Women's March LA

I went to the Women's March last weekend (like every other girl in the country, it seems!). I couldn't get the signs out of my head all night afterwards and wrote out some of my favorites. I felt so completely elated to know that there are still so many of us who believe in what I consider to be everything good in the world (fairness, equality, acceptance, ... cats, etc). Saturday was what election like would have felt like had it gone the other way. The march affirmed that my thoughts about the country that I lived in weren't imagined. I want to believe that almost all people are basically good and want the best for humanity and that we just have varying opinions on how to get there. There was such an array of causes represented, which is so like us ladies to be taking on the weight of the world. 

As hard as the week that followed it was, I feel like we all got a shot in the arm from being together and seeing how many of us there are. Hoping these masses are successful in fighting back in the years (ugh) ahead.

 

2016

I had a nice, long, really well thought out and edited reflection on this past year, and then, not ironically given the reputation that 2016 has gotten the past few months, the page froze and I lost it all before saving. Suffice it to say it's been an eventful year. Lucky for me personally, though we had a few obstacles and set backs, we spent the year seeing beautiful things in the world and I am really grateful for all of it (along with everyone in our lives). 

Here is hoping that everyone had a lot of good in their year and that 2017 brings with it more kindness, and a rejection of all of the negativity that seemed to be winning at the end of this year. Happy New Year! 

2016: The good; sitting in a muddy hot spring in the middle of a meadow with cows, seeing Austin for the first time, visiting the oldest trees on the planet in the Bristlecone Pine forest, hiking by Rainbow Springs and later laying in the foot of the waterfall, touring the other worldly tuftas by boat in Mono Lake, seeing the incredible Charles Bradley at Pappy and Harriets in the desert, visiting the Harry Potter Wizarding World with 2 fellow Potterfiles before it was officially open.

2016: The good; sitting in a muddy hot spring in the middle of a meadow with cows, seeing Austin for the first time, visiting the oldest trees on the planet in the Bristlecone Pine forest, hiking by Rainbow Springs and later laying in the foot of the waterfall, touring the other worldly tuftas by boat in Mono Lake, seeing the incredible Charles Bradley at Pappy and Harriets in the desert, visiting the Harry Potter Wizarding World with 2 fellow Potterfiles before it was officially open.

(from top left): Rain Room at LACMA, seeing Gena's new house for the first time, climbing a huge hill with bears on it in Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons from a vista point, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge alone, making Christmas with mom and Sheila, Grand Prismatic mist with Mark and Mike, HP world (again) with the Hufflepuffs.

(from top left): Rain Room at LACMA, seeing Gena's new house for the first time, climbing a huge hill with bears on it in Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons from a vista point, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge alone, making Christmas with mom and Sheila, Grand Prismatic mist with Mark and Mike, HP world (again) with the Hufflepuffs.

(from upper left) The best kitty in the universe, Miss Madeline, Old Faithful right on time, floating for the first time, volunteering at Reading to Kids with Mike, the rock haul from the annual Quartzsite trip, snow angel in a Milwaukee blizzard, one of the best hikes of my life in the Tetons, sleeping next to mom in the hospital.

(from upper left) The best kitty in the universe, Miss Madeline, Old Faithful right on time, floating for the first time, volunteering at Reading to Kids with Mike, the rock haul from the annual Quartzsite trip, snow angel in a Milwaukee blizzard, one of the best hikes of my life in the Tetons, sleeping next to mom in the hospital.

2016: the crap collage: Election night going from serendipitous euphoria to tears and depression alone on a cold street in Manhattan, flyering cars after my parked Nissan was smacked into and I was stuck with the bill (the flyers, while making me feel better at first, were unsuccessful in bringing the culprit to justice), and the sh*t show of our last apartment with landlords who broke all kinds of laws and forced out us and the two other tenants in unpleasant ways for months. #SayonaraAholes 

2016: the crap collage: Election night going from serendipitous euphoria to tears and depression alone on a cold street in Manhattan, flyering cars after my parked Nissan was smacked into and I was stuck with the bill (the flyers, while making me feel better at first, were unsuccessful in bringing the culprit to justice), and the sh*t show of our last apartment with landlords who broke all kinds of laws and forced out us and the two other tenants in unpleasant ways for months. #SayonaraAholes 

Happy Holiday Factory!

I am lucky enough to have a massive amount of lovely people in my life. As such, I need to come up with about 30 small holiday gifts to show them that I love them. Along with that, I send out about the same amount of (usually) handmade holiday cards every year. I got the idea early this month to combine the two and screen print my holiday cards onto tea towels to feed two bunnies with one carrot (hate that 'killing birds' metaphor).

For anyone who is a screenprinting pro, this post will highlight how much I do not fall into that category. I taught myself how to do it and somehow that produces something that works, so that’s been awesome! Since I don’t do it too often, though, I did run into a few hiccups where I had forgotten one or two things in the process and only remembered at the moment that they needed to be done. But, it all worked out, and after 2 full days and 5 nights of turning the house into a Season's Greetings factory, I had 60 sweet little tea towels in three colors and gifted them away (it’s finally safe to post since I think most arrived at their homes now).

Here’s what went down, and probably why I’ll scale it back a bit next year and go back to paper cards!

Sketches of animals (what else) for the design 

Sketches of animals (what else) for the design 

Inked in the design, there were a few things that I drew and then combined in photoshop to reverse the colors and get nicer marks and line weight (like the owl's eyes)

Inked in the design, there were a few things that I drew and then combined in photoshop to reverse the colors and get nicer marks and line weight (like the owl's eyes)

So, this is a non-pro thing... the towels that I found were a lot wider than I first thought. I had an 11x14 screen to make these with. So, I decided to split the design into 2 screens (it would have made so much more sense to just go buy a huge screen at that point) splitting made it where I had to screen the right side on all and wait for that to dry before screening the left side. It made a lot more work for me, but also made it where I could just use the screens that I had on hand.

So, this is a non-pro thing... the towels that I found were a lot wider than I first thought. I had an 11x14 screen to make these with. So, I decided to split the design into 2 screens (it would have made so much more sense to just go buy a huge screen at that point) splitting made it where I had to screen the right side on all and wait for that to dry before screening the left side. It made a lot more work for me, but also made it where I could just use the screens that I had on hand.

The anxiety of pulling that first print and seeing if it works is pretty huge.

The anxiety of pulling that first print and seeing if it works is pretty huge.

IT WORKED!!!!

IT WORKED!!!!

I strung up a drying line in my studio room that held a fraction of how many I actually needed to dry (every chair back and bookshelf in the house had one on it).

I strung up a drying line in my studio room that held a fraction of how many I actually needed to dry (every chair back and bookshelf in the house had one on it).

So this is the layout of the 2nd screen. I drew on my work table to approximate where that 2nd screen went and it was a really forgiving design with registration, so there were no problems screening the 2nd half on any of them (though by all rights there really should have been!)

So this is the layout of the 2nd screen. I drew on my work table to approximate where that 2nd screen went and it was a really forgiving design with registration, so there were no problems screening the 2nd half on any of them (though by all rights there really should have been!)

Drying in various states of completion.

Drying in various states of completion.

One thing that ate up SO much more time than expected was the housework part of the project. All 60 towels needed to be fully ironed initially (which took all of White Christmas, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and some of Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind- i.e. about 4-5 hours). After they were printed, the ink needed to be heat sealed which took another 2 movies to finish, which was kinda zen, but kinda just a pain in the kiester.

One thing that ate up SO much more time than expected was the housework part of the project. All 60 towels needed to be fully ironed initially (which took all of White Christmas, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and some of Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind- i.e. about 4-5 hours). After they were printed, the ink needed to be heat sealed which took another 2 movies to finish, which was kinda zen, but kinda just a pain in the kiester.

I also washed all 3 colors after to ensure that the recipients wouldn't get ink all over their laundry (cold was the best option). This is one of the finished products!

I also washed all 3 colors after to ensure that the recipients wouldn't get ink all over their laundry (cold was the best option). This is one of the finished products!

Another 2 movies worth of time to fold and package with tags made with care directions, etc. Happy Holidays, y'all! 

Another 2 movies worth of time to fold and package with tags made with care directions, etc. Happy Holidays, y'all! 

The Unending Frustration of Making a Family Tree

About two months ago, I had the idea for my sister's birthday to paint her a family tree. She had done a bit of genealogy digging for a class project many years ago- so I had that info; and my mom's cousin is super into tracing her roots, so I knew I had info on my mom's maternal branch to work with. Despite that, we didn't have much info on my dad's side, but then again, I have the internet. Finding the information was pretty easy (it may be wrong, but whatever), and truly fascinating. For one, it's disappointing that lady records are far foggier than male ones. Since women took (and today still) take the surname of their husbands, they tend to disappear in records or be really hard to track down without their maiden names. On my dad's side two of the ladies proved impossible to figure out beyond their married surnames. 

Also, I learned the bananas and fascinating Scandinavian tradition of patronymic surnames. If you're like me, you never heard that word. It basically means that when a baby was born, the parents would use the father's given name along with the suffix of -sson or -datter as the surname (depending if it was a boy or a girl.) So, my last name being Julson means that down the road on my father's Norwegian side, there was a dad named Jules and when he had a boy he was named (first name) Julson (as in Jule's son). When that tradition stopped in the late 1800's, Julson stuck; otherwise, to follow that tradition, I'd be Nancy Gordondatter or some such thing (here's to some traditions dying out.)

I also learned that my mother's father's father's mother was called Apollonia Himlspach, whose birthplace is listed as Budapest, though it may have been a surrounding village. I literally thought Prince made the name Apollonia up for Purple Rain- so that was fascinating! There's also a fella on my mom's mom's side called Valentine. Can you even imagine a man called Valentine? Or even cuter, a little boy?

Anyway, it turned out that visually representing what I found was way harder than finding the information in the first place. I basically fell into a weekend-long rabbit hole of which I emerged with nothing giftable or to be excited about. I started with a retro Pyrex-inspired leaf patterned tree, varied colors and sizes and configurations... then I quit in a fit of frustration, took a shower, and came out stoked on a geometric solve. My rationale was that these leaves were bumming me out. The shapes were too hard to work with, and the whole thing felt hokey. A geometric take on this would be modern, cooler, easier to configure and basically, i would revolutionize family trees as we know them. 

After about a half dozen triangle configuration attempts, some of which looked way too Space Invaders, I threw the towel in- but really only because by then it was Monday and I had to go back to work. I came up with a few options that I don't mind, but I gave my sister a wine corker for her birthday, and threw these in a drawer. However, now that I revisited them for this post, I'm thinking hexagons could work... 

The point is that sometimes you sit down and put pen (marker, paint, etc) to paper and come out with something fantastic that you're excited to share. Other times you follow your inspiration and make 10 family trees, only to realize that maybe family trees don't need revolutionizing at all. Having said that, I may go try hexagons.

Yellowstone 2 of 2

Since the park is so huge, it couldn't possibly fit into just one blog post. 

I had read and heard that the best places for viewing wildlife in Yellowstone are Lamar Valley in the Northeast end of the park and Hayden Valley, just east of where we were staying. Sadly, for those of us who love sleeping-in on vacation, the best time to see said wildlife is sunrise. We agreed to meet Mark at 6:30 am in Hayden Valley by Alum creek. We drove out there in total darkness which is terrifying in that park since any number of beasties could run out onto the road (turns out only a porcupine actually did). We arrived when it was still pitch black, and I was convinced that we would be eaten by bears or trampled by an elk herd. I expected that at the crack of dawn, piles of different animals would emerge from the surrounding forests to have their morning baths and drinks and we would essentially witness the opening sequence from The Lion King. Dawn broke, light started to spread across the valley, and... there were no animals.

(not the view in Hayden Valley)

Mark showed up, it got lighter, we went to another overlook. From there we saw a herd of bison; which, not to be jaded, is kind of like seeing squirrels in Yellowstone. We saw a few elk cross the stream, and (the coolest part) heard the bull elk trumpet, which is an odd high pitched call that seemed to be saying to the other animals "hey, don't do the Lion King thing today, it's cold out". Still, it was pretty. Two of my goal animals to spot were River Otters and Moose. We went to a place called Otter Creek, but it turns out that the otters listened to the elk and stayed in too.

After breakfast, we went to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (literally that's what's on the signs), at an overlook called Artist's Point. It was pretty chilly and raining on and off, but beautiful. There are vivid colors all up and down the canyon and a waterfall at the end of it. There, we parted with Mark who had a long drive and a Packer game to get to back home.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from Artist's Point overlooking the falls.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from Artist's Point

We were planning a hike, but because of our LA aversion to weather, headed up to Mammoth. The road there was one of the most beautiful drives that I have ever been on. For one, there is a fantastic phenomenon in the park where if you see piles of cars stopped, it's generally because some wildlife has been spotted and everyone is observing it paparazzi style. On the way up, we saw one such jam and got out to see a black bear complete with cubs IN THE TREE. There was a ranger keeping people back at a safe distance, but we managed to see her walking around and her wittwle cubs in the tree snapping branches as they crawled around.

Oh, hello, bear!!!!

Back on the drive, the storms were contained in pockets around the park, and from the vantage point of the mountain road, you could see areas of storms adjacent to bright, sunny bits of perfect weather. Just to be even more epic, there were rainbows everywhere. That park really is nature and beauty dialed to 11.

Just some random gorgeousness along the road

In Mammoth, there are elk all around the little town. Most of which in places that are far closer than the recommended 25 yards away from people. Almost everyone we saw was respectful of them and kept their distance, but I did see a tourist or two get within five feet of the beasts and luckily these particular ones were so used to such things, they ignored it.

Elk around Mammoth Hot Springs photographed with my high tech zoom set-up of iphone through binoculars (which I purchased for my Moonrise Kingdom Suzy Bishop Halloween costume)

The Mammoth Hot Spring is really stunning, there are formations all around it made of things I didn't research and it just looks like another planet. 

The alien landscape that is Mammoth Hot Spring (not a soaking tub)

We made a few other stops on the way back including one called Dragon's Mouth which had a constant stream of steam and boiling churning water spitting out of it. It sounded angry and was growling. The light was beyond perfect there, the sun was streaming through pines on the hill and back lighting the steam. There were dark grey clouds behind us with the most vibrant rainbow I've ever seen against it - with (bonus) a double one over it. 

Dragon's Mouth

We had walked 28,000 steps the day before and about 19,000 that day (thank you iphone pedometer). Coupled with our crack-of-dawn start time, we were pooped and went back to the cabin relatively early. 

The next day there was our last, and we headed down to Grand Teton National Park. I had read that this was the place to see Moose, and (spoiler alert), it didn't disappoint. 

The road south from Yellowstone to Teton was beautiful, there were flaming yellow Aspen coupled with long stretches that were charred from a fire that was blazing through there just last week. The first views of the mountains are incredible. Every turn seems to open to an even better view than the last.

We took a trail around Jenny Lake and an off shoot path to Moose Creek (?) I forget if that was its name). There were 2 lady moose chilling in a pond, and we got to walk around the perimeter observing them. They are absolutely grand beasts. You would think that we would be jaded after seeing bears and elk and bison, but we were both mesmerized. Seeing an animal that huge in its natural habitat is literally awesome.

Head. Exploding. (also shot via iphone through binoculars- pretty good, innit?!)

Head. Exploding. (also shot via iphone through binoculars- pretty good, innit?!)

The sight elusive to Angelenos- fall color. (on the Jenny Lake hike)

The hike around the lake was another of the prettiest of my life. Everyone we passed was super friendly and happy as well, since that kind of environment puts everyone in a great mood. We passed some twenty-something boys who told us that there was a bear ahead. They said it was black not grizzly and was a baby. We half believed them because we are old and they aren't. However, we passed a couple in their 60's who warned us of the bear ahead as well. When they saw the panic on my face, they assured me that it was a good 100 yards across a gully and that it was a cub. To which my panicky thought was "where's the mom, then?" Sure enough, we made a turn and there were about a half dozen hikers gathered looking across the creek. There was what looked to me to be a very non-baby black bear crawling up a fallen tree. I did get a photo of it looking at me, but it looks a bit like a photo of Nessy. We stayed for a bit and then moseyed on, me singing at the top of my lungs again to alert momma bear to our presence. 

Okay, between the two fallen trees between the two pines, see it?

BEAR! 

We wrapped up Tetons with lunch at some bar and grill that overlooked the mountains and then headed back the 1,100 miles we had to get home. The whole trip, I never lost sight of the wonder of the places that we were seeing and the good fortune that we have to live within (long) driving distance of them. I truly wish that everyone could experience this first hand. You can't help but feel even more concerned for the preservation of the parks after seeing how epically beautiful they are in person, and how relatively unscathed they are by our existence. I am also so lucky to have a fella in Mike who enjoys exploring as much as I do and will tolerate my paranoid off-key hiking songs. 

 

Yellowstone 1 of 2

Awhile ago, I saw a photo in Sunset magazine of The Old Faithful Inn and I thought "that's where I want to spend my 40th bday". It was May of 2015. I mapped the drive to Yellowstone- 14.5 hours (long, but do-able), and then went to book a room for September of 2015. All sold out. Anywhere near within the park? All sold out. So we went instead to Lassen, because of a different photo in Sunset of Bumpass Hell (what can I say, they have pretty photos). That turned out to be the most epic, perfect way that I could have spent the day and all was well. 

 

Still, I wanted to get to Yellowstone. Shortly after the Lassen trip, I found an available cabin for the Yellowstone Lodges by the lake in the park available for 3 nights on and around my birthday this year. And that, is where we were last weekend!

We have done quite a few California wilderness adventures, including Yosemite and other areas that are bear terrain, but nothing as wild as Yellowstone. I am a research nerd when I am spending trip money to go to a new place; I always want to make sure that we are seeing the highlights and having the best experience we can for the time that we are there (Virgo). To that end, I got a book, rented a documentary and did some online research. The documentary had an amazing line in it about Yellowstone being the most preserved wild land that we have in this country and said that it was America's Serengeti. There are Black and Grizzly bears, wild Bison (Buffalo), Wolves, Moose, Elk, Fox, etc. There is literally a line in the maps and guides that they give you at the entrance that says, "We cannot guarantee your safety." 

One of the loads of wild bison we saw basking in the sun (it's a good life).

One of the loads of wild bison we saw basking in the sun (it's a good life).

However, over 3 million people visit the park every year and there are only a handful of stories about people falling into geysers and hot springs or being thrown by a bison. The guidelines are to stay 100 yards away from bears and wolves and 25 from bison, elk and other wildlife. We did find ourselves closer in Mammoth Hot Springs, since there are elk lounging around all over the town, but other than that, we made a point of listening to those rules, and hey- we're back home and alive, so apparently they're good guidelines. We actually did see a few people break the rules and saw a bull elk fake charge a guy who was way too close on the side of the road (probably about 10 feet away), which was a really terrifying and humbling site (we are little comparatively).

The park is ginormous, it's the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined (told you I did homework). To that end, we planned our days by geographic areas. The first day (my birthday), we went to Old Faithful (which I kept calling Old Yeller the entire trip), and the geyser basins. I had heard that O.F. was underwhelming in person, and can report that the people who told me that are jaded. It was fantastic. It's a geyser that maintains a schedule and has for the 100 years that people have been keeping track of it. It goes off guaranteed every 60-90 minutes and can be predicted within a 10 minute window based on the length of the last eruption. A friend from Milwaukee lives in Montana now and drove down to meet us (thanks, Mark!), and put it best when he said that "nature doesn't work like that" (and he should know, he's a Geologist). The walk around the upper and lower basin was one of the most amazing walks of my life. It is filled with colorful hot springs, geysers going on and off, fumeroles streaming steam into the air, bison sunning by trees... it is otherworldly and stunning. 

Old Faithful, right on time.

Old Faithful, right on time.

One of the deceivingly enticing looking hot springs along the path (probably about 160 degrees or so)

One of the deceivingly enticing looking hot springs along the path (probably about 160 degrees or so)

We drove around the area after and stopped off at loads of smaller sites, any one of which would be a major attraction in nature if it wasn't cold in Old Faithful's shadow. Nearly every book of National parks has a prominent photo of something called the Grand Prismatic in it. I had read that from the basin, it's impossible to see the scope of it, it's the largest hot spring in the US and the 3rd largest in the world. It is a vibrant rainbow of colors going from almost neon blue in the center to orange at the edges. The colors are formed by the types of micobacteria that can live in the various temperatures surrounding the hot blue center. The day we went, it was a bit cold and I basically felt like Michael Jackson with the strong wind and blinding steam coming off of it. It was so fun even though we really couldn't see much of anything. We tried to find two different trails that I read about to see it from above, but all seemed to be closed. I just now looked that up and that's because they were- they are constructing a walkway to view the top since the other trail was an unofficial "social" one. 

Vibrant orange wee bitty bacteria on the edge of the Grand Prismatic hot spring.

Vibrant orange wee bitty bacteria on the edge of the Grand Prismatic hot spring.

Me and Mark pretending to be Michael Jackson in the wind and steam.

Me and Mark pretending to be Michael Jackson in the wind and steam.

Later that day, we took one of those "social" trails (i.e. unofficial-ish, but well-worn) to the top of a hill behind the Biscuit Basin. Here's one instance of not really following park safety rules- when on any hike in Yellowstone, they urge you to take bear spray. It's $50 to buy, and there are rentals around the park that we happened to not run into before this. When we saw other hikers with bells on, it occurred to me that we should really have that spray on us. I looked around and observed that our surroundings looked exactly like the created habitats made for bears at the zoo, which is a wee bit unsettling since we were in their house this time. Mark and Mike thought we were fine, but I like my face, and didn't want it eaten off by a grizzly; so I sang the whole hike at the top of my lungs (the most apt selection being 'I Wanna Be Like You' from the Jungle Book- thought they may like that). And, as it turns out, it totally worked because we are alive and saw no bears (you're welcome Mike and Mark).

One of the few times I wasn't singing at the top of my lungs on the hike. 

One of the few times I wasn't singing at the top of my lungs on the hike. 

We topped the day off with a cocktail (delicious Old Fashioned) in the vaulted ceilinged lobby of the Old Faithful Inn to the sounds of a pianist and cello player who at one point played a Led Zeppelin song (which happened to be my father's favorite band if you believe in signs from the other side). It was another perfect birthday.  

The vaulted ceilinged lobby of the Old Faithful Inn- a photo of this room is what inspired the trip in the first place.

The vaulted ceilinged lobby of the Old Faithful Inn- a photo of this room is what inspired the trip in the first place.

Some random area where our volatile earth is venting it's heat and rage in a stunningly beautiful way.

Some random area where our volatile earth is venting it's heat and rage in a stunningly beautiful way.

Lassen Peak (turning 40)

The bottom of the trail

So many great views.



My fortieth birthday (no idea how this happened). The original plan was to go to Yellowstone. I had seen photos of geysers and bison and things and decided pretty much on my 39th bday that Yellowstone would be the destination for my 40th. However, I foolishly waited until about 4 months before the big day to book the trip, and there was literally nothing available anywhere. I should know better after years of booking camp sites and things that all of the amazing nature attractions are booked up about a year in advance.

After finding out that Yellowstone was out and going through a couple hours of thinking that the entire decade of my 40’s was clearly shot b/c of this bad omen; I started digging through Sunset and National Parks magazines and books. I was just a few pages into the first magazine, and found a photo of Bumpass Hell in Lassen Volcanic National Park. I read the article and it sounded perfect. There would still be geothermal activity to see (and smell), as well as a hike from 8,000-10,000 feet to a peak of Mt. Lassen, a volcano (that’s been dormant for about 100 years- BUT is the most recent of the Cascade Range to erupt)

I read that people take kids on this hike, so if I was worried about anything, it was that it would be a casual stroll that would be disappointingly easy- and totally not the epic adventure that I was hoping to do at the start of a new decade.

We drove up on a Wednesday (the day before my birthday), and hit rain about 1/2 way there that lasted the entire rest of the drive. It was downpouring near the camp site (where we had thankfully reserved a cabin). The next morning was clear and sunny as predicted (was set to have a high of 70), but when we went to get water at the camp store, they told us that the road to the peak was closed due to snow from the previous day's rain. We checked at the museum (the info center when the ranger station is closed) and they confirmed it. They said they hoped it would be open by noon. I was prepared for a little snow on the peak, but never thought we’d be snowed out. I was a bit deflated as we waited two hours to try to get through to the hike.

On the road to the peak, we hit snow around 7000 feet or so, and the windy road had beautiful vistas of snowy pines and what are probably meadows that were completely blanketed in snow. It was looking less and less likely that we’d be able to hike. We kept thinking that we would be stopped at any point by a ranger telling us that the road was closed, but it turned out to be open all the way to the lot at the peak. It looked freshly plowed and there was only one other car there.

From the parking lot, it looks like the ‘trail’ up (a trail was barely visible) went straight up the side of the mountain. It was all 100% covered in snow. Mike said it was probably not the day to try and that we should do it the next day instead, though, we were set to move on to a hotel in South Tahoe the next day. I felt incredibly silly for having only allowed one day to do this. Just for giggles, we decided to walk to the first marker. We could take some pics in the snow and then go hike one of the smaller trails like Bumpass Hell. We did started off, and even that small slow incline was really hard. The sun was blazing hot, the snow was at least ankle deep (more in drifts), and the elevation made it all far harder than I’m used to. I literally said ‘no way, we aren’t doing this’ on the way to the sign. I just didn’t see any way of scaling another 2,000 feet after the first 100 felt SO hard. We stopped at the sign, took off jackets (the ranger warned us it would be 20 degrees up there, it was at least 70- clearly he was trying to sell the gift shop jackets), we took some pics, and were ready to turn back. However, Mike being Mike- he wanted to 'see just what was around the next bend.'

There were tall pines with huge clumps of snow melting fast and falling in huge slush bombs on the way up. As I dodged them, winded from the incline and the elevation, I couldn't help but feel like this was a stupid idea. Yet, we went on. The whole time, we thought that we would just go a bit further, and we went up and up and up. The elevation and snow completely allayed any fears of this being too easy of a hike. We had to stop frequently at switch backs to rest. The snow nearly covered the entire trail; it was usually about ankle deep but there were drifts where we’d step down and sink to our knees or thighs. It got arduous after a while.

We were about 1/2 way up when another hiker came up behind us and passed us up, until then, we were the first ones “breaking trail” (a term I learned that day) up the peak. He was a young guy in trainers and shorts, but he was really hiking at a fast clip. He passed us, which was nice, we literally had footsteps to walk in. Also, at certain points in the hike, the path of the trail was completely not obvious. At about 2/3 of the way up, a guy shouted up to us that he had my camera’s lens cap that I had apparently dropped; I asked him to leave it on the sign post, but he yelled, “No, I’m coming up there too, I’ll bring it". Lens Cap became his nickname until he caught up with us later and told us his name was Jim. Shortly after that, trainer dude was coming back in our direction- we knew that we couldn’t be that close to the top that he reached it and was already on his way back. He told us that it was just too hard. He made it a few switchbacks up, but the snow was too intense, the trail seemed to stop and he had to get to his next camp. We had about 20 minutes left of walking in his footsteps until we were again forging the path through undriven snow again.

Not long after Trainers bailed, Lenscap caught up to us. There were many moments on the way up that I thought we were lunatics and really shouldn’t be doing this. We both had on jeans, we had hiking boots that in theory were waterproof, but so much snow had gone into the top of my boot that there were small sloshy puddles at the bottom of my feet inside the boots. I thought that perhaps there was a reason that no one else was doing this. We are by no means mountaineers, and here we were forging the path up a snowy volcano. I worried that maybe we’d be the helicopter rescue of the day or that we’d be eating each other’s arms off at some point in the near future. However, Lenscap put these fears to rest. He was probably in his 50’s or so, and was decked out with gear; waterproof pants, gators (bunchy cuffs of fabric that go around the top of your boots so snow doesn’t flood them like it had mine), hiking poles, a GPS, and a little device that sent messages or distress signals in case he got into trouble while hiking alone. If this guy (who worked at REI) thought it was a good idea to summit that day, then f*cking hell, I did too.

Another motivation for continuing is the absolute awe-inspiring beauty on the way up. Every switch back opened up to a new, more amazing vista. I took a few hundred photos on the way up. It was so zen walking up, focusing only on where to step next and looking up to see mountains, trees and lakes sprawled out in every direction.

Our new companion was a nice fella, though snarky (sorry, Jim- but you know it’s true). Also, if I were to manifest anything that day, I was super stoked it was a friendly, gear-laden companion for us who had gummy energy chews to share. He also talked Mike and I into continuing more than once. Near the top, there were a few perilous moments. Once there was a switch back where the snow drifted up over our heads. Trainers had made it that far, so there were footprints on it- without which, I NEVER would have believed that that was the way to go. It was literally a wall of snow in front of us (on the side of a mountain). But, we just went slowly, made sure to get footing before shifting weight and made it up. There was another part that had two options, snow on the ridge of the mountain, which may or may not have something solid underneath it, or a hill of small rocks that may or may not tumble under our weight as we stepped on them. We took the rocks, and with a few nerve racking tumbles under our feet, made it safely up that part too. That was a section of the trail where I was convinced we were not going to be able to move forward; I could not imagine going down that part and not getting momentum and falling off the side of the hill. But, at that point, we were invested. We had come up this far, and it had been hard and exhausting- we had sunk into snow and toppled over- so there was no way in hell that would be for nothing. We were getting to the top.

The last half mile was probably the worst, the elevation made everything feel so hard and we had to stop multiple times to catch our breath on the way up. At that point, there were a few more hikers gaining on us- which, again made me feel reassured about embarking on the hike. Though I was leading the way most of the time, on the last stretch before the top, Mike and Jim were in front and I was the caboose. We turned a corner and they talked about it being the top and that was enough (since we all had it with ascending at that point). There’s a second peak viewable from the actual summit, and I thought that was where we were still headed to. I literally fell to my knees, in jest and in absolute true relief when I realized that we were standing on the top and that other peak wasn’t part of our hike. We made it!

The top wasn’t even the best view along the way. When we first got up there, we were above the clouds and couldn’t see much at all. Luckily, they had other places to be and the view opened up. The others said we could see Shasta peak- I wasn’t sure about no stinking famous mountains, I was just reveling in the fact that I had climbed to the top of one and made it, after being convinced at the trail head that I wouldn’t go more than 100 yards or so.

While at the top, I pulled out the paddle that I made the week before. It just read, “40” (and had glitter, natch). Mike took my photo with it, and by then the other hikers caught up to us. There was a couple and another solo fella. All of them pulled out cameras to take my pic with the paddle (I may have introduced myself as, “I'm Nancy, it’s my 40th birthday today”). We sat down and made sandwiches, ate a picnic lunch at 10,463 feet, relaxed enough to realize how truly freezing cold it was up there and then turned to head down.

All in all the 5 mile hike took us 3.5 hours to get to the top and about 1.5 hours to get back to the bottom. At home, I run 5 miles in 30 minutes. By the time we were headed down, it was predominantly slush and mud in most spots. My feet were literally making slosh noises with every step by the bottom. When were only had about 100 yards to go, I dropped into the snow to do a snow angel. It was cold and wet and the snow nearly too hard to carve the shape into since it had iced over on the top, but it was fantastic.

We got to the bottom, parted ways with our new friends and left. It was the best possible way to spend a birthday/start a new decade that I could imagine- and not at all wussy.


That is literally the trail- that edge of snow that goes off to seemingly nothing... that's the path!

Another point where I was sure the trail led only to sky.

High elevation = way more breaks on the ascent

We are mountaineers

Our new friends hiking up literally in our footsteps.

The solution to a scary birthday? A scarier hike.

One of the many amazing vistas.

Our new friend Jim (aka 'lens cap') traversing the spooky path we just came down.

After this photo, I ate his nose- so I guess we did end up eating each other's body parts.

At the bottom (I was waiting to do this the whole time)

Buckeye Hot Springs (forest hot tub)

The path down
One of the boobie girls' hounds (super cute and friendly)
The hot waterfall trickle
Ho-ly mo-ly.



Have you ever taken a bath outside next to a riverbed? Until July, I hadn't- but I can say now that I highly recommend it.

I have a few uber camper acquaintances whose Instagram feeds are filled with stunning scenery and adventures. This is how I learned about the (free) natural hot springs that exist in California. Until then, I had guessed that anything as wondrous as a natural hot tub would be purchased, walled up and have exorbitant admission fees to use. However, after seeing a pile of kidlets basking in a tub made of rocks in the middle of the desert, I googled 'natural hot springs' and found that they aren't uncommon (another gold star for CA). I also decided that I had to get to some.

We were headed to camp at June Lake in the Eastern Sierras, and a Sunset magazine article gave directions to some of the free outdoor springs. I decided that we should head for Buckeye Hot Springs on the second day of our camp. It's north of Mammoth and Mono Lake and was about an hour drive from our Silverlake camp site (adjacent to June Lake). As with most hikes and things, it's not really easy to find. It was lucky that we were in Mike's truck as the road became a bumpy dirt off-road path on the way in (seemingly on the edge of a cliff as well). We found Buckeye camp ground which had some folks who looked like they may just live there full time in the lot giving us stink eye as we passed. We felt utterly lost but also knew that we couldn't be far. The road looped around and seemed to be ready to spit us back out of the park before we saw a sign that said 'hot springs'. There was a dirt parking lot where we parked the truck and grabbed towels, water and sunscreen.

We got out and walked to the edge of the lot and saw a beautiful vista of huge trees as far as the eye could see. We heard a river and saw dogs playing in it, but saw no hot spring. Truth be told I wasn't entirely sure what I was looking for other than the rock tub I had seen on Instagram. Mike heard some men down the hill a bit and went to ask them if they knew where the springs were. I hung back and waited at the edge of the lot scanning around in the other directions to see if I could spot anything. He returned and said, "Good news, they's a bunch around here- those guys were even in one!...naked. They said that there's more down the hill." Wanting to go in the opposite direction of the naked men, we set off down the path that led to the river. On the way down, there was a trickle of water coming up out of the ground. Ever the intrepid explorer, Mike put his hand in it and immediately pulled it back. He said it was boiling hot. It streamed out of the ground and down the hill. As we zig-zagged down the hill to the bottom, we had to cross it a bit and there were some murky spots.

Near the bottom, we turned a corner and I saw a topless woman with no less than 5 huge dogs with her. This, coupled with the knowledge that there were some naked gents at the top of the hill, started to tip me off to the hot springs hippy element. I was kind of dreading seeing what (who) else was at the bottom. We had our swimsuits on and I already felt overdressed I am also a fan of clothing. Luckily, when we got to the river bed, there were about a dozen people including families with young children- all clothed; also Boobie girl put her top on as her and their pack of a dozen dogs were on the way out.

There was a series of four pools of water divided by rocks that were adjacent to the river. The first two closest to the path that we took down had small waterfalls of the hot water from the top of the hill pouring into the rock encased pool. The first (top) one was the hottest of the six tubs. I didn't have a thermometer handy, but it was hot enough to want to lay down in but also hot enough to want to get out of within a couple of minutes. As the pools went downstream, more cold river water mixed in with them, so they were successively cooler, along with a couple on the side closer to the stream. I chose the second one down, partially because it was empty but also because it was the most comfortable temperature. I laid down resting the back of my head on a rock and looked up. Water was streaming down in a mini waterfall into the pool, the sound of the river running was next to me, the sky was blue with puffy white clouds, there were pine trees all around- it was one of the top five most zen-filled magical moments of my life.

The people that were there were great too. We met a girl from San Diego. She was probably in her mid to late 40's, was covered in tattoos on her arms, chest and neck- tanned to a deep, dark bronze. She had on a customized Jack Daniels t-shirt with the neck and sleeves cut off and a swimsuit bottom. Her companions were two white bulldogs. She told us about Travertine hot springs and how Buckeye is far superior. She travelled alone with her dogs all the time in search of an escape from city life and came up to the springs regularly. On some days she said she was alone for hours in the hot springs with her dogs with not a soul in sight.

As we were getting ready to leave (though I pretty much never wanted to). Some old prospector looking hippy men arrive, got buck naked and jumped in to the first 2 pools. All the families immediately gathered their things to leave, doing their best to avert their eyes. Mike was annoyed and said to one of them, "you're chasing everyone away" to which he replied, "good, that's the way I like it". I have experienced being a regular in nature before. As kids, we spent hours a day in a forest by Lake Michigan behind a private boys school and a Catholic monastery. We knew every fallen tree and short cut and felt like we owned the joint. I imagine the old hippy dudes are the same with the springs. Having said that we never got naked to chase anyone away.

We took a different path back up to the car that led through the woods. Mike pointed to a pile of dung on the ground which was clearly bear poo. I looked up off the path and saw large rocks and a cave that looked like a bear habitat at the zoo. I then realized that we were in the bear habitat- just not at the zoo. Spooky, but thankfully we didn't see any of the little (huge) fellas around. I'd still love to see bears in the wild, but from more of a distance for sure.

When we got to the top of the hill and back to the truck, I was euphoric. It's so mind blowing that something like that exists, is accessible and that we were able to partake in it. I feel so lucky to be able to get to these places and experience things that I only heard and read about before moving to California. I was the most relaxed and recharged that I had been in weeks, maybe months. I was not only so grateful for the forest and the water and the outdoor hot tubs that I just relaxed in, but also to have met such a helpful, kind soul in the San Diego girl. As opposed to most encounters with other humans in the city, there's a fraternity among campers and explorers that I adore and bask in whenever I encounter it. Being a life-long city dweller, I probably wouldn't want that level of conversation and friendliness all of the time, but it's great when it happens.

Once I was back in the truck, I remembered that the rest of the world exists and went to grab my phone. Mostly to look at the photos I had just taken to remind me that it was all real. There was a text from my ex-husband saying he was engaged to a girl he met 6 months ago. I was upset that the news came in just then when I was at the height of happiness and blissful relaxation; but really, after thinking about it, it probably found me in the best mental place that I could have been for news like that. I was relaxed, happy, finding wondrous things in the world with someone that I love who loves me. Life's a beautiful adventure- with hot tubs.



The view from the tub with your head on the rock. (bliss)
F-ing hippies (and brave San Diego girl that didn't get chased away)

Bodie "Nothing Endures But Change"


When we went to Yosemite awhile back, Mike had wanted to stop at Bodie on the way home. It ended up being too far for the time that we had left on that trip, so we skipped it. To be honest, a ghost town sounded cool, but it wasn't on my top 10 to see, and Yosemite was so mind-blowing, I was fine with that.

Last weekend we were in June Lake (more posts on that to follow at some point), which is about an hour south of Bodie, so this time we mosey'd on over. We took his truck because he had been there before and was familiar with the terrain. The road in is off of the 395, and is about 10 miles of paved road at the start before transitioning into 3 miles of a dirt/gravel bumpy washboard of a "road" before you get to the historic park entry station to get in. After having seen it, I feel like a smooth, paved road would just not be an appropriate entryway for the town you're about to see after.

Just to backtrack for a minute, the 395 (the freeway essentially from LA to June Lake) has a number of abandoned buildings and ghost town-ish groups of structures in varying states of decay along it. However, Bodie is a concentrated group of about 100 of them. It was a mining boomtown and went from about 7,000 residents at its peak to 120 people in 1920 shortly before it had a fire and became abandoned. There is also a graveyard on a hill, and a cluster of homes that belonged to Chinese residents (set apart from the rest of the town which must have been highly segregated).

After the lumpy drive in, there's a parking lot situated between the town and the cemetary. From the parking lot there are a few roads in that are lined with former houses, businesses, the mine buildings, a church, a gym, a schoolhouse... a self contained city, basically. All abandoned, spooky and amazingly cool.

There was only one home that we saw that we were able to go inside of (the one with the baby crib in it- see photo below). The rest of the photos here were taken through windows (so any figures you see in them are, unfortunately, probably reflections and not ghosts). The striking thing about the town is that it is in what they refer to as "arrested decay"; meaning that they are leaving everything untouched and allowing it to disintegrate over time. To me, that's a bit of a shame as there is so much in the homes and structures that is of historical significance and even just aesthetically beautiful (carved pool table, inlaid furniture, etc). But I'm sure restoration is cost prohibitive, and there's an impact to seeing decaying homes and rooms that doesn't necessarily lie in perfectly preserved museum exhibits.

As you walk through the town and look inside the structures, you can't help but wonder about the life that was in them. I read a bit about the town, there's a good amount of facts and stories online, but it's just such a fascinating place for the imagination to wander. I used to get this overwhelming feeling of insignificance in history class when we would learn about "the people of the day" who "used to (blah blah blah)" (clearly I paid a lot of attention in those classes)- but it seemed so minimizing to me to just say "people of the day" as if they weren't individuals with thoughts and emotions and wants and loves and losses- but rather one mass group that all did or didn't all do the same thing. Walking through Bodie makes you wonder who those individuals were, what they went through and if one day anyone will be paying $5 a head to look at a room full of my dusty stuff that is around long after I'm gone (doubt it- it's mostly Ikea- that stuff won't hold up).

While we were there, the day turned from sunny and hot to cold and stormy with loud cracks of thunder and lightening over the hills (GHOSTS!)

They do have a museum/gift shop that had amazing objects in there. From a black hearse carriage to clay marbles, they are possessions of the people who lived in the town. One of the most mesmerizing for me was a vial with a cork on it. It was a "tear catcher" or a "weeping bottle". Meant to do what the name implies, and catch tears of grief after a loved one's death. On the first anniversary of the death, the tears were poured out of the vial and onto the grave. Judging by the cemetery's headstones, a vial wouldn't be enough for some of the deaths, there were many, many babies and toddlers in there.

There was also a letter with beautifully inked penmanship that was a poem for an aunt, "When the golden sun is setting, And your mind from care is free, When of others you are thinking, Will you sometimes think of me?" Written by Myrtle Summers in 1890, who probably never imagined a stranger would be posting her words on a blog 125 years later. Or maybe she did, she sounds like a smart girl.

Joshua Tree (or Moonrise Kingdom)


As a kid from Milwaukee, which is about 2,000 miles from Joshua Tree, I first heard of the park when U2's 1987 Joshua Tree record came out. I actually didn't even realize it was anything but an album title for a few years after that (naive, yes, but whatever).

After moving to California, I heard from many people about how remarkably beautiful it is there, and how great of a getaway from LA it is. I have a thing about deserts, though. It came from flying over Las Vegas. When you stare down at the desert on the way into that city, there is a tiny ribbon of a road that strings through the expanse of sandy nothingness that is the desert between here and Vegas. Only from a plane is it evident that the road is the only thread of civilization in the middle of no where. If a car were to break down out there, there is nothing and no one to go to or help besides other cars on that same road. To me that feels intensely claustrophobic and kind of makes me never want to drive out into the desert again.

However, I saw posts and pictures from a few friends about their New Year's camp in Joshua Tree, and it looked amazing. Being from the midwest, where most people would never think of camping in the winter, the thought of starting the first moments of a new year under the stars in the desert sounded too amazing to pass up. I had too many New Year's experiences drunk and around drunks and was longing for a quiet, beautiful entry into another year. I looked up the weather, and the average high in January is 67, average low is 35. For some reason, my brain only took in the first number in that equation and completely glossed over the fact that we could be sleeping outside in literally freezing temperatures. I booked the site about 2 months in advance. The fact that a campsite was open at that short of notice, should have been a bit of a tip off that this wasn't a casual camper excursion.

On December 30th, we drove to Joshua Tree after work, getting there after dark. The site was a little hard to find with no light, but we managed to find our little nook in the park. Even with a winter coat, scarf, gloves and hat, it was ridiculously cold to be hanging out (and sleeping) outside. We bent a good half dozen spikes trying to drive them into rocky or frozen ground, and after 40 minutes of struggling, breathing hot air into our hands to coerce them into functioning and breaking tent poles that had gotten too rigid and inflexible in the cold... we had our home for the night set up (thankfully with extra blankets inside). We got a fire going and had the amazing sensation of the front of our bodies cooking by the fire while the backs were slowly losing feeling from the cold. We got out some snacks and had the most amazing s'mores of my life. I don't even usually like s'mores, but the gooey hot chocolate and (vegan) marshmallows couldn't be any sweeter than they were in the desert in the freezing cold in the dark of the night.

The site and landscape were barren except for the signature spiky plant life, all of which was covered in a thin layer of white frost. We were drinking Bullet Bourbon straight from the bottle (so much for sobriety)- the old hobo stereotype about it keeping a man warm is 100% true. It worked like a charm. While we were sitting by the fire and nearly regretting our decision to be there, the lighting on the scene around us started to change. It started so subtly that I didn't realize it was happening. All of a sudden I just started to be able to see things that I hadn't noticed before. I almost thought it was the bourbon kicking in, but plants were emerging from the shadows and the frost tips on desert grass started to glow. Everything around us started to get a tinge of white light on it. As the effect increased and things grew brighter, my bourbon brain realized a light was rising and shining on everything, there was a source to this magic effect that had been slowly illuminating the world around us. I turned and stood and saw where it was coming from. There was the largest moon that I have ever seen in my life coming up over the desert hills. It seemed to take up no less than half of the visible space of the horizon. I have never seen anything so grand and magical in my life (maybe until I saw 2 whales breach at once, but that's another post). Mike stood next to me and we watched the largest glowing orb of a moon, the biggest of which I am convinced I will ever see in my life, rise up and reveal itself from behind the hills. It shone so brightly, it looked like daylight sun was hitting everything around us, only instead of the warm light that occurs in midday, it was an etherial cool white glow that didn't entirely mask all of the darkness but made it where everything was still visible. Standing there a little tipsy in the middle of the desert on the 2nd to last night of the year with a runny frozen nose and extremities longing for blood to come out and visit them, I knew that I was in one of the most memorable moments of my life. I felt connected to things that dwarf my existence. I don't know if you can ever recreate this experience, but I highly recommend trying.

Once the moonrise was over and we were back to trying to toast ourselves by the fire, we stayed up awhile drinking and talking before turning in. The air was crisp and clean and I slept like a bourbon soaked rock. We woke up to a thick layer of frost over the tent and covering the ground around us. I peeled off mittens long enough to splash my face with ice water and we went off for a hike. It was still probably only 50 degrees or so, but walking made us warmer. It was a beautiful hike, and at the end of it, I had the sinking realization/reminder that one can absolutely get sunburned on a freezing cold day. The photos of me from post-hike look like a lobster with a blonde wig.

I brought marinated seitan and veg and we had the most delicious fajitas imaginable over a campfire (most of the best meals of my life have been cooked over a campfire). At the end of the afternoon, we talked about the possibility of staying for New Year's Eve night. We weighed our desire to be in the desert at midnight with the thought of bathing for the day being splashing up with some ice water from the nearby sink and then later trying to stay warm all night. I wasn't up for more bourbon and I felt that after that first night with the enchanted moonrise, we got the full experience that I was hoping for (and much more). We decided to pack up and head back to L.A. for New Years Eve. We went back to my place and made hot food in a warm apartment over a gas flame stove. I don't remember what we even made, but I do remember that we put on formal party clothes and made fancy mixology cocktails and had a fantastic New Year.

I haven't been back to Joshua Tree since, but now I know that magic lives there. Like most of my CA bucket list, I had an amazing time and would absolutely go back. I do have a bit of reservations though that it can't possibly be as amazing when returning as it is to see it for the first time. Maybe one of these days I'll report back about that.

Thinking of Switching Up


Hello, my neglected friends (or to steal a co-worker's term of endearment, my neglected cherubs). I have decided in the past few weeks that I want to steer this in the way that life has gone. That is to say that if I only use this to talk about art and illustration it'll be over a year since my last post (insert shame face emoji here). I'd love to think that my life is a ship that I am in control of, but I think it's more like a raft with a sail that goes whatever way the wind takes me. This blog was the chronicle of my art and illustration work, and I hope that it will be again. In the interim, the wind has other plans.

One of which seems to be keeping me in L.A. for a bit, though I didn't intend my stay here to be permanent. And here's the awesome part about that- because I was sure I would only be here for a short time, I made an L.A. bucket list. Yes, it's a somewhat sappy movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman- but it's also a really great idea. I spend my days around talented, smart people with no lack of resources, and there are so many of them that never get around to seeing the things in 100 mile radius from their house, even if they really want to, because you just... don't. I think on a macro level, we all pretend as if mortality doesn't exist. We aspire to do everything and anything early in life and then, maybe thinking we'll get to it one day or another, set it aside and get on with day to day existence. The same is true of living in a big city. We feel like we'll get around to stuff some time but unless there's a visitor in from out of town, we generally never do.

I say, f*ck that noise! This list has sold me on not only figuring out the things you want to do and just planning them out and doing it, but it's also had the unexpected and inconvenient side effect of making me fall in love with California.

If you live here, have you done these? Are there some must-see's and do's that I'm missing? I'm hitting the end of the list here!

So, I plan to use the blog again, I'll chronicle the list and talk about all the amazing things that are distracting me from making art but filling my life with inspiration at the moment.

The List (an X before it means it's been ticked off the list)

X Sequoias (General Sherman)
X Yosemite
X Joshua Tree
X Big Bear
X Santa Barbara
X Sleep on the Queen Mary
X San Diego
• San Francisco (though i've been there before, not as a tourist, as a hospital visitor)
• Wine/ Vineyard Tour
X Walk of Fame
X Hollywood Premiere
• Awards Show (not counting key arts)
X Party at a mansion
X Film Screening
X Film/ TV set visit
X Show Taping
X Filming Locations
• Surfing
X Body Boarding
X Camp on the Beach
• Dance the Thriller dance in the alley it was filmed in
• Museums (X LACMA, X Jurassic Technology, • MOCA, • Hammer, • Annenberg, X Getty, • Getty Villa
• Echo Park Time Travel Market
• Bob Baker Puppet Theater
X Nazi compound hike (visiting is in no way an endorsement of the a-holes who built it)
X Venice Beach
X Inside the Chinese Theater
X Rodeo Drive
X Observatory
• Watts Towers
X Caine's Arcade
X Disneyland
X Universal Studios
• CA Adventure Park
X Private Studio Lot Party
• Hollywood Bowl (though seeing the Pixies on the 28th)
• Disney Concert Hall
X Marine Life in the Wild (Whales, Dolphins, Otters, Sea Lions, Seals)
• Catalina
X Palm Springs
X Gentle Barn
X Morro Bay
X Hearst Castle
X Camera Obscura, Santa Monica
• Hollywood Forever event or movie
X Dodger Game
X Kings Game
X Flower Fields
X Old zoo enclosures
X Rose Bowl Flea Market
X Hike to back of Hollywood sign

Holiday Gifts!







This December ruled! I had more work than I could fit into the month- I worked 10-12 hour days every day of the month with only one day off before Christmas Eve (which was spent at the Ellen show for a 12 days of giveaways show taping- told you it ruled!).

I have never been so busy with portraits. December in numbers was; 16 gifts, 26 people, 11 dogs and 2 cats. Although I gained a few pounds and suspended my social life to finish in time, it was entirely worth it! I got to draw really interesting people and pets including; a one-eyed cat, a family dressed in costume for Halloween, many cute pups and a cigar store Indian statue. I am so thankful for all of the clients who allowed me to make drawing pictures my full time job. Not to get all mushy, but it is truly an honor to make something that is intended to be a family keepsake. I got great feedback and hope that everyone who got drawings for the holidays loved them as much I loved making them!

Until I'm able to update the website, new work can be seen on my Facebook page HERE.

...and now, on to Valentine's!

Lovely Gift Guide!





I was contacted in early October about being chosen for HGTV Design Star Winner Emily Henderson's holiday gift guide (this girl is on top of things to be starting in October :) It's been in the back of my mind, but I missed it going live (around Nov 1st), but after a quick google search, I happily found it HERE.

It's a beautiful guide, she does a peacock colored Christmas decor spread that is just fantastic (world globe snowmen?! awesomeness!) I'm so excited to have my drawing surrounded by such loveliness! Thanks so much to Emily Henderson for including me!

Holy Amazing Write Up



I did a really special drawing this week. A client commissioned (via Reform School) a drawing of her mother who passed away two years ago. The client is an awesome girl that I've met a few times through the shop. I try very hard to do a really good job on every portrait. Some of them, though, are especially touching and I get more invested in them because of it. This was definitely one of those cases.

I knew that this was a gift for this woman's widower, commissioned by her daughter, and I could not help but get emotional while drawing it. We lost my mother-in-law about two years ago, and my dad died when I was 23, so the emotions of losing a parent are pretty familiar to me. I actually teared up multiple times while drawing (which makes drawing a bit difficult) and then full-on cried when I was telling my husband about what a dork I am for crying while drawing. This is why I don't work in health care. I'm far too empathetic- I would probably have patients consoling me about their condition. So it's cool to me to be involved in these kinds of stories and gifts and get all wussy in the privacy of my studio.

Anyway, it turns out the Jenny, who commissioned it, also writes for XO Jane. She wrote a beautiful piece on the portrait HERE . I am honored to have been a part of such a special gift. Also, I have to say, as a girl who grew up reading Sassy magazine cover to cover the day it came in the mail- being on Jane Pratt's site geeks me out to no end! Thanks so much to Jenny for the write up. I hope that her dad likes the drawing too!

ReForm School Pop Up Shop








Last night was the opening for the pop-up shop at Reform School ("This Time it's Personal"). It was loads of fun, amazingly great friends came out, I met lovely peoples- some of whom have my work in their homes :)

If you're in L.A. please stop in to see the shop. The lovely ladies of Reform School built this massively awesome structure to house this and future pop-ups. They also have mad display skills as they set up my stuff far cuter than my ideas for it were. There's also four other great artists and printmakers in the shop; Clementine Press, Jill K in L.A., Krank Press and Paper Pastries. They are offering such amazing goods as letter pressed coasters, custom stamps, letter pressed personalized labels and custom block printed nude portraits. I'm hoping that my stuff sells enough to give me the pocket money to partake in all of their goods too!

Thanks to Virgie of Reform School for taking photos last night, especially because she took ones with me in it, which I entirely failed to do (except for one of all of our shoes). Thanks to everyone who came by as well!

Pop Up Shop Opening on Friday!



This Friday, October 21st is the opening of the pop up shop, "This Time It's Personal" at Reform School (3902 Sunset Blvd in Silverlake- LA, CA). There are 5 other artists and printmakers participating- the theme is that all of the work is customize-able and super gift-able for the holidays.

Please stop in if you're in the neighborhood, I shall be bringing my world-famous vegan cupcakes too!

Making Christmas




I was lucky enough to be asked by the delightful ladies of Reform School to participate in their holiday pop-up shop called, "This Time it's Personal". The theme is all artists who do customize-able art work. There are great artists and printmakers participating- so I'm doing my best to bring my a-game to the shop next week! I'll have custom portrait sign-up forms, these here holiday gift tags (printed all old school style- my studio reeks of oil based ink and my nails are red and green!) and a new set of prints based off of the high school series.

More details to follow, but the opening is next Friday, Oct 21st from 7-10pm. I will also be bringing cupcakes- and I do make a mean cupcake. Please stop by!

Site Update!




Huzzah! After a long day and a sore bum- the site update is complete! I replaced the handwritten words with lovely typeset ones, used my favorite gramma blue and some greys to soften it all up and added some info on the commission page. And, although I was never a fan of a landing page, I now have that. It was too hard to decide if I should put commissions, design or high school pics up there since I think a lot of people draw their conclusions about you from the first page. So, now it's like a choose your own adventure book. Well, not really, but maybe that'll be the next update!

See the changes HERE (hope you like!)

Jim Henson


(me and a Big Bird puppet circa 1979 or so)

I adore all things Muppets (like most of the world). I feel like I was born at the perfect time for prime Muppet appreciation, though. Despite living in Los Angeles, I freely admit to having just turned 36. So, by 1975, Sesame Street had hit its stride and was achieving maximum levels of awesomeness. I remember watching the beginning and believing that Barkley running and disappearing into that tree was solid evidence of magic in the world. We watched the Muppet show in the evenings, and, although I don't remember the special being on tv, listened to 'John Denver and the Muppets Christmas Together' every single year while decorating the tree. I think that the poem about Alfie the Christmas Tree probably planted the seeds for me being a vegetarian, "You see, life, is a very special kind of thing- not just for a chosen few, but for each and every living, breathing thing- not just me and you."

While my mom followed the plots of All My Children and General Hospital, I was following the plight of Big Bird trying to get the grown ups to finally see Mr. Snuffleupagus, who they believed was a figment of Big Bird's imagination. I still remember feeling vindicated when they finally met him in person. And when Mr. Hooper died... oh, man.

I don't know if I would love the Muppets and Jim Henson as much if all of his work wasn't so much a part of my youth and my life. I'm guessing that I would, though. It all stands for the things that I try hardest to keep in my life as an adult; kindness, humor and optimism. It can be difficult to live out all of the values of childhood in an adult life, but Jim Henson's work makes it seem possible. 75 years ago, an amazing force of wonder and awesomeness came into the world, and I truly believe that we're all better off for it.