Monday, July 6, 2015

Homemade Sunburn Healing Recipe

I am in no way a sun-worshiper.  I've been burned one time too many for that, and now when I got to the beach or to a friend's to swim, I lather on the sun screen, re-apply regularly, and spend most of the day under an umbrella.

A few years ago my older sister, who definitely *is* a sun-worshiper, was treated for melanoma.  It was pretty scary as they had to go in and do a lymph node biopsy.  Luckily she was fine, but unfortunately, she still hasn't learned her lesson.

This July 4th while Indy was squeezing in a last-minute camping trip before we take off for Africa this week, I chose to spend the weekend down the Jersey shore with my sister and nephew.  On Friday I did pretty great in that we spent the day by the pool and I didn't get a lick of sunburn.  She, on the other hand, "forgot" to lather up and was burned all across her back and arms.  She's so used to it at this point that it didn't bother her- but whatever, to each his own!

On Saturday she and I took the baby for a four-mile walk all the way down the boardwalk through four neighboring towns.  Again, I lathered up, but when I returned home I was horrified to find that I did, in fact, miss my chest, and therefore had a wonky burn-line from my tank top:

This shot actually makes it look a lot nicer than it was.  It was bright red and stung like a mother.

And while I was mad I got burned at all after being so careful all weekend, I was double-mad because I had a wedding to go to on Sunday and wanted to wear my super cute Anthropologie dress, which has a V-neck.  Nothing like vanity to make you wish you took better care of your skin, right?

So I took to the interwebs and searched for some magical treatment that would heal a sunburn in 24 hours.  I came across a few interesting solutions.  I saw recommendations for good 'ol Aole Vera, black tea soaks, Appler Cider Vinegar rubs, Cocoanut Oil rubs, but then I saw this video.  At first I was all, "Nah, they're plugging some product and those photos are edited and/or taken way after the actual sunburn happened...."

But I had a few bucks to burn and since Indy wasn't home yet, I took to the streets.  I have a Whole Foods store just down the block, which has a Whole Body store attached to it, and for about $30 I picked up a tub of Cocoanut oil, and two small bottles of Wyndmere essential oils: Peppermint and Lavender.

When I got home, I followed the recipe on this page and I put 1/2 a cup of water, two table spoons of Aloe Vera Gel and upped it to 20 drops each of Peppermint Oil and Lavender Oil into a mini spray bottle.  I sprayed my chest just about every 10-15 minutes all night, and before bed, slathered on the cocoanut oil.

I was shocked when I woke up the next morning and my burn looked like this:

The camera was in "selfie"mode, hence why the burn looks like it's in a different spot, but look at the difference! I couldn't believe my eyes.  So you better believe I was spraying myself ALL DAMN DAY.  The wedding was at 4pm and I was on a mission now to get this burn to be as healed as possible so I could wear my V-Neck dress.  By the afternoon, with a little bit of makeup and some crafty jewelry choices, the burn was unnoticeable.  In fact, I was so excited I was actually pointing it out to people, defeating the whole purpose of trying to heal it in the first place.

This morning, about 48 hours after the initial burn, and 36 hours after I started treating it, this is where we stand:

Now, the lighting in all three photos is different, but the images have not been edited in any way other than cropping my goofy mug out.  I have not been compensated for writing any of this and would gladly shell out another $30 if I had to, because this stuff WORKED!  It is now my go-to for sun burn treatment, although, I hopefully won't have to use it again, because avoiding getting burned in the first place is really how it should be.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Mastering This Masters Thing, Part 6: I Know Places

You can catch up on my Graduate Thesis journey here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, & part 5.

I always kind of liked Taylor Swift, but I wasn't a true fan until her latest album, 1989, came out. One of my bff's has been a TSwift fan from day 1, and pushed me like no other to get the album.   Like most new albums, when I heard it I went through a, "this is weird, I don't like it" phase, and soon after I entered the "this is incredible, how did I live before this?" phase.  

I'm astounded with how this girl manages to crank out hit after hit.  And while on the surface a lot of her music sounds like lovey dovey pre-teen girly sing-along stuff, if you dissect her lyrics and really read into what she's singing, many of her tracks carry a deeper meaning.

For my next self portrait piece, I chose to work with "I Know Places."  When you read the lyrics, the song is very clearly about her trying to hide a relationship from the paparazzi.  Now, I can't really relate to that at all, but the lines that stood out to me most in this song are: 

Cause they got the cages, they got the boxes
And guns
They are the hunters, we are the foxes
And we run

When I first heard this line and thought about how I'd fit the song into my feminist self portrait series, I thought about another popular phrase, "dumb as a fox."  The first time I heard this phrase was when Jessica Simpson had her Newlyweds show on MTV, and she had that whole, "is it chicken or is it fish?" flub that the media went crazy over.  My mom was in the kitchen, cleaning up after dinner and she said, "Everyone thinks this one is stupid.  She's dumb like a fox.  Laughing all the way to the bank."  For some reason after that I always connected the phrase "dumb as a fox" to women with an unseen power of some kind.  Maybe they're playing stupid, or just being overlooked, but they're crafty and cunning and know how to get what they want.

When I apply that to TSwift's lines, I think of "they" as men, or on a larger scale, society with their cages and boxes and guns, trying to force independent, intelligent women into small, controlled environments.  We, those independent, intelligent women, are the foxes- we play the game for a bit, but then we take off, and we run.

As for a visual, I wanted to keep the fox idea, but also the idea that we're hiding behind a mask, playing a role, and so I did just that.  I found a children's cut-out fox mask template online, and posed with it.  Here is my inspiration photo:

And here are the in-progress shots:

This is it's current stage.  I've got some tweaking to do overall, and my professor suggested I paint some of my hair in front of the mask.  I also need to figure out a background color. But this is where it stands right now.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Big Girl Books Continued

A while back I wrote about my desire to get back into reading Big Girl Books.  Almost immediately after finishing Looking for Alaska by John Green, my library emailed me to say that Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand was available.  I picked it up, and I literally could not put it down.

I'm not really a non-fiction reader, so at first I was all, "Ehhh, I don't know if I wanna do this..." But a few pages in, and I was hooked.  It got to the point where I would be excited to get home from work, not because work was over, but because I could lie on the couch and devour a few chapters.  I found myself every night basically telling Indy everything I read the day before- it was happening so much he actually asked me to stop because he was interested in reading the book himself.  I haven't watched the film version yet (I've been told by a few people that the book is always is!) but I'd still like to see it.

Right after I returned Unbroken the next book on my list, All the Light We Cannot See  by Anthony Doerr became available.  It's a big one, a 500+ pager, and when I borrowed it from the library, it had a two-week return date. 

This book is INCREDIBLE.  It's told from two different character's points of view, and every chapter ping-pongs between them, so it's super interesting and fast-paced, yet so detailed and intricate.  Sometimes I read a line and it's hard not to feel like I'm reading a 500 page poem.  The chapters are rarely longer than 2-3 pages each, some are just a few paragraphs, which makes it an excellent bed-time read for eyes heavy with sleep.  Unfortunately, when I picked up the book, everything in my life started to pick up as well, including work stuff and painting stuff and band stuff, and my two weeks were up before I knew it...but I still have the book.  

I know, I know, I'm one of those jerks now holding up the very long wait-list, but I'm 320 pages in and $2.50 deep in library fines in and I'm NOT giving it back until I've finished it!  The story is at it's arc now, and I can't part with it.  My goal, of course, is to finish and return the book before July 9th, when Indy and I take off for Africa, which already has me thinking about what my next book will be...

Indy is a re-reader.  He has a top 10 list of books that he has read over, and over again, and he tells me over and over again that I should be reading.  He does this so often that it usually has the opposite effect on me, and I never read them.  His top 3 right now are: Dracula, Jaws and Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park.

Of course, with the release of Jurassic World, he's been yammering on again about how much I'd love the book.  We re-watched the original Jurassic Park film just last week (it's one of Indy's favorites- he loves to tell people that he was 12 years old when it came out, and went to the movies 6 times to see it...turns out, he's also a re-watcher. What can I say? The man likes what he likes.) and I have to admit, it kind of jogged my interest in reading it.  However, in addition to being a re-reader, and a re-watcher, Indy's also that guy who likes to pick his travel reads based on where he's going.  So for Africa, he picked up Michael Crichton's Congo.  In a perfect world, I would have read Jurassic Park on our engagement trip (it takes place on an island off the coast of Costa Rica) but I missed the boat on that one.

So far, that's the next one on my list, unless any of you have an African-themed read to recommend.  Remember, realistic fiction is my fav, I can do a non-fiction if I must, but it's got to have an interesting story, no textbooks please. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Colored Skulls

I always end my Fine Art 1 classes with a watercolor project.  At this point in the year, they've worked with a myriad of materials, and have done extensive work with the color wheel, so it makes sense to save the most challenging medium for last.  

And I'm super cruel in that I don't make them just work in watercolor, but I make them paint a still life set-up of....skulls!  What can I say?  I like to challenge them right up until the end!

However, when I did this project last year, I was a little underwhelmed with the results.  Not because the kids didn't do a great job (they did!) but more because the skulls are kind of a neutral color, and with the fabric background, every set-up, no matter how cropped their view was, looked very similar.

I was inspired by some images I found on the internet and decided to spark this skull still-life up a bit by adding some color in the form of light bulbs!

I went to Wal-Mart and picked up a blue, green, red and pink colored light bulb.  Unfortunately, when I plugged them in and turned them on, I realized each bulb only had 25watts of power, but we made it work!  We set the colored lamps up very close to the skulls, turned out the overhead lights, and I had the kids get reallllly close to the skulls with their phones, which turned out great, because a lot of natural cropping was happening!

Check out some of my students arranging their set-ups:

And these are what some of their photos look like:

I told them to play around with the filters and editing programs in their phones to intensify or mute out some of the colors.

The students are only in their practice stages now, so there's a lot of learning going on.  One student in particular has done an amazing job experimenting with straws and salt, check out the progression of his practice pieces:

No one has started their final piece yet, but I'm already *SO* much happier with the colorful change!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Thumbprint Tree Guestbook

I've had a busy few weeks with the end of school around the corner, the warmer weather finally upon us, and all types of family and friend celebrations, but I'm alive and well and here to share a cute little craft I made for a close friend's wedding.

Back in 2011, Indy's best friend from high school and his lovely wife got married.  They asked if I would make them a thumbprint tree guestbook, which I had never even seen before.  After a few pinterest searches, I got to work and made them this:

(Forgive the angle/cropping.  I had to ask the wifey to send me a photo of it, which is framed in their dining room, and she couldn't get around the glare on the glass.)

Their thumbprint guestbook turned out really well, especially considering their wedding was the night of Hurricane Irene and a large part of their guest list had to bail due to weather conditions and canceled flights!  We lost power a few times in the night, but the party kept on and it was a really great, memorable wedding.  The couple loves their keepsake and it's so nice to see it framed in their home every time we visit.  And it was so easy to make!

Materials: Illustration board, Watercolor pencils, Ink pads - Done!

Anyway, flash forward to 2015, one of *my* best friends from high school, Koichi, was getting married, and his is a love story for the ages!

Koichi is half Japanese and half Peruvian.  He went to school up in Boston and while he was here, he met a Japanese exchanged student, Yuriko, who was here for just a semester.  They hit it off and have been dating from across the world for TEN YEARS!  They'd save up money and try to visit each other once a year until finally, last winter, she moved here for good!  The two had a small courthouse ceremony shortly after, but also planned a more traditional celebration, which took place just last weekend.

Now, as I said, Koichi me since high school.  He's been a huge supporter of my music and has seen me perform with pretty much every band I've ever been in (and that's saying something!)  One night, while a bit tipsy at a party Indy and I hosted, he asked if I would do he and his fiance the honor of singing at their wedding.  While I was completely flattered by his request, I was also totally freaked out!  I'm an okay singer, at best, and I do loud garage band or indie singer/songwriter type stuff- I am in no way, shape or form a wedding singer.  I don't even do karaoke!  There was no way I could confidently perform for him and his wife on the MOST IMPORTANT DAY OF THEIR LIVES!  I felt awful but I had to turn him down- I did the whole "it's not you, it's me" thing, and Koichi being Koichi, was totally sweet and understanding about it.

But, a few weeks later, I thought of a different fun, creative way I could be part of their special day, and I offered to make them a thumbprint guestbook!  Even better- they'd never heard of one, and didn't have any plans for a formal guestbook- SCORE!

I got to make it even more personal in that I decided to make it a cherry blossom tree. Since Yuri is from Japan, she has an affinity for Cherry Blossoms.  There's a park nearby where Koichi and I grew up that's famous for their Cherry Blossom Festival, and he took her there just this spring.  All of the planets had aligned, and I quickly got to work.

First, I sketched out the tree and used my projector at school to project their names and wedding date at the bottom.  I used Prisma markers to fill in the text:

Then, I got out my good 'ol watercolor pencils, and filled in the trunk, branches and a bit of grass below the tree:

And after picking up a few pink ink pads and an 18x20 frame from Michael's, my job was done!  They had the guestbook set up by the door and as their guests entered/exited the wedding, they made their mark.  Today, Koichi texted me a final photo of it saying, "Thanks, buddy! We can't wait to hang it in our new place!"

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Mastering This Masters Thing, Part 5: Invisible Empire

You can read about my Graduate Thesis Journey here: part 1part 2part 3, part 4.

My fourth installment of my self portrait series I chose to work with a song called Invisible Empire off of KT Tunstall's newest album with the same name.

I have long been a fan of KT.  I've seen her a few times live, and each time is so enjoyable- she is a true performer, and as a musician, she is one of my idols.

In the year she wrote this album, she went through a divorce and the death of her father, so as a whole, it has a much different feel than her previous work.  When I researched the meaning of this song, I came across this blurb from KT in an interview from

  • Tunstall explained the song's meaning to The Daily Telegraph: "This song is the title track of the first half of the record, and sets the scene. It's about creating a reality that is only based on what you want to see, not what's real. It'll either come crashing down, or you'll want to set it alight yourself to find the truth."

    "It's about the idea that if you try and control life, you kill it," she continued, "but if you let it flow in its own way, it can flourish."

While I can absolutely see where she was coming from, every time I hear this song, I feel something slightly different.  For me, the  track Invisible Empire is all about overcoming hardships, surviving something, and knowing that you'll be okay. 

The lines that inspired this painting are from the very beginning and the very end of this song:

I thought the candle was gonna go out
The wind was blowing and the door was open
But the candle never went out, never went out

Woah, oh, I wear a rusting crown
I know this dynasty is falling

For this painting, I went literal with the imagery:

This was the image I was working from for this painting, which, oddly enough, was super simple to shoot.  Normally when I do the inspirational shot for my paintings, I take about 100 images before I get one I like enough to use.  I figured with the candle light this would take twice as long, but I think this was the third or fourth shot.

I started this painting on a Saturday night while Indy went out with some friends:

With the hardest part mostly figured out, that week in class I moved onto the body:

I was only sort of happy with my progress at this point.  Turns out painting candle-lit skin is really freakin' tough!  As I was working, my professor recommended I study some of the works by Georges da La Tour:

Looking at La Tour's work actually helped me a lot, and over the next week at home, I was able to improve the glow of my skin:

Once I was pleased with that, I went int on the rusting crown:

So here she is, for now, the queen of my Invisible Empire.  I have some detail work to do yet in the hands, but I felt good enough where this one ended to start on the next.