Tuesday, May 29, 2012

obx 2012

obx 2012
In 2004, a group of friends/co-workers organized a Memorial Day weekend beach trip to the Outer Banks. We no longer work together, but we've gone back every year since. There have been marriages, break-ups, dog adoptions, and births...but the tradition of beach week with friends has continued - nine years and counting! Over the years we've stayed in Duck, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and finally settled on Nags Head when we discovered that not only are dogs allowed on the beach year-round, but it is the only town in the Outer Banks to allow beach bonfires (with a $10 permit from the fire department, of course).

We took our trip a week earlier than usual this year and got back from OBX 2012 on Saturday. This year, there were nine adults, two kids, and four dogs. The week started with a forecast for Tropical Storm Alberto to be heading in our direction, but after one rainy day and a couple of afternoon storms, we ended up having gorgeous weather for the majority of the week.

I can easily come back from a week at the beach with a good 700 photos of my SD card - which is why I've never shared photos from our past trips on the blog before - it was just too overwhelming to sort through all the photos. This year, my camera stayed in its bag most of the time. I just wanted to enjoy the trip without photographing every little thing. Also, I'm in a bit of a photography rut and feel my beach photos look the same every year. Thirdly, I feel like I'm suffering from the curse of the photographer - since I'm the only one behind the camera, there are never any photos to prove that I was there and not a single one of Larry and me together.

And if I'm being totally honest, I was a bit cranky for part of the trip. Larry ended up having to work a lot and was often glued to his laptop or his phone. I wanted to spend some quality time with him and felt like I spent most of the week alone or waiting for him. I got a couple of work-related anxiety-inducing e-mails myself. (Ugh - the curse of having a smart phone on vacation!) And I'm probably the only person who returned from vacation in worse shape than when I left: I got dozens and dozens of mosquito bites, I randomly had a swollen purple eye for several days, and I sliced my finger with a chef's knife while cutting a lime. D'oh.

For those reasons, I left my Nikon in its bag and only took a handful of photos the entire week:

Our house on the left: (We stayed at the pink one in 2010 - before it was pink.)
obx 2012
Happy hour on the beach (yes, the empty chair is mine):
obx 2012
obx 2012
Happy Larry:
obx 2012
Jennette's Pier:
obx 2012
Sandy sniffer:
obx 2012
Waiting for the storm:
obx 2012
Adult cookies, made by my mother: (What, doesn't your mom make thong cookies for your friends!?)
obx 2012
Treat time:
obx 2012
Me with wine:
obx 2012
Ever-changing beach weather:
obx 2012
obx 2012
obx 2012
Play time:
obx 2012
Beach happy hour:
obx 2012
Digging a hole for the bonfire: (Note: That is an entrenching tool, NOT a shovel...)
obx 2012
Despite my frustrations with work and injuries, who can really complain about a week at the beach? There were plenty of good things! Some highlights:

+ My favorite beach tradition: Wine and cheese happy hour on the beach. So relaxing.
+ Getting to have a bonfire on the beach on our last night. It was too windy for fire permits for the entire week, but we were finally able to get one on Friday and we all sat around, warmed our toes, drank beer, and roasted marshmallows. Perfect.
+ I read an entire book for the first time since March. (Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls.)
+ The only shoes on my feet the entire week were a pair of Old Navy flip flops.
+ Evenings in the hot tub. Yessss!
+ Homemade popsicles. (I'm obsessed and can't wait to make more!)
+ Four dogs in one house! Loved seeing my pups interact with the other dogs.
+ The best food I've ever eaten in my life: Each couple is in charge of one dinner during the week, and over the years we've gotten more and more competitive and gourmet. A lot of people spend the entire day cooking on their day - making homemade ice cream, baking, and cooking up multiple courses of fantastic food. So delicious.
+ Bombay Sapphire gin and tonics - my favorite summer drink.
+ There was a Great Dane in the neighboring house - biggest dog I have ever seen in my life. He would put his head on the balcony railing and watch our dogs. He looked like a horse with jowls!
+ A stop for piping hot Duck Donuts on the way out of town - my favorite!

Overall, it was a great trip, but not as relaxing as it should've been. Since the new bathing suit I ordered before the trip arrived while I was away (and it actually fits!), I guess I'll just have to plan another beach trip for later in the summer...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

coming soon: vienna artisans' alley + fairfax fall festival

I'm so happy to announce that Funnelcloud Studio will be at two more art market events - one of them this coming weekend!

First up - Vienna Artisans' Alley. A group of small business owners will be setting up a pop-up art market in the parking lot of Caffe Amouri in Vienna on Sunday, May 27th. You will find some awesome things for sale from local small businesses including healthy snacks from New Family Naturals (seriously, have you tried Toya's kale chips and flax crackers yet?) and eco-friendly detergents, soaps, (and bath bombs, yes!) from Old Town Suds. I am friends with the owners of both of these shops, and trust me, you don't want to miss the chance to meet Toya and Steffanie and try out their products. There will be several other artists selling their wares (including me) and I hear there will be music, too! While you're at it, pop into Caffe Amouri for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and a snack. You may know from this blog that I am not a coffee drinker, but I still love Caffe Amouri for the hot chocolate and ambiance. (And coffee drinkers tell me this is the best coffee in the area!) This event is going on at the same time as ViVa Vienna, so, while we are not affiliated with that street festival, there should be plenty more to see and do on Church Street that day!

Second up - Fairfax Fall Festival. This one is way off in October, which in my opinion is a great time of year for an art market. There will be food, rides, entertainment, and 400 artisans selling their wares - including Funnelcloud Studio.

So mark those calendars and come out to say hi:

May 27 - Vienna Artisans' Alley at Caffe Amouri (Vienna, VA)
October 13 - Fairfax Fall Festival (Fairfax, VA)

P.S. See all my upcoming shows here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

12 things I'll never wear

obx 2012
Rules are meant to be broken.

I don't discuss fashion much on this blog - probably because I since I work from home, I dress for comfort and not style. Also, because I don't think yoga pants are considered fashionable. But with all the the cute new clothes out for summer, I've been thinking about how to spruce up my wardrobe and get rid of the clothes in my closet that go unworn year after year.

There are some styles out there that I'll never wear and some things I wish I could wear, but have to accept they just don't work for me. What trends do you wish would just go away (for me it's anything with words printed on the butt) and what fashions do you wish you could wear but just don't work on you?

12 Things I'll Never Wear:

I wish I could wear these - they look so cute on the models in magazines, but are all wrong on my shape.

Wanna see Rachel break her face? Make her walk in heels. I used to wear high heels - to work, for special occasions - and I love the way they look and make me feel, but then I had hip surgery and my joints went to shit. I gave up the high heels for good a few years ago. I miss their leg lengthening qualities, but I don't miss the pinched toes, the blisters, or the chance that I will make an ass out of myself falling down the stairs.

The irony! I can't wear high heels, so you'd think ballet flats would be my saving grace. And oh, how I wish I could wear them! They look adorable, there's no heel to trip over, but no, ballet flats just will not stay on my feet. One step and they go flying right off. I'm imagining myself in a cute pair of ballet flats walking through DC, when WHAM!, my shoe flies off and hits an investment banker right in the chicken nuggets. That situation shall be avoided at all costs, so I think I'll stick with mary janes.

There is a 100% chance of wardrobe malfunction should I try to stuff the girls into any sort of wrap top.

I wish I could wear lipstick, but every shade makes me look like a clown. I'm a lip gloss kind of girl, through and through.

There are few things on this earth that I despise more than pantyhose. Clearly, the first problem is the word pantyhose which might be the most disgusting word ever invented. (As if the word panty wasn't bad enough, then you've got to stick the word hose on the end? Ewwww!) The second problem is pantyhose/stockings/ tights make my legs feel like they are suffocating. And since we're talking gross words, why is the crotch of the pantyhose (gag, ew) always down at your knees? I refuse to wear them. So uncomfortable. I'll commit a fashion faux pas and have bare legs, or I'll wear pants, but just say no to pantyhose. (I've hated tights since I was a wee tot, and finally my mom got sick of wrestling me and just let me wear fancy socks. Think I could pull that off now?)

The purples and greens look great on everyone else, but on me? Clown face. This is why I own probably two dozen shades of taupe eyeshadow.

Not flattering on me, plus the threat of wardrobe malfunction again (See Wrap Tops). Also, these require wearing a strapless bra which is the second worst invention after pantyhose.

I actually just don't like the smell of perfume. I'd rather smell like soap or lotion.

A shelf bra? Seriously, is this a joke?

I wish I could get away with the pretty blues that everyone else is wearing, but whenever I give myself a blue manicure, I feel like a wannabe teenybopper. I've tried several shades of blues and none of them work. I am not 13 anymore, and I'm pretty sure these colors didn't work for me when I was 13. The other shade I can't do is neutrals/pale grays. I love the color gray for everything else (see my wardrobe, car, and walls in my house), but I once heard someone say that gray nail polish makes you "look like you are dead." So, I'll stick with reds, pinks, and purples, and gold/silver for special occasions. (Ok, I might break the rules occasionally - see teal manicure above. I've loved the color teal forever - regardless of whether it's in style. My first car was even teal - though that was in the mid 90's. Maybe I can get away with this at the beach?)

Just no.

To all you chicks who rock the red lipstick and the stilettos, I salute you!

Monday, May 21, 2012

adventures in strawberry farming

"This is why I eat your strawberries, Mama!"

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I've recently been having trouble keeping a certain varmint out of my strawberry patch. That varmint is an 84-pound, strawberry-loving greyhound:

Gravy freaking LOVES strawberries. Now let's face it, he's a dog - he will pretty much eat anything (only exceptions we've encountered to this rule are spinach leaves and snow peas), and he loves fresh veggies, but he seems to have an insatiable appetite for strawberries. He takes after his mama in this regard, (I could seriously eat a bowl of strawberries 2-3 times a day, every day) however, this is one trait of mine I wish he didn't have!

I'm kind of an accidental strawberry farmer. I have a notoriously brown thumb. When you forget to water plants, they tend to die. (See my yard, all of it.) In 2010 though, I became obsessed with the idea of growing my own veggies. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to walk out into the yard and harvest our dinner moments before we ate it? So Larry and I built a little square foot garden:
I planted bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, and lettuce. When I saw the little strawberry plants at Home Depot, I couldn't resist. I bought 4 plants and plopped those in my garden, too. I sort of knew that strawberries were perennials and figured if I didn't kill them that first year, I would just dig them up and relocate them the next year. I disregarded the instructions that you're supposed to plant strawberries in mounds. (I've also since learned that you should put down a layer of straw/stones to protect the fruit. This makes sense because I've had a lot of strawberries that sit in the wet soil end up rotting from the dampness before I can pick them.)

I guess what I'm saying is, strawberries don't belong in veggie gardens. Oops:
Anyway, my veggie plants grew and grew that year... (Especially the jerk zucchini which grew to humongous proportions and killed the neighboring plants.)
garden 2010
garden 2010
Give me a few months and I can ruin just about anything!

There were a few surviving plants that produced a few veggies, but here's who ate the fruits of our labor:
1. Squirrels (bastards took one bite out of every singe tomato!), 2. Raccoons, 3. Birds, 4. Bugs, 5. Gravy. Notice something missing from that list? Me. Arrrrghhhhh!

I think this was the extent of what I got out of the garden that year: one pathetic-looking cucumber and a few lettuce leaves. Perhaps a few zukes.
DSC_1007 ES crop
I did harvest a whole pile of stunted carrots, but they accidently got thrown away:
The next year, I said screw gardening. Why grow all that stuff just so the critters could eat it? We got our produce from the Farmers Market that year, and my once-cute little garden fell into disrepair. However, the strawberries were taking over. What started as four little plants was now this:
garden 2011
strawberries 2011
As it turns out, strawberries reproduce by growing runners. Baby plants can pop up anywhere. Digging up and relocating those once-compact little plants that are now crazy sprawling vines would be impossible. So I decided that that the veggie garden was now an accidental strawberry patch. Fine by me.

Larry and I began building an enclosure to keep the crits out of my shit garden, but while we dilly-dallied around trying to build the damn thing, Gravy ate all the strawberries. The little wire fence I put around the garden did not stop him - he just reached his pointy head and long giraffe neck right through, snarfed up all the strawberries, and ran back into the house licking his chops. Jerk.

I was pretty much done with the whole gardening thing this year. So imagine my surprise when I checked on the remains of the garden this spring and found this:
strawberry patch 2012
Evidently, strawberries thrive under neglect!

The progression of the garden through the years:
garden 2010
strawberry patch 2012
But back to the strawberries:

Every day or two I get a harvest like this: (Gravy eats an equal amount. He eats them right through the bird netting I put up to keep him out, and as an added bonus, flosses his teeth at the same time!)
It certainly isn't enough to bake with, but it's nice to have a handful of homegrown, just-picked strawberries with my breakfast/lunch each day. It also just goes to show that you'd need a lot of square footage to have a strawberry patch capable of producing a real bumper crop of strawberries.
The sad news is that strawberry plants are supposed to be replaced after three years. This is year three. Wop wop.

A more fruitful option? Next week I'm going to head to a local U-pick farm. They grow, I pick, I eat.

(I won't be bringing Gravy with me!)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

DIY hand-painted ceramic tealight holders

DIY hand-painted ceramic tealight holders
For years I've been interested in testing out those Pebeo ceramic paint pens that I often see in art stores. I could never figure out what project to use them for, so for once, I resisted spending the money on unnecessary art supplies until I had a plan. Drawing on my dinner plates? That could only end in disaster!

I'd also recently been interested in making my own little candleholders. I often see dozens of candles grouped on tables in magazine photos, but the cost of purchasing that many candleholders is often prohibitive. (I've used a collection of mason jars and salsa jars as a cheap solution in the past, but was looking for something new to spruce up my dining table.) I tried making my own tealight holders out of clay and that was a big fat flop.

The solution: Combine the two ideas and use the ceramic pens to draw patterns on ceramic dipping bowls. The store-bought bowls look much more professional than my attempts at DIY pinch pots, but the decorations would still be hand drawn. And the square mini bowls work perfectly as tealight holders! (They'd also be great for holding jewelry or for serving dips, sauces, nuts, candy, etc.)
DIY hand-painted ceramic tealight holders
DIY hand-painted ceramic tealight holders
My loose inspiration for the designs came from the Blue Willow china that my grandmother had all over her house when I was a kid. (You know what I'm talking about right? Do all grandmothers have these blue and white plates and teacups?) Anyway, I love the blue and white color scheme of this china (plus it always makes me think of my Nana!), however, the china pattern is very traditional and my tastes are really modern. I wanted to come up with a contemporary interpretation to better suit the modern furnishings and decorations in our house.

I've been obsessed with patterns lately (I think that is evident from a lot of the gouache illustrations in my shop), and I find myself doodling patterns and geometric shapes over and over again. Mosaics, triangles, concentric circles - I love them all these days! The inexpensive little ceramic dipping bowls were a great medium to test the ceramic pens on while exploring my recent love of patterns. I painted the insides of the bowls because I wanted the patterns to be illuminated when the candles are lit. 
DIY hand-painted ceramic tealight holders
DIY hand-painted ceramic tealight holders
I'm so happy to finally be sharing this project. I made these back in March, but didn't get the chance to photograph them until yesterday. The process was really simple: Draw the patterns on the ceramic dishes with a Pebeo Porcelaine 150 Paint Pen (the color I used was Lapis), allow them to dry for 24 hours, then bake them in the oven to set the ink. Super easy and I love the results:
DIY hand-painted ceramic tealight holders
DIY hand-painted ceramic tealight holders
DIY hand-painted ceramic tealight holders
DIY hand-painted ceramic tealight holders
DIY hand-painted ceramic tealight holders
DIY hand-painted ceramic tealight holders
DIY hand-painted ceramic tealight holders
I'm looking forward to eating many candlelit dinners this summer with these homemade candleholders adorning my table. Romantic, right?