Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Culinary Adventure

As I've written in the past, the culinary realm is where my creativity falls short. I have never been a good cook, and while I can follow a recipe, it's always seemed a bigger hassle than what it's worth. As a part of "being good to me" this year I want to explore flavorful healthy food. Peter and I split equally the task of cooking but it's been quite a challenge to prepare quick (a must for our busy lifestyles) meals that fit the criterion of "healthy" and "flavorful". As I move away from the "utilitarian" view of food I've held for all these years and start to adopt "creative" it is my goal to become more self sustaining. I'm planning a garden this year (more on this later) and while I'm looking forward to growing my own food I'm left trying to figure out how better to funnel our resources toward healthier choices now. Two weeks ago I joined a co-op with a weekly buy in option. You make your produce purchase on Monday or Tuesday of each week and pick up the following Saturday. The mystery of never knowing exactly what will be included in the basket leaves me with feelings akin to Christmas; the mystery, the anticipation, the excitement!!! Here's our basket for this week:


It's crazy the amount of food we obtained for only $15! Adding to the fun is the task of building a weekly menu around whatever happens to be in our basket. Nearly all the recipes we are trying this week are new dishes we've never tried before. And thanks to I didn't have to relent my desire for "nutritious and flavorful" in the name of "quick and easy".

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


After 2010's new year's resolution (focusing on the growth and development of Dot&Line), I decided to take a different approach for 2011. This year my only goal is to be better to me. This may sound narcissistic but after the stress incurred by last years goal I've decided to treat myself a little better by reinstating former self-care penchants and developing some new ones.

By far the biggest change I've made is my re-entry into the 8:00-5:00 work force. I have set aside my jeans and donned my leggings and pumps to take on an administrative support role for a local CPA. Surprisingly the transition from running my business more than full time to working and running my business has been less painful that I imagined it would be. There are several reasons I decided to make this switch but something I didn't consider was the lowering of my stress level. Now that I have a steady income, my business feels like play time again and while I still believe in setting goals for sales and production, my financial fate is less tied to these things. I'm finding that I feel less pressure to "make things happen" and more freedom to "let things happen". (As a side note: There are still several new things for Dot&Line on the horizon and I look forward to sharing more with you in the coming months.)

Number one on my new found list of healthy habits is my walk to work every morning. While it is the middle of February and definitely chilly out, 7:25 in the morning is also early enough that the wind hasn't kicked into full gear yet, and as the days get longer the sunrise greets me with a brighter and brighter glow. By the time I walk the 8/10 of a mile to work I am fully awake and have already experienced something beautiful in my day.

Also on the list are the 15 minute complementary massages I receive every Friday during tax season. There are many perks for working for a CPA but this is by far my favorite. As a part of my 2011 resolution I had planned on investing in a massage every now and then. This part of my resolution is fulfilled and FOR FREE (!!!) every Friday through April 15th by Lynda, who works next door (a convenient location for when I start paying for massages after tax season).

There's more "good to me" habits a brewin' too! Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fabric Options for Custom Lampshades

Lately we have been getting a lot of questions regarding fabric options for custom lampshades. Our inventory of in stock fabric options rotates out from time to time and so I thought I would keep an updated list of all in stock fabric options here in one place for you!

Fabrics are organized below based on the size and shape of shade they are able to accommodate. If none of these fabrics are quite right for your space you may also send in your own fabric to have a custom shade made at no extra charge. Helpful tips for selecting fabrics that work can be found toward the end of this post.

All sizes and shapes:


Colorwheel: 01

Leafy: 03

Calypso: 01

Large Leafy: 01 (Note: Print is too large to accommodate entire repeat in most cases)

Any size shade, however not recommended for cone shapes:

Medallion: Lime

Circles: B&W

Shades 12" wide or less:

Bird: 02 (Note: This is a panoramic view and not to scale. Chances are that not all of the print will be represented in your shade.)

If none of these fabrics are quite right for your shade, you may send in your own fabric to have a custom piece made at no extra charge. Here are some tips for choosing your own fabric:

  1. Choose a fabric with high natural fiber content such as linen or cotton. A synthetic/natural blend will work in most cases but the higher the natural fiber content the better it works with our adhesives. WE CANNOT USE FULLY SYNTHETIC FABRICS!!!
  2. Make sure you send a piece of fabric the right size to accommodate your shade. Here's a list of popular drum shade sizes accompanied by required fabric dimensions:
18"x9" Drum Shade - 60" wide x 12" tall
16"x9" Drum Shade - 55" wide x 12" tall
14"x10" Drum Shade - 50" wide x 12" tall
12"x10" Drum Shade - 42" wide x 12" tall
10"x10" Drum Shade - 35" wide x 12" tall

Based on the sizes above, consider the print orientation of your fabric. Will the print have to be turned sideways to accommodate the size of the shade you need? On cone shaped shades the print "flairs out" from the center of the shade, will this be a problem?

If you have any more questions regarding our fabrics or how to pick one of your own please feel free to e-mail me at

Monday, May 10, 2010

Putting on the flair

My Sister-In-Law, Stephanie, was just visiting us for two weeks. Stephanie is only 25 and will graduate medical school this coming Saturday, then she's off to her three year residency in family practice. Despite having what I consider to be very well-planned, secure career opportunities in front of her (she hope to split her time between the States and Latin America doing medicals missions), she is like a big ball of fun. I know I just stereotyped all the doctors out there as being boring and lifeless, but you know what I mean, right? Does YOUR doctor make a mean mojito? Does YOUR doctor fantasize about designing baby clothes for your baby? Does YOUR doctor bring you African fabric and teach you how to tie it so you can wear your son on your back? Probably not, at least in the context that you know him or her. I think it's fair to say that Stephanie's Fun Factor is higher than your average being.

So, with Stephanie by my side 24/7 for two weeks (literally - remember how small our apartment is?!), I was able to channel some of her fun-ness and creativity into my being. We hit up a couple of Gothenburg's fabulous second-hand stores, and as we combed the racks I was transported back to high school and - in my humble opinion - my kick-ass style that was mostly courtesy of my Nana's wardrobe leftovers from the 60s and 70s that I claimed as my own. I loved-loved-loved her vintage dresses, from fancy Bonwit Tellers to the more casual shirt-dress.

As life happened, from the freshman Umpteen to a desk job, to who knows what else, it lead me to live most of the past several years in minor variations of my jeans-n-hoodie uniform. I'm actually wearing jeans and a hoodie right now, as I type this. At one point I realized that no matter what I bought I always ended up wearing hoodies anyway, so I might as well buy ones with flair... but wait, can hoodies actually have flair? Only relatively, it turns out, because at the end of the day, a hoodie is a hoodie is a hoodie. Sigh.

Back to shopping... Last week I happened upon a most delightful vintage dress while Stephanie and I were immersed in old-newness, and it has totally revived my creative fashion streak that's been dormant for the last decade-plus.

I love this dress for so many reasons... It fits perfectly while giving the illusion of a waist; it flatters my lactating bossomness; the blue ignites my eyes; the sweet bolero and narrow belt are such lovely additions. I wonder about the woman who wore it first: Was the dress made for her? Was it for a party? a wedding? Was there a matching hat? Did her husband adore her in it? Oh, sigh...

I have yet to wear it out, and I'd like to hem the skirt before I do. But, even just having it in my closet is a constant reminder of my once-whimsy self, and gives me a charge to dress each day with a bit more flair, hoodie or not.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Creatively Green

My family just returned from a whirlwind trip to the States. Prior to going I had started getting really intrigued by the term "green smoothies", a term I'd stumbled upon several times recently among the various blogs that I regularly read.

At first I felt really intimidated by this term: Green Smoothies. Green Smoothies? GREEN Smoothies? Green SMOOTHIES? GREEN SMOOTHIES?!?!? I got the concept but didn't quite get how to implement. The two words just didn't quite seem to go together, and I was convinced I would mess up, needlessly wasting some fabulous produce in the process. And so, more research ensued.

I discovered that any type of leafy greens could go into my smoothie, but that for a novice like me I might prefer to avoid the stronger-tasting ones. So, things like lettuce and spinach were in, and things like arugula and dandelion were out (for now). A higher fruit-to-veggie ratio would also be more palatable to begin, but that a ratio of 1:1 is what to aim for in the long-term.

Finally I reached the point where the next action item was simply to give it a try.

I had my fruits: frozen berries, a banana, a pear, and a few forgotten grapes.

I was a bit hesitant about the greens because my blendering tools are limited to the stick variety. I wasn't sure that had enough power to obliterate the greens to shreds. I got around that easily enough by using frozen, shredded spinach (I let it thaw first) and that worked beautifully.

The results from this first go-around were... mediocre. Not great enough that I sang Green Smoothie Praise form the mountain tops, but enough to keep me intrigued. When I got to the States, two things changed: 1) I retrieved our powerful blender from my parents' basement, confident that it had what it would take to show regular leafy greens who's boss; and 2) Whole Foods beckoned me.

Armed with loads of fresh greens and my mighty blender, I went to it. I'm super proud of my creations, and here are the two that stand out to me:

Mega-Variety Combo: apple, orange, banana, lemon, lime, raspberries, cherries, kiwi, blueberries, blackberries, chard, spinach, mixed lettuce greens, beet greens, cilantro, parsley. My hint: If you're adverse to an off-color smoothie, be sure to add enough red and purple berries!

Green Supreme: lemon, lime, orange, banana, avocado, kiwi, pear, frozen peaches, cilantro, parsley, spinach, romaine, beet greens, chard, ginger. This is not overly sweet and very refreshing.

I drank a big pitcher of Green Smoothies every day for a week and I loved it. Perhaps it was only psychological, but I'll take it! If you're interested in learning more about Green Smoothies, this is a great place to start, and there are many more blogs and websites with various tips and tools of the trade out there as well. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Color Craze

I stay pretty connected to the color industry because it’s so important to my job (well, my currently non-existent job). Yes, there is a color industry, believe it or not, with a set of people that sit in a room (actually, it’s a pretty arduous process, so I’m sure it involves many rooms!) and they decide the hot colors for the upcoming year. (Believe it or not, by this time right now, they have already decided what colors will be popular in 2011, and are almost done with 2012.) It’s a complex process because they are dealing with selecting just the right pantones (numerical C, M, Y, K color values) that can be duplicated on any computer. But I’m boring you.

Anyway, my point is, if you’ve ever wondered why many stores all offer similar shades of fabric hues each season, it’s because of the color industry. It’s because designers of textiles, clothes, home goods, etc, all pay close attention to the swatches (expensive swatches at that!) that come from the color forecast. This year’s hot hot color (some of you probably already know) is lavender! Check out some of my favorite purples this spring, as well as two other hot colors of summer: aqua and gray.

Monday, April 5, 2010

changing my mindset to creative

Okay, who's been horrendously delinquent around these parts lately? C'est moi. I've been feeling particularly undercreative these last few weeks, and - coupled with being a bit short of time - that's the reason for my absence.

Makes me wonder a bit about how people who are creative for their livelihood deal with creative droughts. What happens when a writer gets blocked? When a singer/songwriter stops singing and songing?

The more I contemplate this, however, I realize that inspiration isn't simply limited to creative expressions; no matter what one does, it's so much more enjoyable to feel inspired while doing it, to be working towards a goal. And, as I think about a bit further, I realize that "creative expressions" aren't simply limited to "the arts" - meaning those performed and those visualized - but that everyone can have their own art even if they are in banking, or law, or education.

I am realizing that being creative has far more to do with how I see the world, and not the specific tasks I apply my creativity to. Most of you probably figured this out a long time ago, but I think I am just starting to give myself permission to do this, to stake my creative claim in my dad-to-day.

Here's to this week's task: identifying my creativity in the nooks and crannies of my life.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Design Doctor

Can I just vent for a moment today? You won’t mind if I have a bitter moment, will you? Today I am going to vent about the curse of being an interior designer, what seems to plague me from time to time (i.e. today):

People are always asking me for design opinions off the cuff, without more specific info. I won’t talk about today, but take this experience, for example. One Christmas dinner, some people my husband and I were sitting with said, "We were thinking of painting our kitchen cabinets baby blue. What do you think? Would that look good?" It was crazy to ask me that when there are about a hundred different tints, shades, and tones of baby blue, I had never seen their kitchen or the style of the cabinets, and didn't know what look they were going for, didn't know what kind of lights they had, or the scale of the room and what colors would be around it, or what the texture and type of wood the cabinets were.

When people ask me if something will or won’t work, it’s a hard one to answer without seeing the space or talking to them a lot more about what they’re going for… So I often feel irresponsible giving an opinion, and end up sounding evasive or put-out…. not too intelligent! Really, I like everything in its place and within a certain specific context that it may work within. Part of being a good designer, I think, is being able to appreciate the merits of every style, of every color, and of every individual item... Certainly everything can be good within a certain context, and bad within another context. Maple syrup is great on waffles. Not so great with chicken soup.

Part of me likes being able to give advice. It’s flattering when someone asks. The part of me that still owes thousands of dollars on my student loans gets a little frustrated, though. It’s hard wanting to do something professionally (meaning making a living for oneself) but wanting to help out friends or others that ask you for bits and pieces of help here and there. I am nowhere near being a doctor, but I feel for them, because they must constantly have the same problem! People wanting advice without offering money or particulars! Sigh. Good thing that if that’s the biggest problem I have in life, I’m doing pretty well!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Finding God in Crate and Barrel

Does my title sound shallow? Hopefully you think the opposite when I explain. I find God in lots of places, but often I’m pretty sure God’s shopping at Crate and Barrel.

Everyone needs an inspirational place, I think. Somewhere they can go and feel like everything is just right, perfectly peaceful and just the place they can go to rejuvenate, reflect, contemplate, and brainstorm.

For my friend Tim, this place usually involves a good Miles Davis song. My sister finds it on the side of a mountain. I myself have been blessed with a few inspiring places. Most can be found in nature, like in Central Park or my childhood camp. And I don’t have to explain those to you, because almost all of us feel a higher connection with the universe when we are in a natural spot God seems to have made just for us. But can I tell you one of the places I feel most connected?

Crate and Barrel, 650 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022

I used to design and dress windows on Fifth Avenue, so I was in the neighborhood a lot. Sometimes I would sneak in to breathe some Crate and Barrel air for a few minutes before my time at work. Sometimes I’d tell my husband to find me there if we were meeting each other in the neighborhood for dinner. This is not to say that I think Crate and Barrel is the end all be all of good design. Not by a long shot. But there is something to say for being surrounded by the haven of aesthetic beauty in whatever form you can find it.

Usually I could be found in the corner of a vignette upstairs, sitting on a comfy sofa, feeling at home in an orderly space with everything in its place, pretending for a moment to have the life that matched the drapes or upholstery. Sometimes I’d brainstorm or journal. Other times I’d just sit and hear what the universe had to say.

My husband and I recently were forced, by Divine intervention I have yet to understand, to move to Connecticut- something I haven’t mentioned yet in this blog because I think I’m still coming to terms with it. Saying it out loud makes it real you know. And typing it, well… that’s about as definite as it can be now, isn’t it. I miss so much about New York. Life in Connecticut is 180 degrees in the other direction and I find myself mourning a piece of my city every day. Today it’s 650 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022: Crate and Barrel, where God does all of God's shopping and stops occasionally for a visit on the sofa.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tofu Terrific

Like many people, as a result of our family’s shrinking budget over the last year, my husband and I find ourselves getting creative in the kitchen. Anyone who supports organic and local food knows that buying responsibly can also sometimes feel like buying expensively. In addition to our local coop, my husband and I shop at Whole Foods, a great store we more often lovingly refer to as Whole Paycheck. It’s been a challenge this year to continue to purchase the products we want, and part of our newly found creativity in the kitchen has taken the form of vegetarianism. While eating tofu, beans, and other non meat proteins is cheaper and certainly better for the environment, we still love our meat and occasionally partake (which makes us something the Food Network calls “Choositarians,” although I’m not sure how technical that term is).

While we’ve eaten a lot of foods deemed “vegetarian” by American culture for a long while, tofu is one we admit we’re just starting to tackle. It has recently found a larger and larger place in our lives, much to our happy surprise. We’d had it plenty of times in restaurants and others’ homes, but we never considered ourselves to be FTCAOCPECE (Future Tofu Chefs of America and Other Countries for the Purposes of Environmentalism and Cost Effectiveness) material.

Being a tofu eater is something I never would have expected as a youngster growing up in the Midwest. My idea of soy back then was the oily soy cheese found on top of a chicken patty in our school’s cafeteria. If you’ve ever been to an all-you-can-eat buffet in the middle of Iowa, you know that the largest food group is meat/gelatinous “salads.” Okay, so that is encouraging a stereotype... but it's a pretty good stereotype. Where I grew up, meat is not only essential to the meal, it’s the main part. Tofu was not only not eaten in the household I grew up, but it wasn’t exactly looked upon favorably, either.

Fast forwarding (or rewinding, I’m not sure which since I was just flashing back to childhood, but am now talking about yesterday) to last night, I made the yummiest tofu lasagna after I found some hints online. Thought I’d share, because the results were great. Note, you also need a really great sous-chef, like mine pictured here:

My sous-chef, linebacker baby Jonas.
Unfortunately, he tries to cook with his feet as much as his hands.

I bought a package of extra firm tofu (which even at Whole Paycheck on the east coast only costs $1.99), which I then crumbled up into small pieces; it looked like something between feta and ricotta cheese. Then I mixed an equal amount of ricotta into it. At this point, any ravenous meat-eating bystander would think it was a whole bowl of ricotta cheese, the tofu is so disguised.

Tofu is great because it soaks up the flavors of food around it. I put some garlic salt (depends on how big of a lasagna you’re making, but I put in about a teaspoon) and chopped up basil into the ricotta/tofu mixture to give the tofu a flavor to absorb. (I like the flavor of tofu alone, don’t get me wrong. But it doesn’t quite go with lasagna, so you sort of don’t want it to be the main flavor.) If you don’t want to do that, I just suggest using a very flavorful tomato sauce in the lasagna. The rest of the lasagna I made the same. Layering noodles and cheese and veggies/sauce, etc.

Yum! I totally recommend it! But remember, a good sous-chef is key!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An Adventure Begins...

As you might imagine, preparing for a major cross-country move and complete lifestyle overhaul is quite time-consuming. So, while I have had many experiences over the last few weeks that would qualify for the heading of "adventure" I don't have time to write about any of them!

Instead, I share with you some of the joy I experienced at my "cousin's" wedding tonight. My mom's friend, my "Auntie Cindy", has been a part of my life for 18 years. And so have her daughters, Katie & Kelly. Tonight, Kelly was finally - with the aid of lawyers and friends and lawyers who are friends - able to marry the father of her son and the love of her life, Alejandro.

To my darling Kelly and the wonderful Alejandro, Congratulations. I wish you a lifetime of love and happiness.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Creative Mission: Photography

This past weekend the family and I headed over to Hisingen, a part of Gothenburg that lies across the harbor. I'd been there recently with a friend, walking along the water, stopping for lunch here, then coffee there... It is filled with gorgeous views, and I knew that I had to go back with my camera and take some photos. So Keith and Elijah came along for my indulgent ride and we had buttloads of fun. Yes, buttloads.

I am by NO MEANS a photography expert. In fact, we were well into our walk when my husband - also not an photography expert but someone who has at least read the camera info booklet - suggested I put it on manual mode. Me, thinking I already had, was confused. Awkward! Ever helpful, Keith helped me out and on we went.

Despite my novice status, I really enjoy print photography, and have wanted to pursue it from behind the lens for a while. My camera is Nikon D40, which has received rave reviews both practically (think Consumer Reports) as well as from people in the know (somewhere - I don't know where - I read that it's the best DSLR to start out with; has lots of bells and whistles, but isn't overwhelming; just the right amount of camera). I'm still figuring it out, but I'm having fun with it.

The theme of my pictures focuses on bursts of color. The first time I went I was particularly struck by the contrast of colorful buildings against the super-blue sky. This time, I kept an eye open for any stab of color that penetrated my view.

Click on the photo below to view my slide show, and please - let me know what you think! This is my first creative endeavor with my camera, and I'm pretty sure I can only improve from this point.

Click on the picture for more!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Jonas by Any Other Name...

So my single largest creation also happens to be the one I’m proudest of… my five month old son, Jonas. And as any parent knows, the creation process of your firstborn is a lot of work, to say the least. Ask me how it’s going in another 18 years.

My husband and I were married seven years before having Jonas. Now, although this is totally untrue, we like to joke that we waited so long to have him because we couldn’t decide on a name. The process of naming our babe was an arduous one, to say the least, and was one of hardest parts of Jonas’s creation…. You see, sometimes (and especially with a child) there are elements of something you create that you have no control over. In the case of Jonas, we didn’t choose his sex, or what he would look like, or when he’d make his grand entrance, or even whether or not he’d be healthy. But the one thing we did have control over was his name.

You may be asking yourself why I’m talking about names on a design blog. (I’m sure my husband is right there with you.) To me, giving someone a name that will last him the rest of his life was about the most artistic undertaking I have ever had. And that is how I approached it. I took it seriously, and put a lot of thought into it. (So right now you’re saying, “Seriously? And Jonas was the best you could come up with?”) To me, a name says a lot about the respect you have for the thing you’re naming, but also a lot about yourself, your taste and judgment. In addition to having something that could be spelled relatively easy, I wanted our child to have a name that I not only loved enough to hear for the rest of our lives, but one that was unique, and special only to him.

Maybe I have a complex when it comes to names… You see, I married into the Johnson family. I suddenly went from a googlable (yes, I just made up that word, but I’m pretty sure you all know what it means. See how good I am at naming things?) person with a unique last name and two middle names, to one of about one thousand Cheri Johnsons in the US. To boot, after getting married we had so many problems with identity confusion that the IRS did not recognize for three separate years in a row that I had paid my taxes. After trying time and again to clarify my two middle names, my old maiden name, and new last name, I ended up having to again (I did it once when getting married) legally change my name on my social security card to resolve my supposed tax fraud problems. When I went down to the social security office to straighten out the situation, the heartless girl at the desk could not figure out how to enter more than one middle name into her computer screen, so she simply erased one of them with the click of a button, telling me it was impossible (despite the fact that my old SS card in hand showed two middle names)! Since the original four names on my birth certificate, I have legally had four different combinations of names, all for the sake of legal clarification rather than my desire to change my identity. So can you blame me if uniqueness was important to me for whatever we were about to name our baby Johnson?

The catch in this story, of course, is that I was not the only one naming our child. My husband somehow thought he had a 50% claim on names, too. And there is where the complication started. From our first days of marriage, my husband repeated over and over that he wanted a Jonas so he could have a baby with a theme song (referring to Weezer’s My Name is Jonas). It was actually one of his better suggestions, considering he liked extremely common, boring names. (I won’t give you any examples right now, as I’m sure there are many a person I could insult right now with that list!) I vowed I would not have a baby whose name fell on the top 100 Baby Names of the Year list. I had some great suggestions, like “Guinness” and “Cyber” and “Lemon”… hey, if a celebrity can name a baby after a fruit, so can I. (And in all honesty, I have met a Strawberry and a Raspberry, both named that way since birth. Compared to those, Lemon is a sweet name!) Why should only a celebrity be allowed to be creative with a name?

I am a name person. (Have you figured that out by now?) Some people dream of their wedding their whole lives. I was never that girl. I barely remember what my flowers looked like. But- and I will admit this even though it makes me a total dork- I have had a list of baby names since I was in early elementary school. Although the list has evolved (thank God- “Horseshoe” does not have the nice ring to it I once thought it did), the fact that I love names and their meanings and origins is undisputable.

I will spare you the back and forth. Let’s just say we then debated for 7 years of marriage, 9 months and six overdue days of pregnancy, and twelve hours of labor later, when Baby Johnson made his first appearance and we discovered he was a boy. After all of that, I tiredly caved in and gave my husband his choice. I agreed to Jonas, a name in the top ten on the list of 2009 baby names. To even things out, we gave Jonas a unique middle name after a place we had lived and loved for four years: Bronx.

A few days after our little Jonas Bronx Johnson was born, Kurt came out of the bathroom one morning and said, "I just thought of something randomly while I was in the shower... Isn't the original settler of the Bronx named Jonas?" We rushed to the computer to confirm, and sure enough, Jonas Bronck was the first landholder in what's now the Bronx... What's funny, though, is that we not only inadvertently named Jonas after the founder of the Bronx, but when we looked up the founder's name, we found out his middle name was... "Johnson"! Jonas Johnson Bronck. So much for being original.

What was far worse, though, happened when we took Jonas to church for the first time the next week, and one of the men standing next to us overheard our new baby’s name and said, “Oh. That’s so funny. My friends just named their baby Jonas Johnson, too!” Sigh.

We went back home, to a new apartment we had just moved into. During a daily field trip to the mailbox with Jonas, my husband met an older lady with a thick European accent. They started chatting, which I’ve found happens often when you have a cute baby in tow. When she asked his name and my husband said Jonas, she said, “Oh! That’s my son’s name, too! It means John in my country.” John. Could we have a more creative name? Double sigh.

I admit that at first I found myself sometimes embarrassed at telling people my son’s name because I felt bland saying it. I felt like it reflected something lazy or homogenous about me. Like I had made my own little masterpiece, and then didn’t care enough to follow through on the name. But here’s the thing I’m slowly learning… Jonas is not my masterpiece project made out of a recipe or a set of instructions. There is no finite list of ingredients required to make a Jonas.

Jonas is a creative masterpiece that is evolving. And he’s not only mine. He’s a collaboration of both my husband and me and, eventually, the hundreds of other people that will touch his life in the future. It’s a much more fun way of creating something, really. We don’t know what the end product will be, but we can see the evolution already taking form as we add the pieces and watch them grow.

Jonas has grown into his name. And I have grown into it, too. In fact, surprisingly, I now count it to be one of my favorite words. As sure as I am that my baby would be as sweet by any other name, now I can’t imagine calling him anything else but my Jonas.

Now I’m off to listen to some Weezer

Monday, March 8, 2010

the hills are alive once again

Last week I had the most wonderful pleasure of singing in a choir for the first time in I don't know how long. My friend invited me to join her in her newest choir (because she sings in several, of course), a group of like-minded ex-pats that convinced a very passionate Swede (I didn't know there were any of the sort) to conduct them on Thursday mornings.

I grew up singing. I grew up singing because I wanted - no, needed! - to be the next Amy Grant. In case you're not familiar with either the Christian Pop/Rock scene or the scandalous Country Music scene, know that Amy swung through both with gusto, was gorgeous, and I was determined to be her BFF. Seriously. I joined her fan club, "Friends of Amy", otherwise known as FOA.

I grew up singing in any choir that would let me in, excluding my 6th grade choir that I resigned from after a nasty run-in with the choir director. All I said was that no one wants to sing a song about hats and he gave me detention. If I'd known it would strike such a personal chord with him, I would have rephrased.

My singing days went the way of the wild once I left high school. In college I was too shy to audition for any groups, presumably stemming from my horrific music competition incident. I took voice lessons with a true professional throughout my middle and high school years. In preparation for the MACSI - later changed to ACSI - yearly arts competition, my professional voice coach and I labored over an Italian classic that I have since banned from my memory. In our lessons, I like to think that I achieved a certain reign over the piece. I really threw myself into the Italian. I loved the idea of speaking another language, and since I was far too undisciplined to master anything in my German class, memorizing songs in other languages was as close as I was going to get.

On the day of the competition, I dreaded the moment when I would have to stand up in front of all my peers and belt out my masterpiece. The confidence that adorned me in the privacy of my lessons did not join me in public settings, and I felt naked. When 2:15 finally came, I nauseously made my way to the front of the room and handed my music to the judges. The accompaniment began, and I came in as appointed. Things were rolling along at a mediocre pace until about half-way through when all the Italian left my brain. I had no option but to improvise. But -- with what? As all the Italian I knew was in those lyrics, I dug into my last resort: spaghetti sauce. I rolled together my Prego's and Ragu's quite nicely, and my have thrown in a dulce de leche, figuring Spanish is close enough to Italian. When it was over I knew I would not win; and yet, I could not help but feel rather proud of my MacGyver move.

Fortunately for me, this Thursday morning choir is not comprised of professionals, neither of the musical nor the spaghetti sauce variety. It's mostly a bunch of middle-aged women looking for a way to express themselves, sometimes in Swedish, sometimes in German, sometimes in English. The high notes are a bit flat, and at least one is - quite frankly - tone-deaf. But we laughed together and sang the best we could, and it totally threw me back to my creative youth.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Makeover Shows… I Admit It, My Guilty Pleasure!

So before my soapbox somehow sprouted legs and walked over to my last blog, I was talking about my art show and the theme I was given of transformation and healing. I’ve continued to think about transformations since my last blog entry... It’s really not that hard to find examples of transformation all around us. Americans are obsessed with transformations, I’ve decided. And this definitely includes me.

Take TV, for example. Make-over shows dominate television and transform everything from clothing to houses to body parts to pets! It is a guilty pleasure of mine. I admit it. I love seeing a good home make-over show. In fact, I don’t even need to see the whole show. I just need to flip it on for the last five minutes, where the viewer gets to see the clips of the before and after images.

I am obsessed with seeing the before and afters. But I’m wondering if that’s because it makes everything look so easy. Maybe that’s what I really love about make-over shows. (Because if I’m honest about it, half the time I see the transformation and say, “I could’ve done that better!”)

My obsession is starting to make me think I need to work on recognizing the work required to accomplish true transformations. Transformations look so easy sometimes when you’re watching the last five minutes of a show. And therein lies my on again-off again obsession. While those last five minutes give me a sense of empowerment that I, too, can make transformations, I resent the fact that it misleads people into a misunderstanding of how much work or money or knowledge it takes to accomplish true change. That’s why I’m going to have my own show someday called, “Cheri Does Half a Project.” Anyone interested in watching??

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Artistic Adventures of An Ardent Amateur: Risking It All

It’s truth time, D&L readers! I have been talking around this subject for the past several …forevers… and now it’s time to come clean: I’m moving back to New York City!

What’s that, Reader? Did you say, “Why?” Well, I’m so glad you asked. I’m moving back to New York City for a number of reasons, most of them hopelessly complicated, but almost all of them artistic in nature. One among them is the opportunity to pursue theatre again. Acting being my greatest artistic passion, I live with a constant craving for the community and chaos of a theatrical lifestyle. New York City is also a great place to find artists of every stripe, and consequently, a veritable gold mine of Llamas, so I’m also moving back for the environment. And I’m moving back because there is unfinished business for me in Gotham, both personally and professionally. And I’m moving back because somewhere, on a level of my brain miles below my subconscious and nestled in my deepest, most private and profound places, I simply know I have to do this.

So this week, in an effort to advance my artistic adventures onto the next stage, I quit my job.

EEEEIIIAAAIEEEE! I QUIT MY JOB, YOU GUYS! I resigned. I gave notice. I walked away from a respectable, steady, reliable wage and decent health care benefits, to move to New York in the middle of a global economic crisis.

And don’t think I don’t know about the economic crisis, People. Seriously, everybody I’ve told about my decision has said something along the lines of, “But don’t you know the economy’s bad right now?” “Holy Moly, Captain Obvious, I, in fact, have been living in a cave in the Missouri hills all this time and had not heard of this phenomenon! An economic crisis, you say? But surely it has not resulted in …unemployment! [Gasp!] It has?! People are having difficulty finding work? And now I have given up my safety and security in search of an artistic dream! I'M DOOOOOOOMED!"

Or something. But, actually, can I tell you a secret, D&L Readers? Lean in close now...I don't really think I'm doomed. In fact, I think I'm going to be ok, no matter what happens. Furthermore, I think I'm going to be better off in the long run - in the sitting-in-the-nursing-home-looking-back-on-my-life run - if I do this now than if I let my life slip by and stand passively to the side. If I leave my safe, stable, nice but unfulfilling job and go in search of something more, I think I'll be a slightly more stressed 20-something and a significantly more satisfied 80-something. Seems like a fair trade to me.

So my adventure this week: risking everything to follow a dream. Three weeks from today will be my last at my current job. Four weeks from today I set off for New York City. And the adventure continues...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Herbal Expressions

I've always stumbled upon unique job opportunities that seem to be just a perfect fit for me. Several years ago in Boston I had the most fabulous pleasure of working for Esther, a truly amazing carnation of woman. I don't say this lightly; do you know anyone that has hosted catered her own daughter's wedding, for 400, in her backyard?

By day she was a school nurse, where she tended not only physical ailments, but emotional, relational and spiritual ones as well. She would come home after a long day, telling me stories of her interactions with her quixotic teenagers. "You know what I told her, Kate? I told her...." and it would be a mini-epic filled with passionate admonition, wisdom-packed words, and love. So very much love!

But, this was just her day job. When she came home, she was ready to "create", as she would tell me most every day. Esther wasn't a painter, a sculptor, or a writer. She was a whole other kind of creator, one that worked the earth to produce herbs of all sorts, then using these herbs to construct culinary masterpieces and herbal remedies of all kinds... shampoo, perfumes, spice blends, healing salves and so, so much more. She harvested the fruit from the trees in her yard, trees that she had her boys plant when they were rebellious teenagers, the hard work serving as penance for their fighting and misdemeanors. (How brilliant is that?!)

I could go on and on about Esther, and perhaps one day I will; she deserves it. But I've been thinking of how she's influenced me this past week, and I think her love of herbs has taken hold in me. Recently, I impulsively signed up for an on-line herb course entitled "Advanced Women's Herbs & Aromatherapy". Why I thought I had time for this when I am barely cranking through my doula studies (not to mention the millions of other things that have fallen by the wayside) I don't know, but when I saw it being advertised it just grabbed me. I've long been a fan of herbs, although primarily in cooking. I remember when I saw fresh herbs for the first time, having been accustomed to the dried variety for the most part. It was amazing! The scents of fresh basil or cilantro completely infiltrates my body, making my taste buds go into overdrive; I think they also get the creative juices flowing.

While I was pregnant, I started investigating a few herbs for their physical benefits, and liked what I discovered (obviously, should this interest you, please do your own research and discuss with your health care provider). This course seems to be a perfect "next step" in my herb journey. I am so excited to attain new knowledge and, hopefully, put it to good use. I imagine that as I move into working as a doula, knowing about herbs will only enhance the ways in which I can help my clients. But I also expect that this will open up my avenues of creativity, simply giving me a new medium to create with. And in my mind, I'll always carry with me the spice of Esther, and all that she created.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Transformation and Healing

So I just finished up with an art show in Manhattan, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it. It was supposed to be a show about transformation and healing. And for the longest time I was having a hard time figuring out how the heck to show those things. I hemmed and hawed, I sighed and pushed it off, I waited for inspiration to zap me. And then I waited some more.

It was funny when it finally hit me. Transformation and healing- it’s just the work artists do every day! Maybe it’s repurposing something old. Maybe it’s creating by combining actual materials into something entirely new, or creating by combining inspirations into real ideas. And hopefully, if I do say so myself, we artists are in the business of healing people as a result.

I say this because I think it’s important that as an artist I remember that I’m not just in the business of aesthetics. I’m in the business of touching people through the visual (or through sound or words, depending on what sort of medium you use). I have some very frugal, no-frills family members (Don’t we all have a few in our families? -Because if anyone needs one, I’ve definitely got some extras in back…) I’m pretty sure some of them think that my love for aesthetics lies somewhere between a shallow waste of time and an unnecessary waste of money. Their frugality cannot get them past something that seems so wasteful. And I can see how it may seem that way to people who know there are those without food in the world. (For sure food comes before a nice lamp, so please don’t send any angry emails!)

Still, what I’m saying is, art is important. It isn’t frills. It is transformation and communication- often communication that can cause reflection, and eventually, if we’re lucky, perhaps a bit of healing. The truth is, aesthetics are extremely powerful in our daily lives. From the second we open our eyes in the morning, our surroundings help dictate our moods, our attitudes, and our energy levels. As an interior designer, I have the power to approach aesthetics every day as something shallow and wasteful, or to approach aesthetics as something transformative and healing. It’s important I recognize why I am focused on aesthetics and what purpose they have, so they don’t become something shallow. Somehow, though, this argument hasn’t helped me convince my husband that I need the $100 pair of cast iron storks in the antique store window downtown. Will someone please convince him?


I'm not going to lie. I have been dreading today for about a week. I've been contemplating several meaningful ideas for this post but have come up short. I have a lot of fantastic thoughts in the gestation phase but nothing has formed well enough to "make an entrance" yet. At first I got down on myself about this but then I said to myself, I said, "Self, you are brilliant, creative and overall fantastic. This blog isn't about having it all together. This blog is about being honest about your creative journey. Got that self?!" Got it. So today I'm simply going to list out a few things that have been rolling around in my head with regards to my creative journey.

  1. Culture affects my creativity. The culture here in Southern Idaho DEFINITELY affects my creativity in a different way than other places I've lived.
  2. My feminine self and creative self are directly linked. In fact, I don't think I can separate them and even more, I don't want to.
  3. I once had someone challenge my business ideas, making the claim that I should be creative just to be creative. While I agree with the logic, I also love being a business woman. I find strength in how my creativity, femininity and business sense intermingle and influence each other.
  4. Most people have a happy place. A place they retreat to in their minds to deal with the often harsh realities of daily life. I have no such place. I do, however, have a physical happy place and it can be found at 228 Blue Lakes Boulevard North, Twin Falls, ID. It's my favorite local coffee shop.
The End.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Artistic Adventures of An Ardent Amateur: Heaven

This past weekend I drove up to Chicago to see one of my best friends. I’ve been doing this roadtrip on a semi regular basis for the past 2 years, but given my impending relocation to New York City this one was the last, at least for the foreseeable future. So I was more than a little wistful from the outset, and more than a lot reluctant to say goodbye to my girlfriend when the weekend ended. And so it was that the goddesses saw fit to bless me with automobile failure. As I went to leave on Sunday afternoon I discovered that the difficulty I had experienced shifting gears on my way into the Windy City had increased, and there was no way I could risk the 300 mile trip with such an unreliable clutch. I would have to take my car to a Chicago mechanic the next day. So I was granted a reprieve from tearful farewells, and allowed to spend one more night in the company of loved ones.

When I set off again on Monday afternoon, $200 poorer but 24 hours of love richer, I spent much of my drive home thinking about the qualities of friendship, and the ever elusive but increasingly possible state of being known as “happiness.” And the path of these ponderings kept leading me back to Friday:

I arrived in Chicago late Thursday night. My girlfriend’s boyfriend (an awesome friend in his own right, hereafter referred to, for simplicity’s sake, as The Dude) let me in, put my things in the spare bedroom, and roused my girlfriend from bed to say hello. We talked and laughed together for a little while before exhaustion won out and we all retired to bed. When Friday morning dawned my girlfriend trudged off to work, chauffeured by The Dude. I made coffee and when The Dude returned we started talking about my move to New York - whether I was ready (hope so!), where I would live (don’t know!), what I would do (too many dreams to count!), who I could turn to there (???), and how I would start to build the life I want…it was this last question which led us to a course of action. I will be auditioning in New York. Ridiculous as it may sound, I never actually did that on my first stint in the city. And despite my relative comfort with St. Louis auditions, the thought of going to one in NYC is rather terrifying. But The Dude is an actor and singer as well, with significant experience in the realm of auditioning, and he immediately set about calming and preparing me. The two of us spent the morning going through his sheet music collection and then his ipod songs, seeking pieces I could use for an audition. By the time he left for work he’d found me several solid options, and he took those which were on hand to Xerox for me.

So the afternoon arrived, both my girlfriend and The Dude were at work, and I was alone in a Chicago apartment with (as far as I could tell) no neighbors home above or below me. And so…I sang. I sang Gilbert and Sullivan. I sang happy trilling soprano songs. I sang freely and without reservation and with a reckless joy I can only achieve when no one is listening.

After an hour or so heavy footsteps on the stairs announced the arrival of an upstairs neighbor, so I gave the vocal folds a rest and decided to channel my exuberance into another of my favorite arts: baking. I made chocolate chip cookies, my specialty, and I made them merrily. I listened to a lecture by Michael Marrus entitled Justice and Theatre: Great Moments in Great Trials and snorted out loud at the brilliance and arrogance of Oscar Wilde while sliding warm cookies off a baking sheet. I sighed contentedly while washing dishes and indulged myself freely in the gooey, buttery products of my afternoon.

When my friends came home from work we ordered Chicago style pizza and stuffed ourselves silly, talking and laughing and communing in the easy, relaxed manner that comes only with years of love and shared experiences. Eventually we shuffled off to bed again, and alone in the guest bedroom, as I wrapped myself in my girlfriend’s familiar and luxurious feather blanket, I paused to marvel at the buzz in my body, the hum in my heart - how a day of art and friendship had set my soul to singing.

This must be what heaven is like.