Thursday, April 29, 2010

Simple Pleasures of Summer

It's been an unseasonably cold Winter and Spring here in North Florida. The days heat up but the mornings are still too damn cold. I love summer, even when I'm melting in the Florida heat and humidity. I'm longing for warm mornings and evenings, beaches, long road trips, and sticky-sweet cold treats.

Here's a few pictures that remind me summer's simple, warm embrace: Come to me, sweet summer nectar!

Early spring in St. Augustine, Florida. This sweet dog was resting in front of an Antique shop amid fragrant Rosemary bushes. A nap in the sun just feels like summer.


A reprieve from intense heat with a good gardening book and frozen yogurt. 


 Sushi is light and delicious in the summer, this Chirashi-Zushi is beautiful and colorful with fresh fish

My first tiny tomato of 2009, a Black Seaman. I can't wait to see the firs tomato of 2010 this summer. Right now my only seaman is a tiny seedling.

Juicing things! I break out my octopus juicer for mojitos, lemonade...and then more mojitos...


More frozen treats! I finally tried Asian Style shaved iced. This one was a lot like Patbingsu and it was delicious and refreshing, topped with mango, strawberries, and sweet red beans. I will have more of this treat as the temperature rises!

What makes you think of summer? Do you miss it? 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thrift Finds: Sexy Retro Ads

Saturday my roster was full, but I squeezed in time for a quick Flea Market pit stop. When I entered the hot and dusty  flea market my primal need to thrift evaporated, but I stumbled through all the aisles regardless. No major treasure was found, but I did encounter a vendor with a very tidy stall. He had records and plenty of neatly stacked retro advertisements carefully displayed in plastic sleeves, I flipped through all of them and decided on the following:

Pall Mall Cigarettes Ad
"Design, brother, modern design is plenty important!"
Too many Freudian phallic symbols in one picture, I tell you.

Ronson Lighter Ad
Ah, old-school masculinity, when a man had two expressions: a lascivious leer or a disdainful scowl.

Both ads will be framed and added to my "man corner" (where I have my pipe and red thrifted "man chair") and will likely be listed in my Etsy shop.

I also found some Sailor Moon S and Sailor Moon Super S video tapes. Sailor Moon is my guilty pleasure, I love watching this show- it's at once incredibly bad and endearing. Rabid super-animé color seizures don't hurt, either. At $1.00 each I went ahead and added these tapes to my collection of thrifted Sailor Moon tapes. These tapes are unfortunately from the American dubbed version of Sailor Moon. The voices are like nails on chalkboard  but that adds to the fun.

I didn't have a very productive thrift weekend like I'd planned. Right now I'm busy trying to decrease possessions and unpack art supplies so I can actually paint, sew, and work again. But after that herculean task is completed I'll have more room to store more thrifted junk. Ah, the cycle continues...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Frugal Aphid Murder and Transplant Lessons

It's hard to resist the allure of vegetable and herb transplants. There they are: sweet, alluring, and tangible. Seeds give only the promise of a plant in the coming weeks while a transplant is simply there, beguiling and waiting. Don't let them enchant you, this botanical horror story will take the charm away from a transplant purchase.

 Pictured front and center, the bell pepper in question

I usually start my vegetables and herbs from seed, but I couldn't resist some transplants this year. First I bought very healthy looking bell pepper transplants from the Riverside Arts Market. A couple days after I bought them home they were already infested with aphids. None of my other potted plants were infested; peculiar. I haven't seen aphids all year. Curious and curiouser.

I decided to try some organic aphid remedies I remembered:

- I made an orange peel tea/infusion. I saturated the plant with it, and waited until the next day. There were fewer aphids, but they still survived.

- The next day I strained a stronger infusion and again saturated the plants, but the aphids live on.

- I found a lady bug and placed her on a bell pepper plant. She went to work quickly eating one large aphid but didn't do more damage than that.

This weekend I bought some nice-looking eggplant transplants from the same vendor. When I was ready to transplant them I looked very carefully and noticed minuscule white aphids! They were barely detectable, but they were there.

My lesson is learned, you have to look very closely at transplants you purchase. I hope the new plants stay strong for me while I research more methods to kill the pests. I thought I was cutting corners, but now I have to spend time and energy finding ways to murder the aphids.

Van's Story Time Post: Curly Hair FAQ- It's Alive

Friday, April 23, 2010

Puerto Rico Botanical Consolation

My parents are visiting enchanting Puerto Rico right now, and I'm not. My only consolation is the fact that my parents are merely visiting to attend a very important Quinceañera celebration, they're not visiting to go sight-seeing. My mom and I are collaborating and planning a get-away where we can sight-see and see everything all the way at the highest peak of the island.
Taken in our home town of Ponce, Puerto Rico.
I hope this excursion is in the near future, but for now I'll share some of my favorite pictures from my last visit to Puerto Rico and pretend I'm there with my family.

El Yunce Tropical Rain Forrest

Imagine yourself immersed under a canopy of lush green. Refreshing cool mist hydrates and panoramic views from moss and tree covered mountain tops dazzle. From the gentle flow of abundant water falls to the chorus of tiny coquí frogs, there's nothing you can't love about Puerto Rico's Tropical Rain Forrest. I could live here, it's fresh and alive.

My Grandparent's House

One pitfall of my Puerto Rico visits is being limited to my grandparent's home with a tropical paradise out of my reach. But I never get tired of arising early, meandering outside, and enjoying the diffused light shining through glistening, waxy tree leaves in the morning. I love to harvest fresh fruit from their numerous fruit trees for breakfast.

I also like meandering down the streets and taking pictures of the houses and daily life- though it's not really a safe Barrio to meander in alone.

Undiscovered Treasures

Gentrification is changing Puerto Rico rapidly. Who knows how soon the quiet island lifestyle will be completely eclipsed by growing American consumerism? But even with the changes, if you meander just a little you'll find the “Real” Puerto Rico.

Abandoned buildings and structures rapidly disappearing into a lush tropical landscape, empty tree-lined beaches, they are all begging me to unravel their story and capture their quiet presence.

Until I can visit Puerto Rico again I'll bide my time with some Puerto Rico-themed crafts. Starting with a shadow box and a carnival mask!

My grandparent's home, colorful gymnasium across the street; horses roam everywhere

I write briefly about the "Real Puerto Rico" here: So I Have This Fantasy...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

5 Growing Lessons for Plants...And Your Business

Gardening brings soaring successes and crippling failures. We can't predict the weather, we can't control the floods, freezes, or storms. The only thing we can anticipate is the same excitement every time a new seedling germinates.

 Purple potato seedling, our first sprout of the growing season.

My recent seed spree reminds me of all of my various work projects. The seed is planted for each of my projects. I'm at the stage where I tend to each one daily. My patience for these projects have grown exponentially since I started gardening. Gardening gives daily lessons that you can apply to any kind of work.

1. Start Slowly & Start Small
Don't plant 100 seeds when you don't have a place to put them and/or the time to take care of them. Just like plants, small projects grow into larger ones quickly. Both your plants and your projects will wilt, languish, then die if you start too many and don't take care of them. Keep your numbers down to something you can manage and your plants and projects will flourish.

2. Make Small Steps Daily
It's easier to take small steps to improve your garden daily. Neglect your projects or your garden and you'll have a much harder time when the work piles up!

3. Stay Within Your Zone
Sometimes a plant will do well outside of its growing zone, but it will usually require extra hours of maintenance and care. Likewise, when you start projects in a field that you're not very skilled in, you have to put in painful extra hours. Stick to what you excel at and you'll have a much easier time with any project.

4. Patience!
You want food now! But you have to start with a tiny seed and nurture it for months before you get your pay off. My garden teaches me to do the same thing with my work. Take small steps toward the pay off.

5. Absorb the Lessons
Life is about making mistakes and learning from them. Take these mistakes with you as lessons, don't just learn them, ABSORB them and apply them to your new routine so you'll be successful next time.

Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fun Kitsch Photography Prints

These three fun photo cards were picked up this weekend at Materialistic, inc- a colorful kitsch boutique in St. Augustine, Florida.

After I bought these I realized that I gravitate towards and create photography that revolves around humor. The photos I take for this blog and for work are more editorial, but the photography I make for sale is color saturated resplendent nonsense. These photography examples raise the bar for me, I'm up for the challenge of staging more elaborate photographs in the near future.

T.V. Dinner II
Copyright 1999 Andrew Young

Dorm Diet
Copyright 2008 David Zaitz

Crazy Classroom
Copyright Donna Day/Big Cheese

Some photography tells a story, some photography makes you think. Right now I want to focus on the colorful ones that make you laugh. Who doesn't need a laugh these days?

The Thriftcore Redesign and Plans:

I've had loft goals for this blog from the start. But between the branding and marketing I do for other corporations and blogs this one turned into a place for informal writing and ranting. Behind the scenes, I'm slowly building this blog into what I originally intended. I thought I'd reflect this with a fresh new layout. Expect more changes, tutorials, and more in the near future.

Also, I finally made time to update my Marketing Projects List on my Writing Portfolio. This blog is included on the list.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Miraculous Work-Free Weekend

For the past six weekends I've been swamped. I was packing, unpacking, cleaning, planning, and working on art. This past weekend I was finally able to relax. Simply buying vegetables and soap was a cathartic and relaxing experience. It's been so long since I've been able to do anything but work!

I have to document the beauty and carefree fun of a weekend without work here on this blog because next weekend I have to get back to work; who knows when another relaxing weekend without work will return?

I finally made my way across town to get Boba tea and treats from my favorite Tea Shop. My friend Mike and I passed notes back and forth about the pretty girl sitting behind us like we were in high school.

That night I went to a Korean Karaoke bar with my friends Audrey and Jim and a few others. I never knew we had a Karaoke bar with rooms in town! I didn't expect the joint to be as fancy as it was. Very nice seating and disco balls in each room! I was so happy I sang "We are the World" by myself impersonating all of the different singers. I can't wait to return!

On Sunday I went to my favorite "thrifty city", St. Augustine (It's magic, just read this blog post) after working in the Community Garden.  We tried a new taco shop, their burritos were decent and I was equally enamored by the decor.

I love the paintings, glowing lanterns, and stimulation on every wall. I will return to try their tacos.

I finally satisfied my frozen yogurt craving and enjoyed plain yogurt with berries. Slightly healthy, right? Antioxidants! I'll keep justifying all the sugar this way.

Directly next to the frozen yogurt shop I admired a beautiful beach style garden. I love the shell planters overflowing with fragrant, healthy basil. Every element of this garden goes together so perfectly. The large, healthy rosemary bush looks appetizing!
It's been many months since I've bought clothing at retail price, but I finally indulged in a new dress. My date requested pictures and poses in it for the "occasion".The beautiful yarn flower I wear in my hair was purchased from Gayla's (of  You Grow Girl Fame) shop, Super Fantastico. It's intended for a jacket lapel and it's my favorite accessory.

I did squeeze in a bit of thrifty fun by making Japanese food at home instead of indulging in an expensive restaurant. I made Chirashi-Zushi (sushi rice with various toppings) with smoked salmon, sliced nori, cucumber, avocado, and shrimp. We had it with spicy Korean Shin Cups and iced oolong tea.

We made the affair extra nerdy by enjoying it all with extremely bad Japanese cartoons (Hentai, to be precise). It was actually unbearably bad, we couldn't finish watching it.

The weekend also gave me a few thrifty finds that I'll share in future posts. I'm still high on all of the beauty and fun that took place, it's been so long since I've had a true day off that I forgot what it was like.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Garden Masochist: Is the Torture Worth it?

No glamor, no flowers, but also no apologies. This is the real thing. This is our Community Garden. (Website).

The humidity is a damp, heavy, itchy wool sweater on your back. You are knee-deep in mud, your lungs are on fire as you attempt to haul a heaping bag of soil across the garden. In these moments of agony you ask:

 “Why do I do this to myself? On top of all my responsibilities in this modern world and my full work day, why am I torturing myself in this garden?

Our field of dreams offers unlimited potential; and hard work!

Gardening isn’t happy-hippie-sunshine-rainbows; it’s not a romp in a field of daffodils. Gardening is hairy, sticky, prickly, bloody, and sweaty. In this modern world with all of our responsibilities will power wavers. You don't want to garden. You ask yourself, “Will this garden be worth it?


Stunning cabbage maintained by our Community Garden president, Tom Dumas.

This weekend I finally had time to work in our Community Garden. I met people my age that are passionate about agriculture, eating healthfully, and creating a real sense of community in a city that lacks it. When I met these people and felt their blind young optimism I was revived.

Austin (24, Yellow Shirt) and Nic (18, Grey Shirt) inspired me. Austin recently had an epiphany. He decided to eat healthily and  lost 40lbs in two months eating raw, organic vegetables. They both have bright optimistic hope for our garden.

Our plants are thriving. The garden slowly grows, teaching us all important lessons about sacrifice and patience. Many of our goals and dreams are coming into fruition.

I’m reaffirmed; there are no more doubts. For me, gardening is worth the masochistic torture and sacrifices.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Honoring Creative Beginings

Why do you create?

Recently while looking through old Polaroids, I realized my crafty and creative beginnings were the early childhood days spent helping my mom make piñatas.

My family lived in Italy then South Carolina before we settled down in Jacksonville, Florida. We made piñatas at every stop along the way.

It all started with a "spider" that went awry and became a "California Raisin" (To explain all the wrinkles) for my twin brother's 8th birthday. From there we made and sold many piñatas- Care Bears, Ninja Turtles, My Little Ponies, Unicorns, Simpson's characters, stars, hot air balloons, snow men, blow fish, and more. They were all crafted from newspaper, flour, construction paper, and tissue paper. 

And isn't it ironic that we spent so much time crafting beautiful piñatas only so children could violently charge at them with baseball bats and beat them until they exploded with bits of rainbow colored candy?

I have so many memories of violent painful mistakes involving those baseball bats that make me laugh out loud as I type this.  Flying baseball bats and the painful collisions they caused were not funny for the child-victims at the time, but a decade later they are hilarious reminders of a childhood that wasn't pristine and "PC" like so many are now.

Mother and I work 50 hour weeks now. We haven't made a piñata in over a decade- not even for my niece's or nephew's birthdays. It's hard to force time for a project as time consuming as a piñata. But maybe this year. Maybe we'll make just one, to honor creative beginnings.

About my Ethnicity, My Ethnic FAQ at "Van's Story Time"

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Thrifty Apartment Garden Progress

My front and back stoops host fledgling container gardens. I'm struggling to keep my plant collection small for ease of maintenance, but I know the amount of containers will increase as the months go by.

 This is the side of my apartment. 

The retro frog piece cast off from my friend Ruth's mom. The dinosaurs are all from flea markets and thrift stores. I love placing dinosaur toys in pots, it gives them a fun diorama effect.

Bell pepper, tomatoes, mint, basil, & a marigold for color
I have parsley and basil which are essential for the simple Italian dishes I make. The big pot with a tomato cage within is awaiting its Black Seaman transplant. The two pots with small green stakes contain bell pepper transplants.

 Door on the right is my apartment's "side door", it goes to my kitchen. 

Tonight I'm going to place sunflower seeds along the side of the apartment and grow a few herbs and flowers from seed. With all my other responsibilities and memories of last year's crippling gardening failure (oh, those damn torrential floods) I'm keeping my gardens very simple this year!

 My garden at the front door fresh after watering. Parsley, Stevia, Cosmos and a Marigold

Monday, April 12, 2010

Jacksonville Retro Art Show Recap

Retro music, games, and fun combined to make a giant crime fighting Art Show robot at our Poprocks & Pop Art Rocks Art Show this weekend! Here's a few pictures to commemorate the fun:
The view from the outside.

 A thrifted Power Rangers Megazord is guardian of the candy! He's one of my prized possessions.
 Go Go Retro Toys Power, Activate!
 Ashley and James' gorgeous illustrations, retro galore!

 My deranged toy fun, I'm so sorry children of the world!

We still have plenty of artwork (and enough candy to give violent sugar seizures to the masses) so we're taking the retro art show on the road. If you missed the first showing, be prepared to see us again in a Jacksonville venue in the coming weeks. We had an amazing time, and I'm excited to produce more pieces for future shows. I already have a series of Mario paintings in the works!

My friend Audrey interviewed Ashely, James, and me for Urban Jacksonville. Check out the interview: Pop Rocks and Pop Art Rock

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