Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Yes, I am working on Christmas Eve, finishing up some last minute details on a big job that needs a little pre-Christmas attention. I will take half the day off (at some point) so I can head home to wrap my boys gifts (they go crazy with anticipation if I put too many presents under the Christmas tree too far in advance), make some homemade clam chowder and then get ready to go to church tonight and watch my children participate in our church's annual Christmas production. For my family, Christmas is this:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the
government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bold Costume Jewelry, Sonia Boyajian, Calder and The Fresno Bee

What do all of these things have in common? Let me explain: Every morning I get up extra early so I can have a cup of coffee and read the morning paper with my husband before my kids wake up and before I have to haul myself off to work. I am usually an 'online girl' when it comes to getting my news, but I still get the paper delivered to my house because there is just something relaxing about sitting in my cozy chair, wearing my comfy robe, sipping my coffee and holding the edges of the newspaper as I comb each page for pertinent trend info. This morning on the front page of the Life Section was an article called Bringing back big, sparkly, bold and sassy. Being a jewelry designer by night, I was intrigued. It was about the return of fabulous costume jewelry, and it spotlighted a young jewelry designer named Sonia Boyajian who has created and worn her own line of jewelry since 2001. The story goes on to talk about Sonia's upcoming wedding to songwriter Alexander Rousmaniere, who is the grandson of New York art dealer Klaus Peris, who launched sculptor Alexander Calder's career. Seems Boyajian is also a lifelong fan of Calder (who I just blogged about!) and has been inspired by his inventive jewelry and mobiles. Her bold use of wire is often sculptural, balancing beads and chunky crystals with feathers and exotic elements.Boyajian designed Scarlett Johansson's 3-carat diamond engagement ring (!) and her pieces can be found in some of the most trendsetting boutiques in the world. Hopefully at this point my story title is making sense.Bottom line: Make a statement with a bold piece of costume jewelry. Wearing a fabulous accessory can make last year's outfit look right on trend!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Jewelry of Calder

Ever since I studied art back in college I have loved the work of artist Alexander Calder. He revolutionized the art of sculpture by expressing movement with his invention of the “mobile,” a word coined in 1931 by Marcel Duchamp to describe Calder’s kinetic, and often whimsical, sculpture.And it was his mobiles that I found most intriguing.....until I discovered his jewelry about a year ago. I don't recall studying Calder's jewelry in college. Maybe I did but it didn't impact me at the time because I wasn't into jewelry making like I am now. Some 90 of the 1,800 pieces of jewelry he made over the course of his career are being given their own exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum — the first museum show to focus on Calder’s jewelry. His use of the spiral - a favorite image of mine - is a repeated theme in his jewelry. His bracelets, earrings and necklaces were mini-mobiles that dangled from the wrists, ears and necks of sophisticates like Peggy Guggenheim and Jeanne Moreau.The works in “Calder Jewelry” are made of wire,brass and steel, with bits of ceramic, wood and glass. All are unique objets d’art; Calder had many opportunities to sign off on reproductions, and always refused (much to his dealers’ chagrin). Read this and take a look at his wearable art:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Peace for Christmas

Peace..........What a great word. What a great concept. It is often elusive. Peace, or at least the symbol for it, is fast becoming a Christmas icon. As the peace sign continues to celebrate it's 50-year anniversary, it winds down the 2008 year with a Christmas bang. Here are some favorites:

Peace ornaments from Alisa Burke, who makes the coolest stuff out of painted canvas. I just saw them on her blog and went straight to her Etsy site to purchase them but they were sold out! Alisa, make some more pleeeaase! Then I found these fabulous Love Dove cookies from Eleni's. Mmm. I am feeling the love and the peace.
Barney's New York holiday windows features this 'Have A Hippy Holiday' peace and love display. Isn't this fun? And so very PEACEful.

Sundance catalog gives peace a chance this holiday season with peace ornaments. It's a trendy was to commemorate the peace symbol's anniversary.

These symbols of peace are sending a pop culture message. Everyone is looking for peace in a time of uncertainty and change, especially during the Christmas season. Eat a Peace cookie. Hang a PEACE ornament. Think peaceful thoughts. Here is my list of how to be at peace this holiday season:

  • Be a courteous and peaceful driver, especially around the mall or during rush hour traffic. It's just as easy to give a friendly wave to someone to go in front of you as it is to shake your fist at them as they try to cut you off. Think: Peace on earth, good will toward men.
  • Don't buy into all the Christmas commercialism - it's so UNpeaceful! Make new family traditions instead. We like to walk Christmas Tree Lane. What are some of your favorites?
  • Focus on the reason for the season. It's not about getting. It's about giving. Give of your time if your resources are limited - maybe that means bringing cookies or a dinner to a needy neighbor.
  • Focus on all you do have. At Thanksgiving and Christmas we make it a habit to say at least one thing we are thankful for before we feast on our holiday dinner.
  • Have a family craft night and make your own PEACE ornaments. It's a fun way to bring a little peace to your home, and you can decorate your tree at the same time.

Thanksgiving in Pacific Grove

Let me share with you how I spent my Thanksgiving vacation.......My family and I spent a wonderful three days in Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula. My sister, Stevie, and her family live there and invited us to come join them. This is the first time I have ever spent Thanksgiving with my oldest sister at the coast. Not one to miss out on a party, my other sister, Sandi, came from Las Vegas to spend the holiday with us. We all had so much fun! My niece, Kate, and her husband Steve, have a beautiful home that they opened up for everyone to enjoy as they hosted our yummy Thanksgiving dinner. There were over 25 of us!

The next day, Friday, we got up early and drove around the coastline of the peninsula taking in the beautiful view of the ocean waves. It is really breathtaking! We only live about three hours away in Fresno and I wonder why we don't just come over to the coast more often. There is nothing more humbling than a long look at the ocean.........
Next we headed to one of our favorite places to eat breakfast, First Awakenings, on Ocean View Blvd. If you go to Pacific Grove you really have to eat here. It's so delish! After a hearty breakfast we headed back up to Lighthouse street. It is such a quaint street with its Victorian buildings and its lampposts adorned with Christmas wreaths. I have visited this coastal town a million times since I was a little girl and I never get tired of it. I love it here! We walked around and did a little shopping. And then we found a totally funky little artsy store called Tessuti Zoo on Forest Street just off of Lighthouse. I recognized the whimsical hand sewn fish dangling in the store window from ten years earlier when I had purchased a pair of them to hang from the ceiling in my soon-to-be-born baby's nursery. Owner Emily Owens sews these whimsical creations and offers them - and about a zillion other crazy and colorful items - in her store. OH MY GOSH! Talk about eye candy for the artsy girl! I introduced myself to Ms. Owens and told her what a fan I was and may I please take some pictures for my blog??? She was so kind, and Yes, yes, you may, of course!

We found some treasures we just had to have! And look how fun our bags are........we even got delicious suckers on long sticks stashed in our bag of goodies. Of course my boys stole mine right out of my bag! That night we went out to dinner down on Cannery Row. It wasn't that crowded for a Friday night - probably a combination of a struggling economy and happy relatives eating leftover turkey sandwiches for dinner. After dinner we headed back to Kate and Steve's where we all stayed up late playing games - the kids played Guitar Hero downstairs while the adults played a word game called Taboo. You learn a lot about a person from the word clues they give! We had a blast! It was after one in the morning when we got back to our hotel room. Saturday was our last day..........After saying our goodbyes to our dear family members we headed down to the surf once more. We walked around on the sand and climbed rocks amid the roar of large waves. We saw jellyfish washed up on shore, a poor dead seal and bunch of hermit crabs scurrying underwater as the tide carried them out. We headed home to Fresno a happier, more rested family with many, many Thanksgiving memories!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Relax, Make Stuff and Be Grateful

Are you like me? Do you have at least nine plates in the air, spinning precariously, threatening to spin out of control at any moment unless you keep them rotating.....with about another five people in your life who are trying to hand you a few more plates? How does one stop the madness? In my case, I really can't. I can't change my circumstances, at least not immediately. But I am doing things to help me cope. First of all I have to come to terms with the fact that I actually like having some plates in the air. I think I would be bored if I didn't have some sort of drama happening. I function best under pressure. But lately I have found that I really have to start doing more to manage the stress I have acquired. It's like baggage I keep carrying around. My friend Nicole sent me an article on stress management. It suggested that taking care of your body may be one of the most important ways to combat stress. Try to get enough sleep, eat a healthy and balanced diet, and get plenty of physical exercise. If you can actually increase exercise, it can be beneficial to your ability to sleep and to your mood. In addition to caring for your body, it is also important to tend to your emotional health. Working hard may be necessary, but take time for relaxation and engaging in activities you enjoy.

So here's what I am doing to decompress: Last week I went and got the first massage I have had in 10 years! I walked in to Massage Envy with a stride similar to that of the Edgar, dead guy in Men In Black, and an hour later I walked out feeling like I had been served a couple of glasses of fine wine. The masseuse let me know that on a scale from 1 to 10 I was an 8 on the stress scale. So I am scheduled for a follow-up massage tomorrow. I think this new path to wellness is for me! I don't want to keep going and going and going until I drop and all my plates crash down. I want to manage my health better, before a doctor has to manage it for me. Is this picture too funny?!
Another thing I am doing is taking my boys out for walks in the evening. It's fun! We feel like spy's in our own neighborhood. We sing songs as we walk, and we talk about what happened in school. We make up stories about what our neighbors may be doing in their homes as we pass by undetected. The air is crisp and sky is full of stars. It is very invigorating and relaxing all at the same time. I have also started to set aside regular creative time for myself on Sunday afternoons. A few weeks ago I went to lunch with my friend, Kathy - the Crafty Chica, and she encouraged me to set a schedule for designing and creating art. It really is the only way to achieve my creative goals. So I am doing that, too. Thank you, Kathy!
Speaking of thanks, Thanksgiving is in two days. It is a time of reflection on all we are grateful for - God, family, friends, living in America, a good job, pets, a home, etc. Focusing on all I am blessed with helps me put my anxieties in perspective. You and I cannot control the world, but we can control how we choose to face the world. Today I am choosing to relax, make stuff and be grateful.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Silver Lining

Every week I create a trend report for my company that gives them a one-page 'snapshot' of some of the latest trends. They aren't always fashion related. Sometimes they focus on pop culture stories or political happenings. These reports are meant to answer the burning question (pun obviously intended!), "What's Hot Now?" Last week I though I was being clever by saying 'A Tight Belt' was what's hot. Although it appeared to present the gloominess of the economy, it also reported on the 'silver lining' of our situation. Some people actually made a grunt sound when they read the title. "You're so depressing!" one person commented. I told him to keep looking and to find the silver lining. I mean, really, isn't there always a silver lining in every difficult circumstance? We can read the news or watch TV analysts and know that retailers, the housing market, the auto industry, dining chains, the travel industry and many others are taking a major hit in this economy. Some may not recover. Aah, but there is a silver lining. Who is actually keeping their heads above water, maybe even swimming along quite fine? What is on the upswing? Let's look at silver linings. An independent research study said that this year 45% of Americans are eating out less in order to save money. That means they must be cooking more. Guess what? Borders and Amazon both report double digit increases in cookbook sales, particularly comfort foods. While other magazines are failing, Bon Appetit magazine reports that its had a 39% increase in sales this year. Gas prices are plunging across the country. The national average has dropped almost in half since July, to $2.18 a gallon. That means you can afford to take a drive. And while it may not be to your favorite fast food chain, it will probably be to a movie theater. Movies - comedies and epics especially - tend to do really well at the box office during economic downturns. Seems people need to escape from their daily trouble in times of economic woes. And who doesn't want to look upbeat and cute while your belt is nice and tight? Lipstick and cosmetic sales tend to rise as the economy drops. Almost every retailer is seeing red - lipstick red - in recent months. The "lipstick" indicator seems to be pretty accurate when predicting how the economy is doing. As the stock market started to free fall, cosmetic sales have rocketed by 40% according to industry reports. Troubled retailers, in an attempt to woo strapped shoppers back to their stores, are expected to slash prices on everything from jeans to plasma televisions to laptop computers to automobiles, analysts say. 'Black Friday' deals are expected to be the best they've been in years. Crafting holiday gifts is rumored to be big this year. So here's the plan: The day after Thanksgiving get up early and cook yourself a nice homemade breakfast - maybe using a recipe from that new cookbook you ordered from Amazon. When you're done, brush your pearly whites and put on some red lipstick. Loosen your belt a bit and slide in behind the wheel of your car that you can now afford to drive and head to the movies for a little 'escape' time. Better yet, head to your favorite craft retail store and show them the love by picking up some beads or fabric or paint to make a favorite craft project(s) to decorate your nest or to give as gifts. Don't let the dismal economy put a damper on your holiday season. Look beyond the dark clouds to find the silver lining..................

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Satisfaction of Crafting

So the Presidential election is over. People are optimistic. History has been made. Great! Now what? It is still a scary time..........our problems aren't solved overnight just because we have a new president-elect. My friends are still nervous. Things are still tight and our bills still need to be paid. I peeked at my 401k statement and almost fell over. When I start feeling overwhelmed by the reality of life I have to stop myself and focus on what I am thankful for. I do a mental inventory of all I am blessed with: My family, my home, my job, my creative abilities, good much to list! I must say that being creative - getting 'crafty' - can be an enormous outlet for my nervous energy. I have to carve out time to escape to my art studio behind my house where I make jewelry. This doesn't happen very often because I am a busy working mom. But making beautiful things has a way of bringing me great calmness and great satisfaction. I have always made gifts for special occasions and holidays so the economy doesn't necessarily dictate my choice to make gifts over purchasing them. This made me wonder how others were going to approach Christmas. Will people get more into making their own gifts this year? Choosing to craft and create can be economical as well as nourishment for the soul. But do people craft to save money, or is it about being less consumptive and finding satisfaction in creating a one-of-a-kind gift? I think it just feels good to make things, and to make a difference when doing so. The satisfaction of getting back to simple pleasures - while maybe even saving money - may be what's driving the resurgence of do-it-yourself hobbies.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A vest, a tee-shirt, some paint . . .

It's intriguing to watch the way celebrity fashion choices influence mainstream people, and even more interesting to see how a trend trickles down and is interpreted by the craft community. Back in August I talked about the menswear trend in women's fashion, specifically vests, as a look that was gaining momentum. Now I am seeing vests screen printed onto tee-shirts (Levi tee) and vests being altered with paint and embellishments. Thrift stores are a great place to find gently used vests that don't cost a fortune and you can feel good about personalizing them - painting, altering, embellishing - because you haven't made a big financial investment in them. The other fabulous thing about the vest trend is that it appeals to both men and women. Can't find the right vest for you? Skip buying the vest and create the look on your favorite tee-shirt. Take a look at this easy project for creating a vest for him or her using fabric paint.

Want to get in on the latest trend? The vest is a sure bet for looking good this fall.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Trends and the Economy - Connecting the Dots

Ever wonder how trends start and what makes them repeat themselves sometimes decades later? I do. Often the original reason for the trend is lost in translation because it may be recycled for a different reason than when it started. Or perhaps they are resurrected for close to the same reasons that they started. I like to read all kinds of material so I am always finding what I like to think of as "trend dots" - stories or pieces of information that help me tie trends together as I connect the dots. The economy is a dictator of trends in pop culture and fashion. In the 18th century, silhouettes (shadow profiles traced and cut from black paper) were a popular alternative to costly portraits. The word took its name from the French controller general of finance, Etienne de Silhouette. During the Seven Years War against England, he tried to raise revenues by heavily taxing the wealthy. Victims of his high taxes complained and used the word silhouette to refer to their wealth being reduced to a mere shadow of what it once was. Today silhouettes (see my April 3rd blog post) are trendy because of their minimalistic appeal and modern look. In times of economic downturns people tend to spend their money on affordable luxuries to make them feel better. In the decade of the Great Depression cosmetic sales increased 25%. There was a similar surge in lipstick sales after the terrorist attacks on September 11th. Does tracking cosmetic sales indicate the health of the economy or the emotional mood of the consumer? (I know I always feel better after a trip to Sephora.) I've read that movie attendance increased during five of the last seven economic recessions. People tend to want to escape (think about the Superhero trend). They may not go out as often, but they when they do they choose something affordable, say, a movie night over a weekend trip to an amusement park. This last example is perhaps the most fascinating to me. I read an article in the Fresno Bee a couple of weeks ago called Hollywood dead aren't so scary anymore (Melissa Rayworth, AP). It takes a look at the dead-but-still-talking characters that are all over popular culture these days. From TV shows like "True Blood," "Pushing Daisies," "Desperate Housewives," "The Ghost Whisperer" to movies like "Twilight," "Ghost Town,""Over Her Dead Body" and the soon to be released, "The Lovely Bones." It seems as though across pop culture there is "an attempt to really start domesticating the notion of death," says Syracuse University television professor Robert Thompson. In times of anxiety, like the Great Depression, WWII, the 1950's atomic age, September 11th and now the tanking Stock Market, society has always turned to expressions of spiritualism, often the occult. The Great Depression ushered in the golden age of horror movies. But the monsters and undead of those stories were otherworldly and unfamiliar. Dracula and the Wolfman were not carrying ipods and sitting in a high school cafeteria. The article asks the question, why are we so focused now on making the supernatural seem mundane? Perhaps, says author Stewart O'Nan, it's because we are facing death on so many different fronts - climate change and natural disasters, multiple wars and terrorism, even our aging population. We need now, more than ever, to make death seem as manageable as a trip to Home Depot. Hmmm.......These are unsure times we are living in. New York's Fashion Week reflected this in the offerings from the designers. There were representations from multiple decades - the 1940's, the '60's, the '80's. What is the style? Some were left scratching their heads. I read in one of the articles that you would still be perfectly fashionable by pulling from your last year's wardrobe because anything goes. In fact, thrift store shopping is up 30% because of the refashioning trend that is happening. So what does one make of all of this? Connect the dots.............

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My view of the river

I was telling you about my former home on the San Joaquin River. This is just about what my view looked like if I were standing on the edge of the river in my backyard. I had a little waterfall that spilled just enough to lull me into calmness when I sat in my swing on my deck. I had about twelve feet of grass between my deck and the river where deer, raccoons, foxes and possums wandered. And I had three sets of sliding glass doors that looked out on the river. It was my sanctuary.

The Glorious Peacock

When I was single and had my own little home on the north side of the San Joaquin River in Fresno County I would take long walks along the river and explore the rural landscape surrounding the area I lived in. That was eighteen years ago, long before the freeway hooked up to Friant road. I would leave the hustle and bustle of work behind and drive home, always feeling like I was heading out-of-town as I approached the road that led to my riverfront sanctuary. You couldn't see where I lived from the main road so I always felt like I was tucked away from the encroaching city. Anyway, as I was saying..........I would take walks with my dog, Bruno. He was a bird dog, a German Shorthaired Pointer. He and I would walk deep into the orchards behind where we lived to take in all the smells and sounds of the landscape. On these walks we would encounter these beautiful peacocks that roamed the fields and often watched as they flapped their way up into the surrounding trees. Bruno and I would stand quietly observing them strut, sounding off their mating calls. It was magical. The best part was around August when the birds were molting. The males would drop their feathers, leaving behind their gorgeous plumage for me to collect. I would bring home armfuls of them and arrange them in tall wood vases until I couldn't fit even one more feather in the vase. So imagine my delight with seeing that the peacock is inspiring fashion and color this fall. Did you happen to watch the finale of Project Runway? Korto, who came in second place, said her collection was inspired by nature and her roots in Liberia. The fans that the models carried and the beautiful color palette was very peacock-inspired to me. I loved it.
This ad from American Leather is an example of the use of the peacock color scheme. It is absolutely stunning. . . . . . I loved the message too: Personal expression...made to order.
Urban Outfitters is inspired by the plume of the peacock. A single eye-feather is simple and elegant for fall.W Fashion featured an article called Trend: Rhapsody in Plume by Vanessa Lau, saying this about the peacock trend, "......there's something irresistibly alluring and glamorous about these jewel-tone hues, including brilliant emeralds, indigos and purples - even exotic pops of fuchsia here and there. They don't call it peacock proud for nothing." The fashion world has long used birds and feathers for design and motif inspirations, and the peacock plumage and palette is a natural progression in this trend.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Kid's Are Cookin'

At the beginning of summer I was checking into activities to keep my boys busy so they wouldn't drive their dad over the edge while they were out of school. I came across the Young Chef's Academy that had recently opened in Fresno. While I didn't end up sending my kids for cooking lessons (they opted for Young At Art, learning cartoon drawing), I was intrigued by the trickle down interest in cooking that shows like Rachel Ray, Top Chef and even the Disney movie Ratatouille has inspired. Parents, worried about poor nutrition and childhood obesity, are thrilled to cultivate their kids' interest in cooking. Cooking is becoming a lost art in our fast-paced world of take-out and extra-curricular activities. When I started really looking into this I found quite a few entrepreneurs out there taking advantage of this trend. There's the Playful Chef Kids Cooking Kit that you can purchase to help you tap into your kids' eagerness to help in the kitchen. The tools are kid-sized and offer fun recipes to try. Batter Up Kids started out offering cooking classes, but today the Austin, Texas, business also does birthday parties and year-round camps, and it retails both cooking kits and cookbooks authored by entrepreneur Barbara Beery, cooking up annual sales of about $465,000. The interest has been so strong that Beery started franchising her concept last year. Daily Candy Seattle just sent out an article about cooking lesson parties for kids offered by Lovin' from the Oven. Owner (and mom) Bridget Meyer arrives at your event armed with tools of the trade and an arsenal of kid-approved recipes. Chefs-in-training get hands-on lessons in rolling sushi, toasting quesadillas, whipping up a batch of peppermint bark, or whatever tickles your birthday child's fancy. And kids chow down on the meal they've created. Think about it.... Cooking is a life skill that your child will most likely need to master. Why not have fun learning it? Consider sending your child to a cooking camp next summer. Melissa Owens, a former restaurant owner who started the Deliciously Nutritious camp last summer in suburban Maryland, teaches chef training for kids and teens who want to whip up haute cuisine. With the economy in a fragile state, why not opt to stay home, crack open your mother's old recipe books and cook something? You can do it, and you can make it a family activity. Best of all, you can consider yourself right on trend!

Monday, October 6, 2008


It's October! A kick-off to a favorite time of the year for me and my family because it means it is officially Fall with cool mornings and shorter days. I love the end of summer because I live in Fresno, California, and it is always so hot here, even up to last week it was in the mid-90's. I'm just OVER that! October means the Big Fresno Fair, decorating for Fall, visiting our favorite pumpkin patches - we have two - one is Cobb's on Highway 41, just north of the San Joaquin River, and the other is Satterstrom's in Reedley. My boys love the hay rides, the corn maze and picking out pumpkins to adorn our porch and dining room table. It also means soccer practice and soccer games on the weekends. It is a busy time for us. Last Saturday we had a family wedding to attend at Wolf Lakes. We have another wedding this Saturday at Huntington Lake in the mountains. Then Sunday we have an art show to attend and later in the evening we are having dinner with friends. Yes, October is definitely the start of a busy holiday season. With the economy the way it is I anticipate less commercialism and more family time for us. I am really OK with this concept because I have always hated the bombardment of materialism turning my simplistic holiday wishes into a three-ring-circus. I am actually looking forward to taking a 'less is more' approach to the holiday season. I've written about "staycations' and about the growing trend in refashioning - thrift store shopping is up by about 30% in the central valley. Hmmm. Lots to think about as Christmas approaches. For now, I am just enjoying October and all the promise it holds as this tumultuous year winds down. Yes, promise..........I choose to remain optimistic because I know that my true riches don't reside in a bank or in stocks and bonds (yes, we have them and are concerned). I choose to enjoy what today brings, in October.


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