August 30, 2012

Letters to Germany.

My friend Andy recently returned from a month in Germany and I finally got to spend a little bit of time with him last night! After our brief (to be continued!) conversation, all I want to do is see what he's seen. And hear more about his adventures. And you know, be there. 

And because I'm terrible at keeping up with people when they're out of the country (but also feel like, ok, they're in another timezone having amazing experiences, how can I interrupt that?), I decided to write a letter a day. Letters never to be sent, but a collection to be given upon return. 

So that's what I did. 

It was a really interesting exercise in journaling (though I threw a few art journal-esque pages in there, DUH), and got me thinking about what of our daily lives we choose to include in journals (if we keep them)...what's journal-worthy and what's not. What to write on the days when nothing exciting happens. But then that's the beauty of it; finding those tiny moments of magic to put down in writing; things potentially/completely unrelated to the day itself.  

The more I thought about this concept, the more I realized it was like "blogging" for an audience of one. Granted, I could be extremely specific and share personal information with this friend I've known since kindergarten. But the question of how to keep it interesting without being all Dear Diary blah blah blah remained constant.

Now that the month is over, I find myself still thinking AHHH letter time! But no. I'll channel that for the blog and my own personal projects. Quite an exercise indeed. 

Do you journal (writing) or have an art journal? How do you record major events, and what drives you to record them? Why and how do you express these things? I'm so fascinated by the question. Help a girl out! 

Bits & Pieces of Me.

This week's B+P is short, sweet, something to savor. For lack of time, and also lack of want to be glued to my computer screen (which is what I do 9hrs a day at work), I merely want to share a simple, refreshing, almost convicting post written by Sara of Pink of Perfection

I jumped into the blogsphere "late" in the game...that is, I've been an avid blog reader for years but never though I had it in me to share anything exciting. I didn't live this exciting life or have an amazing career, and I still don't. But I WAS doing things, and I DID have something to say. I just didn't quite know how to articulate it at the time. 
 
And I am was scared of computers. HTML, rather. Design. I knew nothing. 
 
If there's one thing I know about myself, I mean am ACUTELY aware of, is that I'm afraid of uncertainty. Almost to a fault. Some days I find myself plunging into the unknown with this attitude of ihavenoideawhati'mdoingbutit'sfine,really. Like, I GOT this. No problem. 
 
And then the days, more often than not, when I'm so nervous about small, inconsequential things that I've never done before (so I do my research, and ask a million questions, and STILL feel anxious)...those days. The kind that kept me from writing for three years. That kept me from painting for four. That kept me from delving into my passions and experimenting and DOING and BEING for so long. That kept me from starting a blog until six months ago. 
 
And even now, I don't have it all figured out. 
I'm still learning how to balance this burst of creative ambition with school and a full-time job and best friends in other cities/states and life in general. How to STAY balanced when the unexpected happens, a wrench is thrown in the gears, and more uncertainty arises. 
 
Look, it's not like I'm ever going to have it all figured out. Be prepared for every little thing. No one will. That's not life. But I'm hoping to find my place. And that's the biggest thing...six months in, and I still don't feel like this space is MINE. Sure, my name is there. I write the words, take the photos, post the ness. 
 
But it's not ME. 
Not yet. 
 
But it will be, in time. With practice, patience, grace. 
Authenticity. Something that should've topped yesterday's Five Things list. 
 
There's so much to say, so much REALITY to throw out there. And the internet is a good place to hide. 

When I started this blog (which is still such a weird word to me, you guys) I wanted it to be just that. A place to radiate all the positivity and false bravado I could muster from the other side of a computer screen. To create this version of myself that people were drawn to, maybe even liked...but what good does that do when you only have half the story? I realize I'm allowed to share as much or as little as I want. But my biggest struggle, here, is this lack of authenticity, the other half of the story; the half I haven't shared. PS how dramatic am I being right now? HA. 

Those in my close circle know I have health issues, and have struggled for almost my entire life. So many doctors, tests run, misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis. Stomach problems that won't.go.away. And it's partially my fault. And partially some unnamed thing that no one can put their finger on. 

So every day is a battle. I've fought myself on writing this post, putting these words down for you to read and interpret, because I wanted to keep it hidden. I wanted to be that carefree girl who's just owning at life. Because even if I explained the details of my physical situation, you wouldn't understand, because the story is so complex and twisted I can hardly understand it myself. I just live it one day at a time. 

Here's what I CAN say: most of the time I feel physically terrible, and there's a mental component to that; the days when you just feel like you can't take any more. I was fortunate enough to do some traveling before things got really bad, but being in this place I'm at, being so limited...it makes me wish for those times. When things were simpler. When I didn't have to worry about whether or not I could schedule a trip or a date or go to a show because I didn't know if I'd be excruciatingly ill. 

I kind of live in a box, guys. One that has kept me from living a full life for too many years. One that is fraught with uncertainty, setbacks, and inthemoment misery. One that, with the help of (FINALLY) the right doctors, I'm slowly but surely busting out of.

It's scary, it hurts a lot, it's not safe, but it's good. So so good. Honestly, I'm writing this because I need to look back and remember the fight I have in me on the "bad" days, which right now grossly outweigh the "good". And because if you're looking for frills and surface-level entertainment, you won't find it here. I'm all for sharing amazing finds across the internet, but things like Pinterest and Tumblr give me a freaking headache. And today, even my own version of "things I'm loving this week" was just too much to pull together. 

That's not to say it's gloom and doom from here on out. I won't be posting health updates. I completely respect the people who have the boldness to do that, but this space, MY space, isn't for that. It never was. I just wanted a moment of realtalk with you amazing people who've honored me with your time in reading about my ridiculousness. There will be plenty of fun and hope and art and tiny adventures shared. And whatever else, who even knows.

For now, these bits and pieces of me, these strands of uncertainty bound up in a life of struggle, a life onthego, are enough. Soon they'll be knit up into a big ol' blanket of courage. 
 
And soon, like right now, I'll stop making corny analogies. 
I'm ready for something new. 
 
Happy Thursday lovelies. I mean it. 

August 29, 2012

Five Things I Respect to My Core.

It's that time ladies and gents. Cara and I are back with the weekly feature! Grab the banner, make your own Five Things list, and leave the link to your post in the comments! 

Five Things I Respect to My Core (in no particular order)

1. Small business owners; especially those who make their art for a living. That's my dream, and do I EVER respect the work you put into your passion, the sweat and blood and sacrifice and uncertainty. For those about to rock, I salute you. 

2. Organizations that aim to change the world. The startup, the rallying of people to your cause, watching the action and legislation and everything fall into place after years of roadblocks and disappointment...and to the supporters who fight for the vision unceasingly. 

3. People who live and love wholeheartedly. TO MY CORE I respect this attitude of grace and centeredness that comes with cultivating courage, compassion, and connection. This is something I strive toward every.single.day. But like Hedge and Donna, I've got a long way to go. 

4. Apparently this list is turning into "people" and not "things", but whatever. People who get married and stay married. Who value family. Men and women who take responsibility for their actions, and are active in their children's lives. 

5. Missionaries, humanitarians, and expats.  

August 28, 2012

Half a year and here you are again.

The baby blog is officially six months old TODAY. 

I can't even believe how quickly time flies. I mean. Poof!

I'm celebrating with a playlist. And my cultural anthropology textbook (back in class, y'all). 

ALSO, this is completely unrelated to the six month-aversary, but Teresa Ouellette, the amazing owner of Collector's Gallery (Galveston antique shop I mentioned in this postis offering 10% off any purchase of $20 or more for all of you lovely readers! Just let her know I sent you! If you're not in the area, find them on Etsy and Facebook

So, you know, happy anniversary blog. Happy birthdayversary to YOU. And happy antiquing to all of you darling people! Thank you so much for reading and commenting and emailing just being, you know, awesome. You're the best. 

August 26, 2012

Lamps.

Yesterday was The Boyfriend's birthday: films at the Museum of Natural Sciences' Burke Baker Planetarium, pedal boating in Hermann Park, go-karting on the East side (which I haven't done since jr high. WHAT?!). 


We had lots of fun and a night out with friends kind of sealed the birthday deal, ya know? It was a great day. Happyhappybirthdayboy. 

August 23, 2012

Bits & Pieces: Back to School Edition.

Takin' notes: I'm pretty partial to my plain jane Composition notebooks (covers all decorated, of course), one per subject, no exceptions. But I could definitely consider breaking my tradition for these guys, especially those last two! 1 / 2 / 3 / 4
Bags: While I'm a complete sucker for the massive colorblocked totes Gap has right now (the ones in store have some amaaazing color variety), I think these totes and backpacks are the perfect school's-in-session accessory necessity. 1 / 2 / 3 / 4
First day fancy: Of course you wanna look your best on the first day. Everyone does. And then by mid-semester there are magically more parking spots because half your class has dropped and the remaining few are showing up in sweatpants. At least that's been my experience. SIDENOTE: I've never worn anything that could possibly resemble pjs to class and I'm proud of that. But anyway. I love the simplicity of the above dresses and romper...and I'm DYING over this extreme neckwear situation. It might be time to get my needles out... 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 
Practicalities: It gets cold in those classrooms. It does. And I'm that girl who still wears a heavy-duty jacket indoors even when it's 100 degrees outside. I mean. It is what it is. THAT SAID, I'm lovin' this comfy hooded cotton alternative, and the dapper vintage Dior coat...I've got fall on the brain!

Organization 101: I'm a self-proclaimed creature of habit, almost to a fault. Like my notebooks, I'm reallyreally I mean REALLY picky about the planner and pens I use (been using the same ones for the past few years). Silly, I know. But I'm really diggin' these fun organizational 'extras' that could be part of the back to school bonanza. (I could totally use that zen desk organizer in my office too. AHH!) 1 / 2 / 3 /

August 22, 2012

Five Places I Need to Visit Before I Die.


My mental list for this one is really long. As in, almost every city in every country in the world. Obviously that won’t happen in my lifetime, but I want to see as much of this planet as I can before I kick the bucket. Narrowing my top five down was really difficult…that’s all I’m going to say. Hence the cheating. OH WELL. Grab the banner and drop the link to your Five Things post in the comments. Don’t forget to link up to this post when you do, AND check out Cara's list for the week! 

Five Things Places I Need to Visit Before I Die

1. Cuba (where my mother is from and many of my relatives are buried)
2. Every country in Africa, including and especially Ethiopia (again). 
3. England
4. Russia + all former Soviet states
5. The gravesites of these people: 
William S. Burroughs (Bellefontaine Cemetery: St. Louis, MO)
Allen Ginsberg (Gomel Chesed Cemetery: Elizabeth, NJ)
Jack Kerouac (Edson Cemetery: Lowell, MA)
Charles Bukowski (Green Hills Memorial Park: Rancho Palos Verdes, LA County, CA)
W.H. Auden (Kirchstetten, Austria)
Sylvia Plath (St.Thomas' Churchyard, Heptonstall, West Yorkshire, England)
Janis Joplin* (except that she was cremated and scattered in the Pacific Ocean)
Joe Strummer* (who was also cremated. DAMN.)
Freddie Mercury* (cremated, scattered on the shore of Lake Geneva in Switzerland)
Muddy Waters (Restvale Cemetery: Worth, IL)
Princess Diana (Althorp House grounds: Northamptonshire, England)
    
*cremated people, I'm visiting your hometowns and memorials, etc
Looks like I'm in for quite the adventure. Happy Wednesday! 

August 20, 2012

For Ted.

Once upon a time my sister and I started calling each other Teddy and Jamaal (that's me)...and yeah. That's the story. Thursday she left for South Carolina, taking this bad boy with her. She picked the verse, color scheme, and style (the last two are direct copies of a painting I made for myself not to long ago, except mine has one of my All Time Favorite Soon To Be Tattoo Life Quotes). She loved it, I was happy because she was happy, and now she has a cool painting for her apartment. Win-win sisterlove. 

August 17, 2012

Getcho thrift on!

Today is my absolute FAVORITE day of the year, I mean right up there with Record Store Day favorite (how many times do I say this? EVERYTHING is my favorite), so you KNOW it’s serious…happy National Thrift Store Day everyone! To celebrate the occasion I thought I’d give ya the scoop on some of my favorite local thrift stores, and a few not-so-local places you should definitely check out if you’re in the area! I bet you can guess what I’ll be doing on my lunchbreak AND after work today, haha. 

ValueVillage 10529 Gulf Fwy, Houston,TX 77034 
This is my home away from home. I live ten minutes away, work five minutes away (happy thrifting lunchbreaks!)…I mean. And every time I go, there’s always something new. Product is constantly in rotation, and I love it. Prices have gone up in the past year (but I’ve noticed that across the board…it’s hard to find things below $1 anywhere anymore!) but they’re not unreasonable. Each day, certain colored tags are half off, etc. If you’re in a digging mood, you can find namebrand clothes (I’ve found a lot of Gap and Banana Republic stuff that actually fits) and, like most thrift stores, there’s plenty of crazy-patterned vintage for the buying/altering!

Best departments: books (for art journaling; .25 paperbacks/.50 hardbacks! yesiDO), women’s dresses/leotard section (I used to buy neon spandex there when I was 14), men’s suit jackets, linens (cheap floral fabric guys), shoes, seasonal Christmas ornaments, furniture (depending on the day) and KITCHENWARE. Mainly glasses and MUGS. That’s one thing about this place…I never leave without at least one vintage mug to add to my collection.

Come prepared for no dressing rooms or bathrooms (typical)- I always wear something I can try clothes on over in front of the mirror. No shame.

2127 E. Southmore Houston, TX 77506
Pretty similar to the one by my house, just a little further out and about twice the size. Dresses and mugs are a must. They also have a larger selection of vintage wall art and suitcases.

Alamo Thrift Store 2215 Spencer Highway Pasadena, TX 77504 
My SECOND home away from home! Haha. I really wish I would’ve gotten a chance to photograph the sign…it’s basically my favorite. I’ve been a little disappointed recently with their crazy book price hike ($4 for a hardback? In a place that smells like someone’s moldy garage? No) and their vinyl selection. THOUGH when I was about 15 I found the entire Aerosmith discography, ON VINYL...and my mom wouldn’t let me buy it. Not a single album. I’m still sore about that.  

Best departments: women’s dresses, kids’ tshirts, misc section in the middle (knickknacks to housewares to wallpaper to expired film…you never know), vinyl (sometimes), handbags. AND they have fitting rooms.

Best score: 10 Nancy Drew books I bought for my little sister (they had a whole slew of Hardy Boys books too but with those prices…eesh).

Sand Dollar Thrift Store 2535 Spencer Hwy Pasadena, TX 77504
This place is really tiny so you can skim through each section pretty quickly. I don’t usually find much here anymore, but it’s nice to check back every so often. When I was 13 I found The Partridge Family's self-titled LP (the last one to complete my collection!) for .25 and about had a heart attack (I was THIRTEEN GUYZ; DAVID CASSIDY WAS MY BOY BAND). I made a stop here in June while scouting out supplies for Kara’s Summer ofLove art journaling class and found abajillion vintage sewing patterns for way too cheap, so there’s that. I’d only recommend swinging by if you’re doing a full-on thrift day (it’s two seconds down the road from Alamo..and there’s a Salvation Army two seconds down the road from Sand Dollar too).  

FamilyThrift Center 112 Southmore Ave Pasadena, TX 77506
It’s been awhile since I’ve been here but when my mom would take me thrifting, we’d start here. Best selection of clothing for kids and adults, quality and brandwise, that I’ve seen for really cheap. My mom still goes and my little sister comes back with the coolest stuff. Certain locations run specials throughout the week, and they have fitting rooms.

Goodwill 10998 Fuqua Road Houston TX 77089
Growing up, this was a Kroger, then it was abandoned, and now it’s a Goodwill! Isn’t that the natural order of it, or something? Anyway. I typically shy away from GW or Salvation Army because of their prices (just because it’s cheaper than retail doesn’t make it cheap enough for me…brokecollegekid), but this one has a LOT of great offerings. I actually found my Summer of Love art journal here! And someone’s wedding tape (on a giant film reel). And a giant glass cookie jar with ‘Munchies’ printed across the middle in classic ‘70s script and color.

Best departments: books, office supplies, kitchenware, seasonal Christmas ornaments

Almeda Antique Mall 9003 Almeda Genoa Rd, Houston, TX 77075
This was the place that planted the seed of my vintagelove when I was a kid. I remember going here with my grandma, and once I was in jr high I started buying vinyl there. Over the years, half of the giant warehouse has shut down (SAD DAY) but the space that remains still has such a fantastic collection of vintage and antique items. Some vendors are a bit overpriced but every now and then you find a gem worth the extra buck (though the clearance stall is always my favorite!). Also it’s right down the street from my office. So, you know.

Best departments: everything. You can get lost in there for hours. Be sure to talk to the owners who usually chill near the front counter in antique chairs. They’re hilarious and so so nice.

Plato’s Closet 19028 Gulf Freeway Between I-45 and the Baybrook Mall  Friendswood, TX 77546  
Ok so, here’s the deal. I worked here for 2 ½ years as a cashier, buyer, and later, assistant manager. The clothing selection all depends on your area, and what that particular location will buy from you depends on what they’re stocking up on or have too much of. Every store is different. From a selling standpoint, it’s great to make an extra buck if you’re just trying to get clothes off your hands. But if you’re looking for a better return, I recommend Blackbird Vintage (across the parking lot), Buffalo Exchange (downtown on Westheimer), or TaxiTaxi (also on Westheimer). Those places can be a lot more picky on what they take, though. Brand, style, and condition is everything.

Bottom line, Plato’s is better from a consumer standpoint (in my opinion…though I do sell there pretty frequently out of convenience. Oops). This is definitely classified as resale; name brand only, and usually only styles from within the past 3-4 years. Downside: no vintage.  

Best departments: women’s dresses, shoes (sometimes), tanks, dress tops, tshirts, jeans (sometimes), men’s tshirts (if you dig/get lucky)

Best value: if you’re a fan of Old Navy or Target, those two brands are some of the lowest price pointed items in the store. As in, I buy Target tanks for $3 and dresses for $4-6. But again, this all depends on location.

ICM 118 W Bay Area Blvd Webster, TX 77598
This shop is hidden away in the corner of an overcrowded strip center where Bay Area Blvd meets Hwy 3. Some of my greatest new author discoveries have come from there (again, back when books where like .10 apiece). I’d buy random books with cool covers and they were all, I mean ALL, reallyREALLY good. Their selection continues to impress, and they usually have a decent stock of office supplies too (sucker for that shit) but I’ve never really gone through their clothes. They recently remodeled and expanded it so there’s more to browse, which is great.

Best department: books, definitely

Collector’s Gallery 2222 Post Office Blvd Galveston, TX 77550
I’ve already mentioned this place (see Galveston trip) but MAN. If you’re in the area you NEED to go. Galveston has this whole guide to antiquing available at pretty much any touristy-type attraction or the visitors’ center (ha) if you want to seek out more places around town (def picked up the brochure and plan on devoting a Saturday *hopefully soon* to going through that list). In the meantime, this antique shop is my number one recommendation. Some seriously great treasures hiding out on the island. Be sure to chat with the owners while you're there; they're some of the sweetest people I've ever met. PS you can find them on Etsy, Facebook, and Twitter! Five outta five stars, y’all.  

Thrift Town 5726 Manchaca Rd. Austin, TX 78745 @ Stassney across from Crockett HS
This place forever has a piece of my heart. It’s one of the few true ‘thrift’ stores left (that I’ve been to), where prices are cents on the dollar and there’s a great selection of almost EVERYTHING. When I first moved to Atx I bought a giant floor lamp for $4 (still have it), an end table ($5-repainted/still have it), and a necklace that I’ve worn every day since (TEN CENTS). That was four years ago. During my time in Atx I frequented that place when I wasn’t working/in class. It was right over the highway from our apartment, so again, gotta love the convenience! The clothing selection is great, and you can usually find a few working typewriters as well as some pretty decent tables, cabinets, shelves, frames, and vinyl. For cheap. They also mail out a coupon every so often, which is always a plus.     

Salvation Army 4216 S Congress Avenue Austin TX, 78745
This is the best SA I’ve ever been to, and the only one where I didn’t feel completely robbed. Bought my heavy oak dresser ($20), giant bookshelf ($10), and lace curtains ($3) when I moved, and it quickly became another Atx go-to. Also, I found my typewriter there and I will never forget that day. Ever. In my life. Also, half of my current vinyl collection is from here. Amen.

Best departments: VINYL, clothing, furniture, shoes  

Goodwill 1005 Highway 80,San Marcos,TX78666
Our apartment was less than five minutes from this Goodwill location, so it stands to reason I spent a lot of my time there (it was also in the same strip as Hastings, Hobby Lobby, and Walmart, and across the way from Half Price Books. College kid heaven). Mildly pricey depending on the item, but the store is clean and well-stocked (and I bought my blender, VCR, and plates there. SO).

Best thrifting moment: my friend Rachel and I were invited to a redneck themed party soooo we hit this place up. I found a shirt that I chopped up and shorts that became daisy dukes, and RACHEL found an AMAZING shirt that said “Shootin’ Deer & Drinkin’ Beer!” I still can’t get over how PERFECT that shirt is.

Vagabond 317 N LBJ Dr,San Marcos,TX78666
Trendy vintage resale shop off the Square. Kinda pricyish, but a really great selection for guys AND dolls. I bought a rare tshirt there when I visited San Marcos last December (one of my favorites!). And also tried on some mob boss wife fur coats. Serious bi-niz. The staff is friendly and it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in town, or, you know, live there.
Have some more local thrift store recommendations for me, or even general recommendations should I just so happen to visit your lovely city? Let a girl know! Find something INCREDIBLE on your thriftventure? Tell me all about it! I love comments and emails. You guys are the best! Have a great weekend, and happy thrifting!

August 16, 2012

Bits & Pieces: So sketch.

This week I'm TOTALLY crushin on the sketches of Deanna Staffo. I can't even. Especially that hand study. Browsing through her photos made me realize how much I've neglected my own sketchbook, and how much I miss the organic simplicity of pencil (or pen) to paper. Her style is so fantastic, and she's an amazing photographer as well. CHECK HER OUT ASAP.
GREATEST What I Wore idea EVER. 1 / 2 

What're you lovin today? 

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