Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Coffee Nation // Caffeination

#illustration of a little girl in a coffee cup

I love this little illustration (by Kuso Design). Here's a less cutesy riff on a similar theme, by Jerod Gibson:

Coffee in America by Jerod Gibson #illustration #art

Forgive me, but I'm going to promote my job real quick: recently I managed to quote myself in a Creeklife post about coffee grounds and did a little surreptitious mug-curating in another.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Spring Celebration

I am grateful for my neighbors and their tendency to cultivate flowers. I can't imagine living somewhere that doesn't light up in March and bloom gloriously in April.

bright neighborhood flowers bright neighborhood flowers bright neighborhood flowers

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Death At Home

I've had this study on my to-read list for a while: "Actual and Preferred Place of Death of Home-Dwelling Patients in Four European Countries: Making Sense of Quality Indicators". Yeah, the title is a mouthful. To be honest, I skimmed the middle sections, because I wouldn't understand the statistics anyway. Hopefully the researchers' conclusions are solidly drawn. I selected a couple of pertinent quotes to share:

"[There] is a strong overlap between dying at home and dying in the preferred location, found in all countries."

North Korea - Old house

"Achieving a situation in which all patients die at home or all preferences are known might not be desirable or realistic. Home deaths may be suggested as an outcome of high-quality palliative care, but might give the impression that home deaths are the golden standard while for some patients this is not the best or preferred option. It misses out small minorities of patients who died in their preferred location elsewhere or who died at home without preferring home."

There ya go. Most people prefer to die at home, but not all of them. File that under, "I realize why you wanted to confirm your assumptions with data, but duh."

A less analytical investigation of domestic morbidity can be found in One Day Later, a photo collection by Bolshakov. The laconic description reads, "apartment of my grandfather in one day after his death". Just a few samples...

«one day later»: bedroom «one day later»: kitchen «one day later»: kitchen «one day later»: drawing-room

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Extraordinary Produce Section

Not all vegetable arrangements are found at grocery stores and county fairs. Giuseppe Arcimboldo was an Italian painter who had his heyday in the mid-1500s, and to the best of my knowledge he never worked the checkout at Trader Joe's. Arcimboldo is most famous for a visual gimmick that should be called "artistic salad", or maybe "ratatouille du musée". Observe:

The man did not restrict himself to a vegetarian palette:

optical illusion portrait, face made out of birds

And so on. Read more about the artist here. Images from Wikimedia: 1 & 2.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Flowers In The Mailbox

apartment mailbox slot stuffed with pink flowers

Yesterday, one of the mailbox slots at my boyfriend's apartment was stuffed with pink flowers. He was more annoyed than charmed, but I fell in love with the pretty springtime gesture. X explained that "little girls did it". Presumably some neighborhood Mädchen giggled and grinned while executing their floral plan. What could be more endearing? ("A place to put your letters," X might say in a curmudgeonly tone.)

mailbox slot stuffed with pink flowers pink flowers on the concrete

Sunday, April 20, 2014


I'm just so tired.

All of us with typical suburban bedrooms, we know the feeling of collected shadows and an unmade bed. Greasy hair that you don't want to wash (#guilty) and sleeping in so late that you know you'll feel groggy for the rest of the day. It's horrible, even deadening. At least that was my experience. Now my alarm clock goes off at 8 and I'm up by 9. I love being around while the morning happens.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Rainbow For Dinner

artistic Swedish grocery store display of vegetables

My dad forwarded me an email from someone in his garden club: photos of beautiful vegetable displays, ostensibly in a Dutch grocery store. I reverse-searched the pictures, but no luck. My dad apparently has more Google karma than I do, because he turned up a blog post that sourced the photos. (Thank you so much, Twisted Sifter!) Which means, yay, that I can share them with you! As it turns out, they're all from different places.

There was a short living room discussion about whether Dwelling Process, an "investigation of house & home", has jurisdiction over grocery stores. My parents supported my instinct that gathering food is an extension of dwelling. I'm sure y'all were worried about whether this is beyond the scope of my blog, haha!

Grange fruit and veggie display

// Jennifer B //

Chelsea flower show 2012

// Farrukh //

Zupan's in Portland, OR, fabulous vegetable display

Gathering the harvest

Vectored Vegetables

Fruit and Vegetable Display at Puyallup Fair

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Illustration & Animation

House #illustration print, ocean and sailboat streaming out of the Opening Doors House #illustration print, ocean and sailboat streaming out of the Opening Doors

// $35 //

Waves streaming out of a starry house. It's like something from a dream, or Ponyo:

Ponyo running on water

She's such a cutie.

My Thoughts are Like Houses, #illustration print

// $10 //

That one is like Up! in reverse:

floating house from Up! #fantasy

I love whimsy. What would I do without whimsy? I would breathe more tightly, I think. Luckily, there are artists with expansive minds. Onward, my friends!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cottages & El Call

House and Garden #illustration digital printStuffed house ornament // cute cottage stuffy // fabric house

// print: $35 // stuffy: $10 //

Cute little houses: my favorite! I would especially like a squishy one for my very own. Maybe I will replicate that personally. After all, I haven't touched the sewing machine in a while...

In keeping with the picture above, I want to move to a not-very-related topic: "The Spanish government recently announced an official fast-track path to citizenship for any individual who is Jewish and whose ancestors were expelled from Spain during the inquisition-related dislocation of Spanish Jews in 1492." Quote from a 2014 study by Joshua Weitz. The rest of the report is about genetics, an interesting subject, but that opening is what truly intrigues me. Spain's apologetic gesture seems to reveal a particular perspective on how a nation becomes home to a certain kind of person. As a pro-multiculture American who was raised in a very diverse part of California, I find it somewhat puzzling that birth would determine one's entitlement to a country. And yet the conventional idea of a home is indeed the space and context into which one was born. Well, I do approve of Spain's deference to the descendants of Jewish communities forced into further diaspora.

El Call (Jewish Quarter) - Barcelona, Spain

The Jewish Quarter in Barcelona; photo by David Berkowitz.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Chapati // Roti

collage featuring Indian woman making chapati, mushroom stamp, baby blue background

I just Googled "chapati history" to see what I could turn up about one of India's traditional staple foods, "an unleavened bread made from wheat flour [and] often baked over an open fire" (see my collage for the full quote). One of the search results was this article, which quickly moves into data-based analysis, but first provides a summary of the food's ubiquity:

"Sorghum roti is known by various names in the different languages of India: chapati (Hindi), bhakri (Marathi), rotla (Gujarati), rotte (Telugu), etc. Roti is consumed by children from the age of 2 years as well as adults (Subramanian and Jambunathan 1980). It is eaten at breakfast, lunch, and supper and is frequently stored overnight. Farmers generally carry rotis prepared early in the morning to the fields for lunch. Rotis are generally stacked in a pile wrapped in cloth and stored in perforated baskets. Occasionally, they are sun-dried and stored for more than a week.

Roti is consumed with several side dishes depending upon the socioeconomic status of the consumer, e.g., cooked vegetables, dhal, meat, milk, curd, buttermilk, pickles, chutneys, sauce, etc. (Subramanian and Jambunathan 1980). Rotis are softened with milk or buttermilk before feeding to old people and children."

// aconica //

And then there is the highly amusing Chapati Mystery (also explained on Smithsonian). However, my hunger was not sated (if you'll excuse the pun).

I think I was looking for a conceptual exploration of staple foods and their role in creating homefeel. I know that my mom makes the same few meals over and over again. I enjoy that, given a certain amount of variation. But I personally happen to be fond of routines, and of my mom's cooking. That might not be true of everyone or even of most people; I simply don't know. Anyway, a staple food is something different: the repetition is there, but the key aspect is that it makes up the bulk of a person's nutritive substance, the calories required for the work of living. There is too much of a diverse balance in my middle-class American diet for the idea of a staple food to even be relevant.

I'm stumped. I don't want to spout off with nothing to back it up.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Magic Of Whimsy

Illustrator and designer Lydia Nichols kindly spoke to me about some of the pieces in her shop, as well as the portrait that made me realize I wanted to interview her:

Q // House Sitter: the girl is far larger than the building, and she seems dismayed and forlorn. Does this illustration reflect a particular experience?

A // This illustration came a bit more out of mood than experience--that feeling of things not quite working or fitting, of being a bit exhausted.

Q // The objects in your home/kitchen prints are arranged to fill space meticulously, like an intuitive, orderly puzzle. Are organization and clarity important aspects of your own living areas?

A // It's funny--I used to be horribly disorganized as a kid. Somewhere along the line things changed and now a bit of order is essential to my productivity. That doesn't mean I don't have stacks of sketches about, but I try to tidy at the end of each day so that I have a workable space the next day. It makes it way easier to be productive!

Q // What's the story behind the "tea friends"? Is someone invisible holding the pot, or is it hovering through the magic of whimsy?

A // Haha, I suppose it's hovering through the magic of whimsy! A lot of my work has a whimsical quality and that's one of the great joys of being a illustrator--you can show things that can't really happen. You can create worlds and people and scenarios that you would never encounter in real life. It's a visual manifestation of the imagination.

Illustration ... is a visual manifestation of the imagination.

// quote background: pencil pow-wow //

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Where To Keep A Rabbit

Bunny Dream House by Sandra Steffensen. It's shaped like a giant carrot stuck in the ground! My rabbits live in a veritable palace, but it's more rectangular:

bunny palace // outdoor enclosure for rabbits

We ordered this enclosure from K9 Kennel Store, and I helped my dad set it up. There were some quality control issues with the panels, and the supply of zip ties was definitely inadequate, but the end result is perfectly functional. In fact, the rabbits enjoy having their little domains. They hang out in there voluntarily, especially during their afternoon naptime.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


City and House Icons by Wijtze Valkema. I love illustration. Although maybe this would be design? Both are loosely defined segments of the visual arts pie. I consider illustrative work to be anything intentionally representative, of a concept or a narrative. That's super vague, though, right?

Thursday, April 3, 2014



// Kiko Alario Salom //

I sat down to research kitchens on Google Scholar, to see what I could find, and it was disheartening because I hit so many paywalls. I need to get journal access sorted out for myself ASAP, probably by liaising with a librarian. (Well, I did manage to find this somewhat fluffy article by Johnny Grey.) Having come up with nothing to quote, I am confronted with the daunting necessity of presenting my own experiences. Maybe even opinions?!

The kitchen is where cooking happens. The basic stuff of life is manipulated and even created in this domain. Traditionally food preparation has been regarded as "women's work", across many cultures, so I feel an instinctive fierceness about yeasty half-made bread, dripping whey, and simmering bone-broth. Personally, I mostly know how to fry things, although I can also make hollandaise sauce and brownies, two signature dishes of my mom's.

Within the kitchen, heritage is transmitted. My mother is always eager to help me decipher a recipe scrawled by someone who's dead now, and she demands that I watch when she cooks something that she wants me to cook for my hypothetical children. It takes many repetitions before I remember what I'm supposed to do, but I do like the idea of having cinnamon bread at holidays forever.

I like that the kitchen is a place of ritual and patterns. The cheese is always in the same compartment of the refrigerator, and I know which drawer holds the silverware. It is profoundly disorienting to navigate someone else's kitchen, the layout of which seems so nonsensical, as if designed to confound expectations.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Nippon: Memories & Health

MEMORIES OF JAPAN 1963: A Pastel by Robert L. Huffstutter

MEMORIES OF JAPAN 1963 by Robert Huffstutter, which I would like much better without the frame, but oh well.

Speaking of Japan, a study from 2010 says of that country's populace, "In recent years, systematic reviews have found that social capital may be a useful factor in the prevention of mental illness." That observation could be extrapolated to just about any national community. The researchers were careful to avoid being hyper-emphatic, noting that "the present study used a cross-sectional design, so that we could not establish the temporal order of causality. In other words, the association between civic association membership and better mental health might have reflect reverse causation, i.e. the fact that individuals with better mental health status participated in groups, rather than the other way round (participation leading to improved mental health)." [Bold added.] Based on personal experience and general knowledge, I would say (unscientifically) that it's probably both.

Pink Trees & Yellow Shingles & Red Siding

A house pattern--my favorite kind at the moment--by Marusha on Dribbble. I want to add more ~deep~ content to this blog, but it's exhausting. How is it that I have nothing going on but still feel so busy???