Brotha from Anotha Motha! – Baldassare Forestiere and Simon Rodia

What leads people to create?  Maybe the answer is nostalgia, necessity, madness, or a mixture of all three?  Wouldn’t it be crazy if two people from the vicinity of Italy, who never knew each other, settled in California around the same time frame, started creating something grande in the same vein?

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Its hard to believe, but something like this actually happened.  I’m so fortunate to have visited Watts Towers last year, where I witnessed the artistry and engineering of Simon Rodia, who tirelessly worked from 1921 to 1954 to create his towering masterpiece Nuestro Pueblo. I couldn’t find any website that suggested why he would want to spend 30 years of his life building the towers. I suppose it was just a calling, a hobby, and an homage to his homeland, Italy.

Meanwhile, in Fresno, California, a Sicilian man named Baldassare Forestiere was dying from the sweltering central valley summers, and had discovered that the 80+ acres of land he just purchased was unfarmable.  He proceeded to build an underground respite by hallowing out over 10 acres of land; a 40 year labor of love (1906-1946).  He built everything by hand, and engineered everything without blueprints or notes. What he was able to do without any formal training was absolutely stunning.  I was lucky to have had the opportunity to visit the grounds.

You enter into a well maintained rose and citrus garden.  The roses smell wonderful and some of the citrus grow larger than your head!

Before the tour you wait in a shady path lined with benches situated close to the entrance of the underground gardens. Even though it was pretty hot outside, because you are slightly below ground level at this point, you can already start to feel the temperature cool.

Once the tour starts you are led immediately into the Forestiere property, which is anywhere from 10 to 20 feet underground.  The cooling effect is pretty immediate, and it feels very good to be there.

Forestiere came to America to find his fortune in citrus farming. But, after discovering that his entire property was not farmable, he began digging and making his home.

Because of his background in farming, he was able to incorporate horticulture into his architecture.

He had many rooms underground where he planted citrus trees.  He farmed them differently from most people.  Because they grew underground, instead of having to climb the trees to harvest the fruits, he could just go above ground and pick the fruit off the top of the trees.

He also practiced the art of grafting fruit trees.  Some of the trees would have many different kinds of citrus growing on one tree.  Just imaging one tree filled with oranges, lemons and grapefruits.  It sounds like a fairytale tree to me. 🙂

He also used the sun to his advantage.  He heated water by the sun to use for his bath water, and he had an insulated bedroom for the winter, as well as an open room for the summer.

As the tour guide explained how he lived, I could see myself living the same way more and more.  Everything he did made sense, and was done in the most simple way possible.

The craziest part for me was when the tour guide led us to a part of the house that was supposed to resemble a boat pointing toward the pacific.  Simon Rodia had also built his towers to be shaped like a boat pointing toward Italy.

Whatever the reasons for this insatiable need to build, theres no doubt that both of these men carved out a piece of culture in California.  I highly recommend visiting both landmarks if you get the chance.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Mini Fez Hat is Where It’s At!

The invitation to the Coconut Club in Los Angeles specifically stated that it was to be an evening of black sequins and exotic fezzes.  I wanted to dress accordingly, but I didn’t have a fez!  Luckily, cardboard and felt came to my rescue!  Here’s a little tutorial on how to make your own exotic fez.

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You’re going to need:

  1.  Flimsy-ish cardboard (like a cereal box)
  2. Scissors
  3. Tape
  4. Glue (elmers, mod podge etc.)
  5. A sponge for dabbing glue
  6. Felt
  7. Trimmings, Sequins, etc.
  8. A tassle (not pictured yet)
  9. A glue gun and extra glue sticks
  10. The stencil I have provided HERE (and a printer to print the stencil.)
  11. A love of the exotic and mysterious.

First thing you have to do is take the stencil and cut out one set of shapes.  Then, you tape the shapes to the cardboard and cut out the cardboard.

Set the stencils aside and tape the cardboard piece to the felt.  Its always a good idea to conserve space while cutting, so choose a corner of felt to lay your cardboard on and cut.  The cardboard might end up with some extra tape on it but that is OK.  It will get covered.

Take the circle stencil and put it directly over the cardboard and draw a mark.  This is where the tassel will fit inside.

Do the same thing with the felt as well.

Take your cardboard and gently wind your scissors into the marked hole until they come out the other side. Try not to bend the cardboard.

Do the same thing with the felt.  You can fold the felt in half and cut a small “x” with your scissors.

Now, set the circles aside.  Take the other part of the stencil and “happy face” up, create a circle with the cardboard.  You’re going to want to slightly overlap the cardboard about 1/4 to 1/2 inch or else the hat will have a teardrop shape to it, and we don’t want that!

Once you’ve done your overlap circle, take the pieces together to hold your circle together.

Take your glue and sponge and dab a little on the base of the hat, and start to apply the felt to it little by little.  Make sure you get your edges of felt aligned to the cardboard as much as possible.  Do the same for the circle (top) of the hat.

After your felt has been completely applied, hot glue gun the two pieces together by gluing the top circle to the base where the two meet on the interior of the hat.  Glue the entire circumference together, and make sure its as aligned as you can get it.

Once the glue gun glue has dried, you can put the tassel through the hole that you made on the top of the hat earlier.  Pull the string through and tape it to the interior of the hat.

After you have added the tassel, pick out some trimmings for the top and rim of your hat!  You will need to hot glue gun them to the felt.  **Start hot gluing the trimmings at the seam of the felt, you will be covering the seams up with trimmings, and sequins.

Here’s the what the outside looks like finished!  My cat decided to stop by and help out.

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If you want to make the fez look super profesh, you can even line the inside.  This is an optional step, but it does make it look nicer.

Cut out two more pieces of felt from the stencil, you can use the second pieces that were provided.  Dab more glue on the inside of the hat little by little.  Toward the end, if the felt pieces over lap, start trimming one edge little by little until they come together without overlapping.

Once you have the sides glued down, glue the top part down too. It looks OK if the circle is a little too big, but you can cut the circle down little by little if you don’t like that.

Hot glue trimmings to the bottom rim of the hat to cover up imperfections.  Try to align all of your seams, including the trimming for the underside of the hat, before gluing.

Once your hat is completely done, you will just need to hot glue it to your headband!  Place the hat at the angle that you want it on the headband.  Keep in mind that there is a front and a back to this hat, your seam side is the back.  if you want your hat to lean to the right on your head, position the seam side of the hat to the back, and vice versa for the left.

Hold the headband firmly against the hat with one hand, and glue gun the crevice where the headband meets the hat STARTING ON ONE SIDE ONLY.  Be patient while the hot glue dries and keep holding onto the hat.

after one side has dried, you can make adjustments to the hat before gluing the other side.  If the bottom rim looks a little lopsided, try to bring back the circular shape but gently manipulating it. Once you have your desired shape, hot glue gun the other side of the headband to the hat.

You can add another layer of glue if you feel like the hat needs more stability.

After the glue dries, YOU ARE DONE!!

Time. To. Party.

 

Tiki Time at the Coconut Club

I heard about the Coconut Club about a year ago in the LA Weekly or something that gets sent to my junk mail email account.  I sure am glad I checked my mail that day!

Since the day I heard about the Coconut Club, I’ve been very patient, waiting for exactly the right time to go.  Last month I got an email from them about their upcoming event, Glamourous Evening Deluxe, and I immediately bought my ticket.  10 minutes later the event was sold out.

The Coconut Club is a monthly(ish) supper club taking place at Sonny’s Hideaway (sometimes) in Highland Park.

L.A. people can back me up on this.  If you live in Los Angeles, specifically in Culver City (the westside), you do not go to Highland Park (the eastside) on a weekday, you just don’t do it.  But, when passion fruit gin prosecco punch is calling your name, you can’t ignore it.  I went against all of the unwritten rules of L.A. rush hour traffic, got in a Lyft, and I headed to the Eastside.  I don’t regret a thing.

Lauren of The Jolly Fox fame accompanied me to the Club, where we were greeted with the punch and then seated to warm coconut shaped bread and pineapple butter (that was shaped like a pineapple!).  It was amazingly good, and so damn cute.

The first drink was SERVED IN A LITTLE CHAIR, and had savory and sweet garnishes.  That was only the beginning.

The next drink was a surf and turf cocktail with Kimosabe Mezcal and “green juice”.  It was served beside a little mound of fake astroturf and a miniature flamingo.

The last drink was the holy grail of tiki drinks.  It was a coconut chalice that was served on fire!  Anyone who knows me knows that I like my food to be on fire whenever possible.  I was very pleased.  It was lovingly made with Blue Chair Bay Rum, Herbsaint, coconut, pineapple, creme de menthe, and had dark chocolate-dipped coconut macaroon.  (Are you drooling yet?)

Where else in L.A. do you get to drink cocktails out of fresh coconuts?  Where else can you get dolled up and dress in black sequins on a Monday night? Where else is it acceptable to wear a fez?  Where else are your garnishes made of huge pieces of meat? Where else do you Karaoke Beach Boys songs in front of everyone while watching soft core porn?

The Coconut Club is one of a kind, and I hope to be quick on the draw and get my ticket for next time 🙂

http://www.thecoconutclubla.com/

If you ever do make it to the Coconut Club, be sure to check out my next blog post about making your own mini fez so you can be prepared with the proper head dress!

Edit:  I was featured on the Coconut Club instagram!

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Lone Pine – Alabama Hills – Highway 395

I would definitely call it a stretch to refer to Lone Pine and Alabama Hills as a daytrip.  We did it in one day, but it was a lonnnng ride home.  I would suggest to anyone who travels there from Los Angeles to spend the night in or around Lone Pine and return home in the morning.  It will be worth it to wake up and have the Eastern Sierra mountain range as your backdrop.  I’ll definitely do that next time.

To get to Alabama Hills, I suggest you drive for about two hours outside of L.A. and stop at Red Rock Canyon State Park in order to warm up to the natural beauty that awaits you.

After we spent a little over an hour at RRCSP, we drove on Highway 395 for another hour to the adorable town of Lone Pine. I wasn’t thinking in terms of blogging for this trip, and I didn’t take any photos of the town.  You will have to see for yourself.  It is very cute.  After eating a second breakfast at Alabama Hills Cafe, we headed to the Alabama Hills to climb rocks and enjoy the wonderful scenery.

Lone Pine and Alabama Hills are situated at the foot of Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous 48 states.  I always find this area fascinating, because not too far away is Death Valley, which has Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in North America. On the other side of Lone Pine is Sequoia National Park, and just north of where we were is Yosemite and Mammoth.  There is no shortage of fun things to do in the area.  (Kernville is also close by.)

We drove as far as we could up Whitney Portal Road, but it got pretty cold and it was getting kinda scary, so we turned around. We took some pictures of the mountains from the road.

After a long day of exploring the area, we opted for Lone Pine Pizza Factory as our last meal in town before leaving.  It was actually very good, despite what the Yelp reviews would have you believe.

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I also wanted to mention that Eric Schatz’s Bakery is about an hour away in the town of Bishop, and it is well worth the trip.  They have tons of goodies and the yummiest chili cheese bread that there ever was!

 

Joshua Tree Take 2.

Me, Brian and friends went back to Joshua Tree in early May to explore more of the park.  It is an incredibly huge park, and once you’re inside you lose cell phone service.  You really start to feel like you’re in the wilderness at that point!   The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, and I even bought a desert outfit to take photos in! I’m sad we were too exhausted to stay until sunset.  Joshua Tree has the best sunsets. All in all it was a wonderful trip!

A friend of mine made an amazing video of the trip that you can see here: https://vimeo.com/124915014

Outfit:

Vest, Shirt, Leggings + Forever 21
Hat + Hoof & Horn, Yucca Valley
Boots + Amazon!

Fun Project: Glitter Banners!

I thought of making a glitter banner because my sister is having a baby shower and the party needed some festive decorations. I love working with glitter. It makes everything bright and sparkly and fun! I think the project turned out really well and I want to do more banners in the future using different color glitters!

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To do this project you will need the following:

1. Thin Cardboard 8.5×11 (Like a cereal box)
2. Letters printed out on 8.5×11 paper, 700 to 800 pts, any font, up to 2 letters per page
3. Spraymount
4. Exacto knife or blade
5. Glitter (I used Martha Stewart brand)
6. Paint Brush
7. Mod Podge or glue
8. Yarn or thick string
9. Scissors
10. A folder or a folded piece of scratch paper 8.5×11 or larger
11. Masking tape or scotch tape

First you need to spray mount your printed letters to the cardboard. Cut the letters out with scissors once the paper has bonded to the cardboard.

Once you have cut out the letters, you will need to take your exacto knife or razor blade and cut out any extra white paper on the inside of the letter (for example the letter A will still have white space on the inside to cut out)

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Once the white space inside the letters are carefully cut out, use your paint brush to coat your entire letter with your glue or Mod Podge. (Finished example below). Only a thin layer of glue will be enough.

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Once you have coated the letter with glue, you can sprinkle on the glitter! Remember to put a sheet of folded paper under your letters to catch the excess glitter.

Once the glitter has coated the entire letter, return the excess glitter to it’s container for later use.

Repeat these steps the desired amount of times to create all of the letters that you will use in your banner. (I did it 9 times for my banner.)

Allow banner letters to dry overnight. The next day, put another coat of Mod Podge on top of the glitter with dabbing motions. If you don’t have Mod Podge, be sure to use a glue that dries clear. This helps really well to seal in the glitter so it doesn’t come off of the letters. If the letters curl a little, try putting them under a heavy book for an extra night after they have completely dried.

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When the letters have dried and are flat as can be, there is nothing more to do than attach the string to the back of them. I literally just eyeballed about a quarter inch down from the top of each letter, and masking taped the string so that the tape was hidden from the front view. I also Mod Podged the string over the masking tape for extra hold. I am sure there is a cleaner way to do this. Maybe clear tape would work better. Or perhaps you can crazy glue pieces of straw to the back of the letters and insert the yarn through there. I’ll have to try that next time. Anyway, I would leave about 4 feet of yarn slack on either side for hanging the banner up.

Here’s what it looks like done. I’ll be using it for my sister’s baby shower next week! (hopefully I will have photos to post for that too.)