and beading, especially because the wrapping interferes with how tidily the glass sits in the frame, but it looks nice and let's be honest, I can't afford better :P
Here's how it turned out:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Retrospective look at my first Chalk Painted piece

       I've been painting with Annie Sloan chalk paint for perhaps 5 months now, and I'm still learning how to work with the paint and wax and such. My first project was a huge drop-leaf table that I took from a dumpster in college. I have no idea who would get rid of it, because it's solid and well built! Well, it was pretty filthy and needed to be either painted or refinished but it's a great piece. It happily sat on our balcony for a year and a half, where we played beer pong eeeh I mean studied studiously and took notes! Ahem. For its next round of uses, I chose Duck Egg and had something rather advanced in mind (a version of this) and it did not go as planned. At all. I haphazardly slapped on some Old White first in random spots, not anticipating how fast it would dry and thus not blend as I had planned. After the initial layer of Duck Egg, I distressed it and then ended up completely repainting it because I hated it so much. I got so frustrated it took me a whole month to buck up and finish, and looking at it now I still feel like I need to repaint the big distressed spots and calm it all down a bit. The color is absolutely lovely, but the photos are not quite faithful to this so you'll have to trust me. I used some old dark minwax that we found in the garage (prob another mistake of mine) that was pretty dried up and frankly chunky compared to fresh dark wax. Of course we made poo jokes the entire time. Anyway, I will probably lavish some more loving on this table before I consider it properly finished, but here it is in the current state!

A work in progress
The big, bald patches are too pronounced for my taste, but I really like the effect of the white underneath with the dark wax

As a whole, I am very pleased with the color and the general appearance, I just want the patches to be painted in and then I think I'll be satisfied! It's just a matter of getting this baby hauled back downstairs. It truly does weigh a ton! Last time I moved we had to take it apart first because it weighs so much. Quality dumpster diving right there! :D

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Notebook

Today I was rooting around in my desk and found the notebook that was my constant companion during my stint living in Santiago, Chile. It is torn to pieces, the binding broken and exposed, but it contains everything. Hundreds of new (Chilean) Spanish words that I was absorbing as fast as I could, bus schedules, the class schedule at the school where I taught, lesson plans, names of bands the students wanted me to check out, almost a hundred to-do lists, notes on differentiating appropriate uses of my new vocabulary words, the business card of the street comedian who embarrassed the living day-lights out of my friends and I and sold our kisses for tips. Everything. Or almost.
       I had intended to write while I was there. I am known to send some epically long but entertaining emails while abroad, and I love studying people and their culture and trying to explain how I see the world. This notebook contains almost no writings though. Truthfully, I was rather unhappy in Santiago. I felt stifled and that it wasn't where I was supposed to be. This isn't to say that there weren't moments of joy and small successes, great friendships and lots of laughs during my time living there, but I regard it as a whole as sort of a personal failure. It is something I have trouble reflecting on or talking about. This is why I did not write during my time there. The only two writings I have are from my backpacking trip north, once I had left the city behind, living out of a backpack for a month. The following entry was scrawled at the end of my notebook from one of my favorite South American cities, San Pedro de Atacama (Chile).

Dec. 15, 2011
I'm really liking San Pedro. My first impression was terror---flat expanses of dull gravel with crumbly hills and mountains in the distance. It got dustier as we approached the outskirts of town until we were dropped off at a tiny bus station/office made of what looked like remnants of wooden pallets. The town looked small, empty and dusty, and the lack of green had me on edge. When we arrived to our hostel, we were relieved to see that it wasn't as poor and basic as our first impression had led us to believe. In fact, it might be the cleanest hostel I've been in and has a wonderful authentic South American feel to it. It is on the outskirts of town tho, and although the inside is very nice, the neighboring structures are poor and dusty. The people seem to be doing just fine. The center of town was such a delight. I know most travelers aim to avoid other travelers, and shun all that is "touristy," but San Pedro is such an important jumping off point for many travelers and I was delighted to venture into town the first night to discover all the other foreigners (mostly non-North Americans actually) strolling the main street, Caracoles. The street is entirely travel agencies, artesianal and souvenir shops, over-priced restaurants and money exchanges, but it has such a nice vibe. The days here are hot and the sun is strong, but the mornings and evenings are so fresh and crisp. The stars at night are bright like back home and I never tire of looking at mountains in the near distance. 
     Although the town is hot and dusty, there are so many stunning things within easy reach. Multi-colored mountains of solid rock and gravel and hardy yet colorful shrubs and grasses surround lagoons of the most unnaturally bright blue-green water, with flamingos and vicuña no less. Not too far from there you stumble upon a valley of volcanic rock and dry adobe in the most fantastic shapes, so dry and barren as to resemble the surface of the moon. Upon following this valley further and up, you can reach a lookout that provides a stunning view of yet more fantastically shaped rock and gravel mountains sprouting from a surprisingly fertile and green strip of life spreading across the view.
     Whether out and about, gasping from the altitude and unearthly and contradictory landscapes within reach, or hanging out with the brilliant and interesting mochileros [backpackers] also staying in the hostel, listening to the strong wind tear at the corners and uneven surfaces of the buildings, it is a good place to be. 


San Pedro--Walking from the center of town towards the hostal

The roof of our hostel. Even in Santiago many roofs look like this

The hostel

The hostel again

The beginning of Caracoles, with the volcano Licancabur in the distance

La niña del hostal

One of the lagunas altiplánicas

The view after trekking through the dry adobe canyon, the fertile strip fell into shadow

The ever-present pastel hues

Right on the border of Chile and Bolivia

This is technically Bolivia, but it is merely a hop skip and a jump from San Pedro

Saturday, July 7, 2012

RIP Little Succulent

Sooo.... I regret to inform you that on this 7th day of July, 2012 I am pronouncing my adorable little succulent dead :( Poor little thing had no chance. It shot up so tall, and then turned a pallid yellow and the leaves grew feeble and fell off. I watered it (but not too much) and gave it turns on the sunny windowsill. Let's see, that means I kept it alive a whole 2.5 months. That's pretty bad.

I'm ready to get another succulent soon and see if I can figure out how I kill plants so quickly and what I can do to stop it! Also, my little sister Mia bought me an air plant. It is supposed to be stupidly easy to care for so we'll see if this goes any better ;)

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Ways in Which my Little Sister Kicks Ass in the Kitchen

My little sister Mia is a wiz in the kitchen. She has always been like that. She's 9 years younger than me and plenty often when I come downstairs in the morning she'll offer to whip me up a fantastical omelette (I mean, she won't call it fantastical but what else do you call an omelette with 10 primo ingredients and feta cheese?). It's bizarre to me how inventive and comfortable she is in the kitchen, I admire it (envy more like). Perhaps being utterly outshone by someone so young contributes to my "domesticated" insecurities? Quite likely. But I won't complain, because she fills the house with yummy new dishes and just recently put together an awesome recipe for homemade Lara Bars. It's ridiculously easy and equally tasty.

P.S. Has anyone else tried to get a recipe from a chef before? It's remarkably difficult, like squeezing a confession from a suspect! I know it's because they don't use recipes per se (the chefs, not the suspects), but sheesh! Talk about hard to get. But I did, so here it is:

Mia's Homemade Lara Bars

1.5 cups dried dates, diced
1 cup almonds, chopped finely (food processor)
2-3 T raw sesame seeds

PLUS one or more of the following:
     chocolate chips
     dried cherries
     peanut butter chips
     coconut flakes
     chopped nuts
     other dried fruits
(Really, you can add anything you see fit. My favorite is chocolate chips with dried cherries!)

All you do to prepare these is to knead together all the ingredients and push into a small pan, like a small brownie pan or tupperware. Done!
     Note: Mia suggested kneading together just the dates, almonds and sesame seeds and then pressing the additional ingredients into the bar after it is in a pan, but I prefer them more incorporated. Whatever floats your boat! 

These homemade Lara Bars are super simple, healthy, delicious and naturally sweet (no sugar added obviously). Perfect! And if you really wanted to, you could always add chia seeds too.... :)

The following picture is from 2008, so it's evidently quite old but she is not only squeezably adorable but also sooo young and inventing a recipe with beets. Who does that?? Most kids won't even eat the stuff! I won't even eat the stuff! And I'm, um, an adult...

Badass from the start.
Love you Mi!