Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wonderful Wonderland: Art & Inspiration

Alice isn't even one yet, but I'm already thinking about her "big girl" room. I don't know when (or where) this will happen, but I want to get in one more room design while I can still call the shots.

I decided against a Wonderland-themed nursery because I wasn't ready to let go of the orange already on the walls (subtext: we didn't want to paint the entire room again), and orange didn't jive with what I'd want this Wonderland to be. Plus, we were keeping Alice's name a secret and I figured "Wonderland" might be a dead giveaway. Anyway, I don't think I can resist giving Alice a little wonderland of her own once she's ready to move on from her giraffe nursery. Especially if she doesn't find Lewis Carroll's fantasy land quite as enchanting as I do when she's all grown up, at least I'll have had my fun before she gets too cool for school.

I love the whimsy and imagery that the Alice stories inspire, I think it offers so much creative opportunity, especially for a little girl's room. I want to create a vibrant and colorful space that is girly without being too precious and magical without being too on-the-nose. I'd like to draw on some of the existing iterations of the story without being too reliant on any one element. I love John Tenniel's original illustrations and I love Mary Blair's visual development art for the original Disney animated feature (which, of course, I also love). 

I'm working on a color board and inspiration board to share at some point, but in the meantime I wanted to give you a sneak peak at some of the art that is inspiring my vision for the space.

These pieces were part of the Nucleus Gallery exhibition "Curiouser and Curiouser." I missed the actual show, but not the art, thanks to the online collection. I love the different manifestations and interpretations of the Wonderland world and characters and themes, but thought these four were particularly wonderful. 
Clockwise from top left: Alice In The Rain by Lorelay BoveI See You, Cheshire by MALL; Down The Rabbit Hole and Did You Ever See An Alice? by Alina Chau

I am totally smitten by these three artists. I think their individual styles are fabulously suited for the subject matter, they've perfectly captured the magic and nonsense of Wonderland. The colors are just what I'd had in mind for my Alice's wonderland and I love that each piece tells a different bit of the story. The best part is that I think I can get (and afford!) prints of all four pieces! I just need to do a little budgeting and make it happen, before that isn't the case anymore.

I've also fallen in love with Brittney Lee's portfolio after I saw her work at our office's holiday craft fair. I started following her blog along with the artists above, which is how I discovered her amazing paper sculptures. Last week, I saw the post on Brittney's most recent paper sculpture and almost died. Imagine my reaction as I walked down the hall at work to find it HANGING ON THE WALL! It literally took my breath away. I gasped and stopped dead in my tracks to admire every little detail. I walk down that hall on my way out of the building every day and I cannot pass it by without stopping. Without further ado, please enjoy these photos, reposted with permission from Ms. Lee:
It's amazing. It's even more wonderful in person. I think Ariel is exquisitely rendered, and there is so much emotion in her expression that it makes my heart hurt. The photo doesn't do justice to the dimensionality of her face, hair, tail, the book, Flounder, the cavern of wonders, ect., etc., I could go on forever, so I'll just stop now. This piece was created for a charity auction happening soon, and judging from the winning bids on the ornaments auctioned off during the holidays, I'm pretty sure I won't be able to afford this or any of the other pieces on the block...

I would love to see Brittney's interpretation of Wonderland - I can only imagine how fabulous it could be. I'm wondering if I might be able to sweet talk her into a commissioned piece (assuming I can sweet talk Alice's dad into funding such a thing!). Wouldn't that make a wonderful first birthday present?! 

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed these artists and the pieces that are helping to inspire my Wonderland vision. I'll continue to share as it takes shape. Many thanks to these very talented ladies for graciously allowing me to highlight their work here. To see more of their amazing art, please check out their blogs and websites and etsy stores! 

Lorelay Bove: blog and etsy store
Alina Chau: blog and website
Brittney Lee: blog and etsy store
MALL: blog and website

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Year, New Resolutions.

Each January, I resolve to make some small changes in my life. Then, before I know it, December has come out of nowhere and I generally have little to show for my self-improvement efforts. I do try to make resolutions that won't make me feel bad if I don't make much headway. In years past, I've resolved to watch more movies and wear more color. I am still trying to get to the classics and Oscar winners in my Netflix queue and trying to infuse my closet with colors other than black/blue/gray/khaki/white. This year, I did manage some unprecedented success at drinking more water (hey, 2006!). Someone at the office even commented on how often we have to change the water coolers these days!

Last year I resolved to send birthday cards and other general, personal correspondence in a more timely manner - or at all, if we're being honest here. My grand idea was to buy a hefty stash of cards for every occasion so I could at least eliminate the hurdle of not having anything to send. I made a rough tally of all the birthdays I never acknowledge and anniversaries that people are still celebrating, and accounted for a good number of babies that might be born. I spent a nice, long time choosing a selection of lovely cards and filed them neatly in my then new filing cabinet. And when the first birthday rolled around to test my resolve, you can bet that my card arrived right on time... or not. I failed. And it was my own mother's birthday (I love you, mom!). There is currently an envelope on my desk at work, stuffed full of all-consuming guilt and baby photos meant for my grandmother. I don't know what my problem is but I don't think I could successfully send a birthday card (or that envelope of baby photos) if my very life depended on it. When it's your birthday, please know that I'm thinking of you and am beating myself up for not sending a card.

Anyway, with that impressive record of successful resolutions, please enjoy my list of resolutions and personal goals for 2011! In order of importance, they are:

1. Surgically detach my phone from my hand, stop compulsively checking all available interwebs for updated anything. I'm already doing pretty good with this one. I finally organized my Google Reader and Google Mobile App so I can get all the creative inspiration and blog updates without traipsing all over the internet and getting distracted by tragic news items. Which leads me to...
2. Stop consuming mainstream news. If it's important, I'm sure I'll hear about it somehow. While this will make me that crazy person who has no grasp on current events and will seriously affect my tendency toward know-it-all-itis, as well as my addiction to human interest/medical oddities/offbeat news, I hope it also curtails my debilitating sense of empathy and awareness of the absolute worst-case scenario for every occasion.
3. Look people in the eye and stop contributing to the general degradation of interpersonal contact in society.

Personal Goals:
1. Learn to sew so I can make adorable baby things, clothes for myself, and home decor items.
2. Roll up my sleeves and make my own furniture, with the inspiration, guidance and encouragement of Ana White! Her simple, DIY furniture plans are inspired by favorite retailers like Pottery Barn, West Elm, Crate and Barrel, Land Of Nod, for an amazing fraction of the price and not a whole lot more effort than shopping. She has plans for at least 12 things I've been wanting from those catalogs, plus about a million more I want to make for Alice. I mean, look at the below photos of lovely pieces created by some her loyal readers - they cost like 10% of the Pottery Barn styles that inspired them - and both would look perfect in our bedroom!

Image at left from Create and Delegate, image at right from The Bumper Crop

3. Landscape our back and front yards (order of importance) so we can use and enjoy the rest of the square footage we own.
4. Learn to use Photoshop for painting and for photo editing.

I just need to invent more time in the day, and then carve out little chunks of it to devote to sewing/woodworking/gardening/other creative pursuits!

Seriously, though, I want to spend less to create more in our lives. That's the real goal I hope to achieve with these skills. I want to invest less of my money and more of my time to personally create things that my family and friends can use and love. I would love to make clothes that better suit my style and figure. I would love to build furniture specially suited to our home, that will be treasured just as much for being handmade as for being useful and attractive. I would love to grow more of our own food and rely more on our own hands for the things we need in life.

Now that I've organized my thoughts, I just need to organize my efforts and make a plan of action! Wish me luck, 2011! 

What are your resolutions for the year? Do you have any past resolution triumphs? 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Everyone said it would be easy...

... Oh, wait, they didn't??

That's right, I remember now. Everyone said it would be HARD. They were right. We've had a rough week - maybe the roughest yet.

Last Sunday night - not last night, but the one a week ago - our kitty, Eli (the orange one) started barfing. Though he does have periodic episodes that sound like retching, we've come to understand that he has kitty asthma and those are just coughing fits. Occasionally, he's eaten something (like part of last year's Christmas tree that he found behind the couch) that he'll cough up and then go about his merry way, but this was different.

We gave it a day, kept an eye on him and tried a few suggested remedies, but decided on Tuesday that we'd better take him to the vet for a thorough check, just to be sure.  The regular x-rays didn't show any intestinal blockages, but they did a barium series as well. That didn't show anything to be concerned about and the rest of his bloodwork and tests were normal as well, so they sent him home. They'd given him fluids, pain meds, and anti-nausea meds, and he seemed much happier. Back at home, we offered him some nice, bland chicken breast but he was only interested in his regular food. He was eating and drinking without vomiting, which was a good sign. Unfortunately, his dear sister - the one who'd been inconsolably anxious when he was home sick - seemed to have forgotten who he was at the vet. Instead of giving Eli a warm, loving homecoming, Marceline spent the next few days swatting, growling, and hissing at him. Awesome.

In the meantime, while we were worrying about our little guy, Jon came down with a cold and gave it to Alice, who gave it to me. So we were all sick, (except Marceline) and unhappy. Fortunately, Eli seemed to be on the mend. He continued to eat, drink, and generally perk up over the next few days without developing any more symptoms, and his pancreatitis test came back normal, so we chalked it up to an unidentifiable upset stomach, infection, or other virus of unknown origin.

Until Jon emptied the litter box. He found a suspicious-looking buried treasure, so as any concerned parent would do, he cut it in half with the scooper. And it exploded with colorful, curly, ribbons last seen adorning Christmas presents - three weeks ago.

We knew during the holiday that such embellishments might be problematic with Eli around. You see, he loves ribbons. He is partial to a few particular things (cable knit, anyone?), and curly present ribbon is one of them. We halted all further additions of curly ribbon and tried to make sure that he didn't eat any off the existing gifts. Apparently, he got a few nibbles in while we weren't watching. Quite a few nibbles.

Jon took a photo of the scatological findings, which were fairly impressive. I won't post it here, but will instead leave you with this very cute and terribly foreboding photo of Eli eating one of my birthday presents. 

I think the worst is over for all of us. We invested in a cool mist humidifier which worked like a charm on both baby AND mom last night. Jon has to work today, but will at least get to ease back into his week with a break on his Mr. Mom duties as I have the day off. I plan to finish recuperating, give Alice some heavy doses of motherly love, and try to get to the chores I blew off this weekend in favor of watching movies and napping with kitties on the couch. The kitties are back to normal too; Eli is better than new and Marceline quit hissing at her poor brother and acquiesced to her sisterly duty of grooming the vet smell from his furs.

We're so relieved that Eli's problem resolved itself without any major intervention. Even though we had no real reason to, we couldn't help but worry about losing him. Sometimes, growing up means learning that the things you love won't get to grow as old as you'd hoped. Fortunately, this cat still has a few lives left.

Monday, January 10, 2011

All I Want For Christmas Is My 4 Front Teeth...

Alice certainly didn't understand what the holiday season was all about this year, but I do think she enjoyed her first taste of the festivities and some of my favorite traditions.

She's been enjoying her very first Christmas present since Thanksgiving, when Santa made an early stop to her Grandma & Grandpa Senge's house (aka Sunshine & Slick, as they're known around these parts). It took her the better part of a month to figure out how to actually jump in the jumper, which is funny to me since she spent most of her first months being bounced on an exercise ball - you'd think bouncing would be instinctual at this point. Anyway, we think her jumping is utterly adorable (shocking, I know) and hope to get a good video soon so you can all enjoy as well.
These are literally the best photos I've been able to get. I'll keep trying...
Like any sensible parents would, we woke Alice up on Christmas Eve and took her to the 11pm Candlelight Service. Though she was tired and subdued and almost fell asleep again according to plan, I had to take her into the foyer so her habit of moaning while drifting off wouldn't disturb the rest of the congregation. We walked and bounced and listened to the service and the choir from the other side of the door and the glass. The carols were her lullabies and I sang alone for her and for the teenaged usher who passed out bulletins and candles to late-comers. She and I took our seats inside again when the caroling started in earnest and Alice watched wide-eyed and quiet as candles were lit one-by-one and I tried to keep her cozy bear suit from catching aflame. We carried that light into the dark night only to find a dense fog had rolled in. Without Rudolph to guide us home, we drove extra slowly through the deserted streets. It was the magical kind of Christmas Eve that I love, and I know Alice will love too when she's old enough to appreciate. If she were older, I'm sure I could have convinced hear that I heard sleigh bells in the distance.

Alice didn't get the memo that on Christmas morning, children are not to leave their rooms until the streetlights have gone out. In her defense, the fog kept the streetlights lit way past when stockings and presents should be opened. By the time everyone else ambled down, Alice had already eaten breakfast, gotten her hands in a gift meant for someone else, and embarked on her first nap, so we got started without her. We let her "open" a few presents once she rejoined us. She loves crinkly paper but (like a proper baby) stuffs it directly into her mouth. So we just opened all her presents and gave her the toys to play with. We loved watching her explore each new thing, she was particularly enamored with the giant lego-esque blocks from her Auntie, and apparently the center stick on her stacking toy, per the picture below. 
She also loved the fun toy her little friend Eli brought her, and they had a really great time staring at each other. We think there might be something there that wasn't there before...
We traded babies!
We were excited to introduce Alice to one of our favorite Livermore activities and took her out to sample some of the local wines. Just kidding. We took her, but we didn't let her sample anything! 

For all you non-Livermorons, if you're ever in the area, be sure to schedule an hour or two to meander through the hills and stop at a few charming and unpretentious wineries (almost all fit that bill). More often than not, the winemaker will be the one pouring your tastes. Charles R. even signed our bottle!
Alice also partook of another fine Livermore tradition and made her first trip to see Deacon Dave's Christmas Light Spectacular (unofficial title by yours truly). It was past her bedtime and she wailed in the car all the way there and all the way home, but stopped long enough to enjoy a walk through the display of bajillions of lights (actual numbers not included on the website, oddly enough).
Alice was having a tough time sleeping and keeping her schedule while were away from home, and it didn't help that she was constipated AND teething. I think her favorite Christmas present was the last three of her top teeth. Sing it with me now, "All I want for Christmas is my FOUR front teeth..."
Can you count all four?

We headed back to Burbank on Tuesday after Christmas so we could all get some sleep. Alice thanked us by sleeping 12 hours straight. We spent the rest of the holiday break hanging out together as a little family and getting some things done around the house.

One of my very favorite traditions is watching "Little Shop of Horrors" on New Year's Eve - when I don't have some fabulous party to attend, of course (which is never, obviously). This year, we turned on the cult classic while Alice was playing on the floor just a bit before her bedtime. She was definitely into the awesome musical stylings of Mr. Rice & Mr. Menken. I think this is another tradition she's really going to enjoy when she's old enough to boogie and belt out those tunes with me. 
FYI, we don't normally let Alice watch TV. Don't get me started on the issue of babies watching TV, that's another post for another day... 

In other news, Alice is working on mastering proper hands-and-knees crawling and has also started to pull herself up to standing on anything that will support her. The couch is the safest bet, which she loves, but we can't turn our back for a second or she's all over the "skull cracker" coffee table and the treacherous walker on wheels. I caught her standing up in her crib the other day. We lowered the crib to the lowest setting immediately after that...
Curtains! Yikes!
I hope you all enjoyed a lovely holiday season and a wonderful start to this new year!