5 Things I Love Right Now: Summer Edition

1. Jenny Lewis, Voyager

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First off, let’s just all agree that Jenny Lewis is the coolest lady we wish we knew. Her new album, “Voyager,” as a friend put it, “scratches a musical itch I didn’t know I had.” Listening to it, I’ve been struck by how fortunate it is to find an artist that you can grow up with. Old Rilo Kiley albums are still wonderful, but the angst is a 20-something’s angst. The songs on “Voyager” are about grown ups (with lines like the heart-stopper “when I look in the mirror all I see is just another lady without a baby”) and remind me that, though we like to say that it’s more interesting to be young, there are plenty of emotional complexities to being an adult, too.

2. Summer Reads

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I’ve been a reading fool lately– blame the long days and evenings when it’s too hot to do much else. The three recent books I couldn’t put down: Philipp Meyer’s The Son, about a family of Texas cattle/oil barons. Not usually my speed, but it had the kind of plot momentum that makes a book impossible to put down.

Also, Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver was a perfect summer read, reveling in the creeping, crawling, growing details in the wild. Also, apparently nature is totally sexy. Who knew?

And finally, Mary Coin by Marisa Silver is a really interesting re-imagining of the lives in front of and behind the camera in Dorothea Lange’s famous “Migrant Mother” photo.

3. Couch Dreaming

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Our living room is in need of a new couch. The current eggplant-purple loveseat was one I inherited from my mom’s downsizing to an apartment. It was my favorite place to do homework in high school which means that it’s easily close to 20 years old. These days the springs are poking through to the floor and the seat looks precariously concave. That said, the irony is not lost on me that the only couches I can imagine replacing ol’ eggplant with are low-slung midcentury sofas, not 20 but probably close to 60 years old. Yet another illustration that titles (“it’s not old, it’s ‘vintage'”) are everything.

4. Hippie Cult Movies

The Source Family: spiritual weirdos and style icons

For whatever reason, I seem to be consuming more than my share of hippie cult movies lately. Blame it on the weather– this sort of mild summer and we’ve all gotta be having some back-to-nature daydreams about living in tents and letting our hair grow long. Have you heard of the Source Family before? Apparently they were pretty nationally-known in the 70s, parodied in an early SNL and their vegan restaurant featured in Annie HallThe doc was overseen by former(?) members so it’s not exactly hard-hitting, but the sort of Hollywood-meets-spiritual-guru aspects of the movie were pretty interesting.

Not so much a cult, The Commune is a documentary about an intentional community– Black Bear Ranch was founded in the mountains of California in the late 1960’s and continues today. Having had my own hippie experience for a while back in college, there were plenty of moments and characters that felt familiar. Fun fact: Peter Coyote was a member for a while, and every interview with him immediately transforms the movie into a Ken Burns doc.

5. Basil Seed DrinkScreen shot 2014-08-02 at 8.44.47 PMI picked up a can of “Basil Seed Drink” on a whim at the grocery story a few months back and these weirdly-textured drinks have quickly become my warm afternoon go-to. I’ve always been a fan of tapioca and other gummy-textured things, and basil seeds have a similar jelly-like feel to them. Apparently they’re also good for controlling blood sugar, and are packed with nutrients, like all seeds. They’re popular in Thailand so if you’re an adventurous drinker, check one out in the Asian section of your grocery store. It’s the best bizarre/delicious summer drink around.

 

Almost There Project

I’ve written before about my love of “outsider” art. Of course that term in itself can be problematic, and yet there’s something so intriguing about the idea of an artist working completely outside of the confines of the “art world,” simply because they feel compelled to make something. I’m drawn to the complex and fully-realized worlds these artists tend to create (see Henry Darger, Pearl Fryer, Hal Lasko, hand-painted signage). It’s easy to fall into an elitist view of the “undiscovered” artist, but at it’s best the idea illustrates that the most unassuming among us have complexities that strangers would never imagine.

I was privileged to see a screening of the film, “Almost There,” over the weekend, which follows 82-year-old artist Peter Anton. While manning a portrait-drawing booth eight years ago at Pierogi Fest in Whiting, IN, Anton met two filmmakers who ultimately collaborated with him on a documentary. At the time, he was living alone, obsessively chronicling his experiences in intricate scrapbooks and waiting for someone to “tell his life story.” The film follows Anton’s first art show, and paints a portrait of an complicated artist and man.

The screening took place at this year’s Pierogi Fest in the beautifully-restored Hoosier Theater movie palace, which was a treat in itself. Afterward, Anton went back to work at his portrait booth once again. Sadly, a sick kiddo back home meant we couldn’t stay to have our picture drawn, but hopefully next year we can get a Peter Anton original.

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The film is a really a beautiful story, touching on a broad range of themes for filmmakers, artists and everyone facing the inevitability of aging–  how we construct our sense of home, the role of documentarians in a subject’s life, artistic commitment, living with the mistakes we make in our life, and how we accept, or don’t, the mistakes of others.

The filmmakers are in the final days of a Kickstarter project to fund screenings at film festivals and distribution of the movie. If you’ve got a few bucks at send their way, you won’t regret it.

P.S. If you ever get a chance to check out Pierogi Fest, do yourself a favor and go. If this pretzel pictured below doesn’t convince you, well, I don’t know what will.

 

Paper Garland DIY

My kind of DIY project is equal parts great design and elementary school throwback. While I’m certainly a fan of good styling and clever ideas, I also rely on a do-it-yourself to get me back in touch with the good old days of glue sticks and construction paper.

Along those lines, I really loved this giant paper bead garland project featured on Oh Happy Day. It’s simple and clever, and I love the idea of a bunch of these at a celebration. Plus, unlike so many projects that you have to buy lots of supplies you’ll likely never use again, this is a great use of materials you’ve probably got lying around anyway.

via Oh Happy Day.

Color Me Happy

I get crushes on certain colors. At various points in my life, there have been colors or color combo that became my touchstone. I wear it, paint it on my walls, gravitate toward anything to show it off. Once my tastes changes I’m often a little embarrassed about being so obsessed, but in the moment I’m pretty much helpless to that color’s charms. At 16 I insisted on painting my bedroom a sage green which was, looking back, probably better suited to someone middle-age and not a teenager listening to Ben Folds Five over and over. At 18 I was all about fuchsia and bright green together and shortly after, turquoise and leaf green combined.

More recently mustard yellow had my heart (this one’s not quite over yet), but lately I’ve found a new pairing taking over– shades of aqua, from bright turquoise to soft and minty, with pops of red, from fire engine to berry to neon pink. This combo has crept into nearly every room of my house, my Pinterest feed, and my brain. It’s versatile and unexpected, slightly more subtle than the combo of truly complementary colors, and totally my new obsession. Here are a few bits of eye-candy that may get you feeling it, too–

Michelle Armas via Design Milk.

Via Mor til Mernee

 Via Pinterest

 Miranda Skoczek via The Design Files

  Summer plums by Anek

 Paper lantern update from The House that Lars Built

 Marjorie Helen Thomas

Tropical Punch by Alejandra Hernandez

 Album cover via Let’s Look Up and Smile

Pineapple Love

When I moved to New England back in 2005, there were plenty of new things to get used to– galley kitchens, new vocabulary (“You call them ‘jimmies‘?”), the lack of any straight roads. I eventually figured those out, but one thing continued to stump me– what was with all the pineapples? Pineapple signs, pineapple prints, pineapple decorations, they were everywhere, and it wasn’t like the fruit was native to the area.

Finally a friend enlightened me to the history of the pineapple in New England. The story goes that Colonial sailors would often return from voyages to the tropics with fruits, animals and other exotic treasures. When a sailor came home, families began placing a pineapple outside their home as a signal to the neighborhood that their loved one had returned safely and visitors were welcome. Thus the pineapple become a symbol of hospitality and fortune, and continues to be a popular motif in seaside locations to this day. (More on the history here.) 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I lived in Providence, I loved the giant pineapple that welcomed visitors to Federal Hill, the Italian neighborhood near my apartment. When we visited for a wedding about a year after moving back to the Midwest, my best friend and I decided to get tattoos to commemorate our time out East. For me, there are no better symbol for my time in Providence than the pineapple; it represented my adventure to a new and unfamiliar place, and returning safely back home in the end.

All that to say, I’ve definitely got a soft spot for pineapples, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see them show up as the motif du jour around the blogosphere and Pinterest lately. Here are a few of my faves–