Author Archives: Laura E. Alvarez

About Laura E. Alvarez

Multimedia artist, uses music, art, outfits and writing to tell stories.

A Love Affair with Aprons and a Really Good Waffle Recipe

I’m having an art show. DAS:  Clothes Stories.

So, let’s talk about aprons. Art show, aprons… It will all make sense later.  I personally adore aprons. I think they are fantastic. There are many reasons for my appreciation of these utilitarian accessories. First of all, they represent action. Like a superhero, I can put one on, and suddenly I have PURPOSE. Before, I was just standing around. Apron on? I have things to do. Watch out. And they have pockets. Pockets for instruments and tools – tools to be used for highly technical and important creative endeavors. I even love their cousins. Yes, their cousins:  the lab coat and the mechanic suit. Aprons also add an interesting layer. I treat them like adding a top skirt to a pair of pants. Open in the back. So… surprising. While, the apron is a call to action, it is also a disguise. Like Banksy says, no one questions you when you have on a hard hat, a reflective vest, and are holding a clipboard. Witnesses think, “Ah, business as usual.” The apron is my reflective vest. I can be in almost any situation, and people think, “Right. She knows what she’s doing.”

I have so many aprons for painting in, that I am able to match them to my outfit. A denim apron even lives in my car for mobile action. I also have several vintage – 40’s, 50’s, and early 80’s for cooking in.

Even though I admire those cooking aprons, they haven’t been used as much as the painting ones. “But why, Laura?” you are now asking. I know! It’s so fascinating. The irony!

I think it’s time for a timeline about my history with cooking. Clearly.

1978. One of my favorite tv shows as a kid was I Love Lucy. I liked everything old when I was a kid. Well, I still do. And because I also loved clothes, I really loved Lucy’s housewife costumes. She made an apron look so glamorous. I had no dreams of being a housewife, but I did believe in elevating whatever I was doing through how I dressed for it. I remember days when I would come out of my room on a Saturday morning, “dressed” for cleaning. My mom would send me back to change. What? Immaculate white slacks and new Hawaiian shirt not appropriate right now?

1984. I’ve always been a feminist. When I was a teenager my dad teased me that no one would want to marry a woman who didn’t know how to cook — that was me. No worries, though. I was not deterred by this remark for the following four reasons:

  1. I, unlike him was a product of a 70’s education that taught me that I could do anything — that I did not have to conform to a gender role.
  2. I was his youngest child, only girl of five children. I assumed he didn’t know how to talk to a girl. Comment dismissed.
  3. Teasing is part of being raised Chicano. I don’t know why, but it just is. I’m sure there’s a dissertation on it somewhere if you search the internets. It’s why if I am ever teased I usually just think it’s funny.
  4. And lastly, like my dad, I am a Leo, so I was totally full of myself.

So, what was my response? Well, being the youngest, I had something to prove. I told him that the person I married would be an amazing cook. That of course, came true!

1987 I blame my lack of cooking experience at 18 years old on Mexican rules where by birth order, my mother was not taught to cook by her mother. She didn’t have a clue as to how to cook even a tortilla when she married my dad. She taught me how to keep house, iron, and make my own clothes which is pretty cool, though. When it came to cooking, she modeled how to see it as a burden. Thanks to my mother-in-law, the person I met in college (that I would eventually marry) knew how to cook and really enjoyed it. He was actually adventurous about it. So, it was then easy to say, “Oh, okay you’ve got it, then. Great.” It was an excuse to just kind of take a back seat and not try.

1990. I was going to the U.K. for a year of art study. For the first time, I asked my mom to show me how to make her staples. Sure, she wasn’t able to let me do the actual cooking, but she did let me ask questions and take notes. This is how I learned how to make Mexican rice, beans, guacamole and flour tortillas. What more did I need to know?

1991. Once back in the states, a wonderful friend we made in the UK came to stay with us for a while. I observed him teaching my boyfriend everything he knew about cooking. He is one of those people that can make a vegetarian feast out of whatever is in your fridge and cupboard. It’s all gourmet and everything, too. This approach definitely inspired me for the future.

1996. I remember the first time I cooked chicken – how my husband liked it so much that I thought, “Oh, no. Now I have no excuse now!”

1998-2006. There is no noteworthy cooking to speak of for these years. Why? It’s called BABIES, and while I thought that would mean more cooking, it actually meant less. Less for both of us. I mean, who has energy to cook when you are running baths, changing diapers, and not sleeping? Those were the years we became best friends with the frozen aisle at Trader Joe’s. I do remember making a good Aztlan casserole one time, dropping a just cooked salmon on the floor of the kitchen when we had GUESTS, and letting my mother-in-law believe I made the apple pie crust. I didn’t lie! I just didn’t offer more information when she liked it so much.

2007.  See, now the littlest one was finishing preschool, and I was teaching full-time again. One day something just opened up. I decided to make pancakes. I started with the pancakes of my youth, so first I tried mixes. I grew up with Bizquick. Yes, my childhood was where born-on-the-ranch tradition meets the conveniences born in the 50’s. Bizquick was cool, but now I was kinda leaning toward a gluten free diet, so I tried half Bizquick and half gluten free mix. I know. It doesn’t really make sense, and I can’t explain the logic. Artists experiment. Eventually, I got really into spelt. Yum. I got to know the flour sifter, the importance of a seasoned skillet, different kinds of milks (from raw cow’s milk to rice milk and everything in between), and the awesome qualities of clarified butter. We had pancake parties and crepe parties with all kinds of toppings and fillings. Everyone loved it.

2015. Now there were teenagers and one of them decided to go for a gluten/dairy/SUGAR free diet that lasted until he went off to college. Before that, I was just messing around because I felt better with less gluten, but this was a little more serious. There was a lot more experimenting with different kinds of lower glycemic sugars like agave, maple syrup, honey and coconut.  One recipe I figured out and that all of their friends loved was waffles.  It’s based on a recipe from my mother-in-law’s 1950’s Joy of Cooking cookbook but that I updated for a mostly dairy/gluten/processed sugar-free diet. My advice is to just make the waffles and then tell the eaters about the ingredients. They’ll be so impressed and surprised!

Joy of Cooking Waffles Remix (Gluten, Sugar, Mostly Dairy Free)                                              Scroll down for just the recipe.  
img_0499See, I got basically everything at Trader Joe’s but you can find everything at most healthy markets. It’s just way cheaper at T.J.’s!img_0500 Sifting is so fun! People think it’s added work, but to me it is like playing with a toy.img_0501 Melting the butter in the lovely iron skillet. Got that going right away. So efficient.img_0503 Look, you can use three bowls just like me! Dry ingredients in one. Yolks in one. Whites in one.img_0504 I didn’t show using the electric hand mixer to mix the whites or the egg yolks with the milk and butter because it was just me and the iphone which I didn’t want to drop in the egg. But here, you can see having made the hole in the dry ingredients.img_0506 Mixing in the yolk, milk, butter.img_0508 And finally, flopping in the egg whites which are so fluffy.img_0511Okay, this is the MOST fun part and when I often think of The Coffee Prince. Loved that Korean drama where the beautiful Japanese boy with the intriguing back story had a waffle stand that all the girls would flock to.img_0512And every time I think, “Why didn’t I put a nice big cookie sheet under that waffle iron. Why? I think my dad found this iron in the alley. Don’t worry. It’s clean.   img_0513Total decadence. I don’t usually do this. This is actually really good ice cream from Trader Joe’s, of course.

img_0593And now, here is my adorable handy, dandy apron I sewed by copying an apron I already had and using whatever I could find in the magical closet under the stairs. Some of these trimmings are from ancient, ancient times I tell you! Yes, another apron for my collection, and the first one I sewed myself. This one is just for cooking, though.

Which brings me back to my art show. DAS: Clothes Stories is up through December, 2017. If you follow this link, you can get all the 411. The show includes the drawing you see at the beginning of this post, other drawings, paintings, an apron I wore in the first DAS (Double Agent Sirvienta) short film, and a t shirt from my new collection. If you’re in Los Angeles, check it out! It’s where my art meets Clothes Stories. Bringing it all together. A dream come true!

Check out more of my art at World of DAS.

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Create Your World

See those hands?  That’s how I feel about asking someone if I can take their photo. I have always been drawn to street fashion photography ever since I used to peruse  magazines at a local Japanese bookstore. That’s where I first became aware of it. I was excited by the curated windows into everyday people’s style on the street. Eventually, in the mid-00’s I would see these street style blogs popping up, not to mention Bill Cunningham’s work in newspapers and magazines prior to that.The blogs brought it more to my attention and they were INTERNATIONAL. Stockholm, Helskinki, Mexico City, Kingston. It became a merry-go-round of looks unique to those hoods.  So, why the hesitation to participate in such a happening trend? Maybe it’s shyness. Maybe I think people will feel like I’m stealing their souls — or, that I just won’t take a good photo of them! I mean, I have more confidence taking photos of objects. My first attempt was when I met a particularly stylish woman at a friend’s party. Vintage 60’s hostess dress. Jewelry she made herself. Her makeup was so Elizabeth Taylor from Cleopatra days. Oh, man. Anyway, the photos came out dark and her dress was all wrinkled — not in a good way. So, I didn’t try again. I blamed it on not having business cards to give out. I did start taking photos of family members which served as a warm up. I was comfortable with them; they would even take direction.  Friends were a different story, though. You know, “I’m coming over to take your picture. No, don’t worry about your outfit (But of course, you’ll look stunning because you always do, but no pressure, really).”  In my coffee post I got some practice with strangers. “Can I take a picture of you doing latte art? I mean I’m advertising the café and everything!” No problem, they replied. It was easier than I thought.  This post is yet another baby step. I could totally try to trick you and say, “Oh, yeah. I came across this really striking woman in a parking lot. I don’t know anything about her, but doesn’t she look amazing??” But then, enough friends read this blog that know her and would ask me, “What are you trying to pull, Laura? Isn’t that our friend? ”  Did you see what just happened there? She turned around and there was THAT. The outfit that slays as it walks away. I personally need more bustles in my life. Thanks, for letting me practice my street photography on you, Kai. I did just run into her on the street, but in all telepathic honesty I did wish upon a morning star that she would be at the meeting I was attending. Here, I was leaving the meeting and she was arriving. And in all skill-crutch honesty, I took none of these photos. Evan was with me and he has a DEGREE in photography. And lastly, in all historical honesty, one time Kai and I made an elaborate plan to meet at the art museum and do a whole photo shoot relating a great piece of art to an outfit she would wear. But she was like, “Ah, I realized I don’t work that way. Too much thinking.”  I do a lot of thinking with my outfits, OBVIOUSLY. I really enjoy it. Kai says she just goes into her closet every morning and is like a painter with a palette. If it doesn’t work right away she just adds more. I love the description of that process. I love it’s honest simplicity. Ha.I could go on and on about Kai’s style. Every time I see her it’s a treat. It’s not just her vibrant personality, humor, intellect, and childlike curiosity (she’s always learning something new)… it’s her excellent outfits! Yes, they make me think of poetic mystery and romantic epic adventures, but also they are a reminder to be myself in every aspect of my life. Yes, an outfit can do that. While she is in the intuitive moment every morning as she faces her “palette”, she is always true to herself. She wears her spirit on the outside. More of that.   

Jacket by TBA. Skirt vintage, by Penelope. Under t no label. Bag by Fatface. Boots by Florentini + Baker.

All photos by Evan Hartzell.

Best Coffee and Tea Drinks of Los Angeles!

Yeah, and I don’t mean tea shirts! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. I am so funny.

But seriously, I go to cafe’s a lot. Before kids, with kids (there was a lot of drawing), and after kids. After kids meaning kids are teens now and even though they still love a good “coffee cookie” as we called it, they are just really busy, and like in college and stuff. So, since I figured out that variety is really helpful for my creative process ( I used to write in the same cafe for months and then switch. I called them residencies.), I end up trying a lot of different coffees and teas in Los Angeles. There is still so many more drinks to try, but for the most part these are served close by where I teach or live.

So, I am so excited to share with you my “Best Coffee and Tea Drinks of Los Angeles” list! But, because this IS a Clothes Story, I will describe the outfit that would best go with each cafe. Naturally.

A word about “best”. Now, you think because a place has the best matcha then why doesn’t it have a killer cappuccino? It is clearly a mystery of the coffee and tea universe. Also, this of course is all just a matter of my taste buds. But I have to tell you, that yes, I have tried cappuccino’s at all of these places and more and there is only one cappuccino that is the best in my book in LA County, and I know a lady from Milan who agrees with me. But just because they make the best cappuccino at that fine establishment does not mean they make my favorite chai latte. I know! Is there any rhyme or reason to this? Let’s just enjoy that there is a reason to venture and mix it up. Because depending on what hot caffeinated drink you are in the mood for, there is a cafe for every occasion.

Latte: Coffee Tomo

Shout out to Bryan for the latte and to Alejandra for the cutie bear Tomo Latte.

To be honest, sometimes I get the worst impressions of people the first time I meet them. There have been instances when someone who ends up being dear to my heart is also someone I thought I would never be friends with the first time I met them. Usually, it’s just crazy circumstance. That is what happened with Coffee Tomo. It was one of those ozone depleted days. I parked near Cinefile because I needed to purchase a Miyazaki film to give to a birthday girl. Evan wanted coffee and we didn’t want to re-park, so we walked and walked under a sun that seemed to grow hotter and more scalding with every step towards the epicenter of Sawtelle. Maybe I was close to sun stroke; I don’t know, but when we walked into a cafe I ordered an iced coffee and I don’t even like iced coffees. I put sugar in it. I don’t usually put sugar in my coffee. See, how we were off to a wrong start? That was Coffee Tomo. So, then I would see the cafe from afar on other visits to that hood and subconsciously think, “Oooh, sunstroke coffee.” But then one cool and breezy night, I was meeting a friend at Balconi down the street and there was no place to sit, so we wandered down Sawtelle finding no other espresso bar type places. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted Coffee Tomo. “Well, I guess we can go there.” “Oooh,” said my friend looking at the menu on the wall, “Let’s order a pretzel!” She’s a foodie. “What?” I said. “They don’t have food here. Where do you see that?” “Right there,” she said, pointing at the menu. “They make FRESH pretzels to order. I’m getting one with red bean paste and cheese!” Before I knew it she inquired about the Tomo Latte made with condensed milk. We ordered two pretzels and two Tomo Lattes. Incredible. Then I loved the place and kept going there ordering pretzels filled with cheese and Tomo Lattes. Of course, the Tomo Lattes were tasty; they had condensed milk in them! But, then, one day — no, this riveting story is not over yet — Evan and I just slipped in for a moment to get two coffees to go and I ordered a simple latte. I didn’t even think about it. I was skipping the Tomo Latte because I go off sugar at least once a day. I stepped back onto the sidewalk, took a sip of that latte and it was like the clouds parted and the most beautiful ozone-protected sun shined through right onto me and my latte. I had gone to latte heaven. I’m not kidding. I actually said, “What is this?!” And Evan said, “Laura. You ordered a latte, right?” “Yeah! But it’s so GOOD.” Did I mention they roast those beans every morning in house? Maybe that matters.

And this I know because I have tried lattes EVERYWHERE. Yeah, like donuts, which brings us to…

Oh, wait. The outfit. Coffee Tomo is best in a super comfy cashmere oatmeal beige hoody sweater with equally comfy black stretchy modern slacks. Slip on leather sneakers. Hair in up do. Bring your homework.

Hong Kong Milk Tea:  Cafe DulceThe crown of all Hong Kong milk teas can be found at Cafe Dulce. (And the best Spirulina churros) in Little Tokyo.  I know this list is Japanese neighborhood heavy so far. I know. I never even had a Hong Kong milk tea until I tried this one, and then I thought, “WHAT just happened to my mouth?!” I have since tried others, thinking, “Yay, they make Hong Kong milk teas, too!” only to be disappointed. Don’t be disappointed. Go to Cafe Dulce. And everyone is really friendly that works there. I would put Cafe Dulce on my “Friendliest Cafes in LA” list if I had one. Did you know that some cafe’s actually train their staff to not be friendly? I know this for a fact, and I have this game I play at those cafe’s. It’s like trying to make the guards at Kensington Palace laugh, except getting it to actually work. You might be surprised that you don’t have to try that hard. It’s just that everyone gets intimidated right away and usually doesn’t try. Tangent! Oh, yeah, and because Cafe Dulce is in Little Tokyo, you can go to Footland, my favorite place for sneakers.

Outfit: Well, cosplay. Duh.

Matcha Latte:  Gjustamatcha-latteYou know how when you go to Paris, you feel like Paris just makes you a better person? That is what the unsweetened 100% organic homemade almond/hazelnut milk matcha latte at Gjusta in Venice does. When I’m drinking that nut milk matcha latte in an earthy cup, I just feel so… right. I feel smart. Like, “I made a smart decision today.” Sure, it was just about what hot drink to get, but it feels like so much more. Did I mention that EVERYTHING at Gjusta is locally grown and organic. That’s right. That biscuit will not give me a stomach ache. Yay. And they serve it in a cup that feels so satisfying to hold. The cup is a collaboration between Gjusta and a ceramic artist, and you can buy them next door. Again, locally grown; I’m not kidding. So, yes, that is a fresh biscuit and homemade jam that is not too sweet in the background. Gjusta is a bakery after all. I know I keep saying homemade, but at Gjusta everything tastes like someone loved you while they made it.

Outfit: Omg; I have a WHOLE Pinterest board about Gjusta as an outfit. Not even kidding.

Macchiato: The Conservatory for Coffee and TeaThe Conservatory for Coffee and Tea has a decades-old, excellent reputation for quality and personal attention. Macchiatos are a drink where you need a strong, beautiful espresso. With only a mark of steamed milk, the espresso is on stage. It’s live! This macchiato at The Conservatory on Friday afternoons could become a tradition for me. Why? Two words: Live. Jazz. Imagine my surprise when one Friday afternoon — well, first of all, I found parking in the back! — as I approach The Conservatory doors I hear a sound that goes straight to my heart: a live stand up bass and a dreamy electric guitar. I had the pleasure of meeting on bass, the amazing Michael Saucier and on guitar the super pro Josh Skair. I talked to A.J. the owner of The Conservatory and he said they try to have a couple of hours of live jazz every Friday afternoon. Omg. The secret is out. You had me at coffee roaster right in the room, with specially chosen beans, expert baristas producing the a superb macchiato in a cup that reminds me of Coyoacan, Mexico. Then, you had to put live jazz on top of it?? An embarrassment of riches. THIS is an experience. You’re welcome.

Outfit: One of those 40’s silk flowered dresses with jelly heels we used to wear in the early-mid nineties. Crocheted matador style wrap. Red lipstick. No jewelry.

Photo by Evan Hartzell.

Cubano: Commissary

I feel like so many of my coffee and tea stories are about surprises. It’s true! Here’s another one. Now, everything on The Commissary (which has four locations, but I am speaking of an unassuming little industrial modern spot below a modern apartment building in Palms – yeah, I know their website says Culver City) menu is pretty solid — God, we are so spoiled coffee-wise in LA — but it’s The Cubano  that made me go there just for the drink. This is not a traditional Cuban coffee. The coffee is “espectacular” from Ethiopia, the cinnamon sugar syrup is added, creating all at once a cappuccino like drink that takes you to a fantasy version of Cuba that is very “internacional”. The drink was a surprise because I wasn’t expecting anything so out of the ordinary, and ordered The Cubano on a whim. The name was inspiring. I’m not going to tell you that the iced matcha latte is also supreme because I am really strict about only talking about one drink per establishment.

Outfit: Understated yet elegant gray linen dress like a flower grower in Japan crossed with an unexplainably stylish programer. Copper earrings. Clogs.

Iced Coffee:  Philz CoffeeDon’t be put off by the Halloween candy corn hoe down aesthetic of Philz Coffee (or the strange lighting. No seriously. One was covered in fluorescents. Another was spookily dark. I’m sensitive to lighting.) If you have to put on shades or bring a flash light, do it because of the Mint Mohito which is an iced coffee indulgence like no other. Medium blend coffee (their actual straight coffee comes close to competing for my just plain coffee winner), sprigs of fresh wild mint, cream, and organic brown sugar. Not too sweet, coffee has depth, and the mint mixes with the cream like they are in deep love with each other. I’m not the only one who has a Philz Coffee Mint Mohito story of coming to Jesus, but here’s mine. We were visiting our son during his freshman year of college. The three of us sat on a bench under a canopy of trees.  Suddenly, he turned serious. “Oh. (Pauses) I want to tell you guys about something.” We were on the edges our seats. This was obviously some big news or revelation he wanted to tell us about. He didn’t usually talk like this. Normally, we asked a lot of questions and he was “encouraged” to share with us. “There’s this drink. The Mint Mohito. At Philz Coffee. I think you would like it.” This was not a simple sharing of a new favorite drink. We took him seriously, went to a Philz the next weekend, and ordered said drink. Upon tasting my drink (I hadn’t looked at it’s description on the menu) I realized that our son was trying to tell us something.

My baby had started drinking coffee.

Outfit: I’m thinking Ginny Weasley home on holiday. Enough said.

Chai Latte:  Intelligensia

With the matcha dipped croissant? I usually do not indulge! To be truly enjoyed, the chai latte needs to stand alone, but it was so pretty! Photo by Evan Hartzell.

I used to make fun of Venice. Well, Venice is always an easy target. Always has been. Even in the 1920’s newspapers people wondered “why all the flotsam and jetsam always ended up in Venice?” They were referring to people, not marine debris. I lived in Venice for a number of years, dragging myself down the hill from sunny Santa Monica where I had spent most of my LA life and which I understood because Santa Monica was a “real city” with a mayor, a top notch recycling program, and everything. And it felt solid. Someone who has been through a couple of major quakes appreciates living on bedrock. So, when people would say, “Oh, you live in Venice. That’s so cool!” I would respond with “It’s a swamp.” They didn’t understand. But you know, places grow on you. And then places change. Some places change A LOT in a really short amount of time. Like Venice. Now, Intelligentsia on Abbot Kinney is old change. It goes back to 2009! Ancient. People swear by their Intelligentsia coffee experience. It’s pretty serious behind that counter. They roast their beans and everything. But I’m weird. I go there for the chai latte. And I get it with almond milk, so just imagine how delicious it would be with dairy. Don’t imagine. Go try it. Again, had this chai latte; disappointed by pretty much all others. It’s not too sweet. Elegant foam. Not too spicy, but spicy enough. Every sip makes me so happy. Besides the chai latte, the people watching is top notch. Lots of “creatives”. See? Can’t stop making fun of Venice.

Outfit: Oh, man. I gave Gjusta my Venice outfit board?! Okay… Blue Nepalese wrap skirt, black Hungarian, embroidered top, gold leather flats. “I know the person who made this” necklace.

Honey Latte: Bardonna

 This drink could go on the “Recent Discovery” list. I really shouldn’t include it since I only went here once and so only had this one drink there, but I am still affected by the experience. This was an emergency experience so I feel a little indebted to these people. Very FWP. Here’s what happened. The other day I took a risk and ordered an “almond latte” at a VERY fancy pressed juice establishment in a VERY fancy neighborhood. I did this because I was cold and about to sit in the wind for 3.5 hours. Don’t ask. (Okay; related to teenagers that don’t have time to go get coffee with me.) I even looked up best coffee in the area I was in and found nothing. See, I tried. The moment I saw the latte, I knew it was a mistake. It looked like a disaster. I took a sip and it was scorching. Instead of leaving it right there on the counter (because the barista was so sweet looking), I took it outside and decided to walk around looking for a trash can. So sad. It was four dollars, of course because it was ORGANIC and in a fancy shop in a fancy neighborhood, like I said. And like the mystery of best coffee and teas, this chain of juice stores has the BEST smoothies. None of it makes any sense. Anyway, I wandered into a clothing store, awkwardly still holding the latte I was never going to drink. The super friendly shop assistant saw the cup in my hand, and it turned out she was a major coffee appreciator as well. I told her what happened to me. “You have to try Bardonna! They just opened one across the street. BEST coffee. And they make their own nut milks!” So, I skipped on over, and even though it was my first time there, I didn’t do any writing, and they just opened four weeks ago, I am putting them on my list. Best honey latte goes to Bardonna. Okay, I’ve never actually had a honey latte before, and it’ not even on the menu (although a vanilla honey latte is) which makes it cooler. Not too sweet. Awesome milk. Perfect transcendent foam. They use Klatch espresso. Oh, and the inside of the cafe looks like the beginnings of the Bay Area Figurative Movement transported to Carmel in the 1920’s. It will make sense if you go there.

Outfit: Oooh, this is fun. Crimson red silk shirt dress under ivory car coat. Large thick leather brown simple tote. “To Catch a Thief” sunglasses.

Lavender Tea Latte: Milk and Honey

(Click on a photo –  all by Evan Hartzell –  to start the slide show above.) I will be brief because I am SO breaking the rules right now. But, come on. The traffic has gotten so bad in LA proper that an hour trip to the OC (when there’s no traffic… like, on a Sunday) isn’t really going that far for tea.  When I’m in Huntington Beach on the weekends I don’t go write in cafe’s. Instead, I do things like clean my dad’s bathroom, make waffles, and walk the dog to the beach. We make wonderful stove top espresso on my dad’s O’keefe & Merritt. But there’s this place that caught our eye on a walk to the beach. It didn’t look very O.C. Milk and Honey had lots of moss and eclectic, funky industrial furniture. We decided to venture in. Doggies welcomed. I perused the menu and was intrigued by the listed “lavender tea latte”. I tried it hot. They also serve their hot drinks in vintage cups. You know I love that. I was instantly transported to a French lavender garden. The air was suddenly pleasantly dry. Did I hear the sound of pétanque? I kept ordering it on future visits. I was just going for the lavender tea latte now. In the photos above, I tried it iced. So. Good. Sometimes you have to go to the OC because you’re kid is so ace at soccer. You know who you are. Milk and Honey. Two locations. You’re welcome.

Outfit: Oh, yeah. There’s one in the photos above!

Cappuccino: Caffe Luxxe

Cappuccinos are the Mexican rice of cafe’s. You’re a pretty hard core foodie or just Mexican if you know that the best way to judge a Mexican restaurant is by their rice. Do you know how hard it is to find a drinkable cappuccino in LA? If you’ve had tons of them, and you don’t understand what I am talking about, then you have never had a truly perfect cappuccino, and I am deeply saddened by this. I have three standards that I compare things to when someone tells me something is good. TV series? I ask if it is it as good as Sherlock. They usually say, “Sherlock? Right, then. Well, no. But this one grows on you after a few episodes. Blah, blah, blah.” I’m not listening. I don’t have time for a show that “grows on you”. That’s called lowering my standards. Food? “Is it as good as Gjusta (yeah, the place with the best matcha lattes)?”  “Oh, well… Gjusta? I mean, you can’t really… I mean, Gjusta. Right. Well, no.” Cappuccino. “Is it as good as Caffe Luxxe?” Ha. You know what? I just realized I never ask that question. BECAUSE I ALREADY KNOW THE ANSWER. The only cappuccino that is worth drinking is at Caffe Luxxe. It’s just perfect. Well, I think it is what a cappuccino is supposed to be. Like, you go to Italy and you just go anywhere like the Illy Cafe and it is like this. People in Italy just wake up and assume they are going to have cappuccinos this excellent. Oh, if only it were true here. Cappuccinos are the things that are the hardest to get right. When we go to some random cafe we’ve never been to, and I say, “I’ll have a cappuccino, ” my love says, “Whoa, are you sure you want to do that?” He’s eyeing the machine, the barista, looking around.

Little piece of Italy, I tell you. No passport required.

Outfit: Crisp white “boyfriend” shirt tucked in,  501’s distressed rolled up, real gold jewelry, messy French hair, no makeup, black leather sandals.

 

Adventures Down Secret Stairways (or how to accessorize for cold weather wearing a sun dress)

Everyone should have at least one red lit in the dark photo portrait. Thanks, Evan.

This post was called “Winter Bohemian” but then it turned Spring. In L.A. we are still having some cool evenings so I am thinking a post about dressing warm in a sun dress is still relevant, right? I mean, this is an issue for me. I tend towards being cold unless I am doing yoga at least six days a week — when my circulation is really at top performance (ooh, such techy talk — “performance”!). Makes me feel like a baby having to be all bundled up in pants and a coat while all these people run around with nothing on their legs or shoulders, no goosebumps, sandals, hair up, looking so carefree and breezy . Another outstanding fwp.

We followed the directions.

About the secret staircase, though. I love the magical hidden among the mundane. That’s why I love magical businesses and headquarters that are right in front of your eyes, but that mere muggles do not detect. l also love The Borrowers for this reason and portals like the one Alice comes across in Through the Looking Glass…. So, that is where we went this cold and starry night. I was going to let my love go alone to China Town to check out a musical project of someone he kinda knew online, but once he showed me the instructions to get there, I HAD to accompany him. I was definitely not disappointed. Betalevel is a cool spot to check out music “projects”. It’s experimental. People sit in chairs and really listen to/watch performances. It is an intimate experience which took me back to the early 90’s when we used to go to all kinds of funky coffee houses to check out music and art.

Oooh, my hair looks so long and thick. Optical illusion I love.

Back to the outfit… to use a popular phrase which I do love, this is a cold weather dressing “hack”. So, here is a list of six things that can help you, too wear a sun dress in cold* weather.

•Long dress! Well, duh. And this one is longer in the back which gives it the illusion of being more breezy and light.

•Not cotton. This one is acrylic, but I also have a wool sundress. Seriously. It’s from the early 60’s. I don’t understand its existence, but how lucky am I? Anyway, if the sun dress is not cotton that really helps.

•Warm accessories. Like this acrylic, thick, super long scarf I made. I have also worn hats for warmth. In my opinion, if you put it together in a cool way in terms of size, color, shape, texture you can sneak warmers in!

•Boots. Obsessed. So, of course. Need I say more? The ones pictured are great because they are short clog boots so they go along with the illusion of not too wrapped up looking. I also love this socks with sandals thing that is popular right now. I tend to collect an array of colorful socks, so that style really works for me. My sandals are pretty flashy as well.

•Secretly warm sweater. A long sweater that is thick and edged with faux fur can be so cozy and not heavy looking. I was so excited to find how well this works. Make sure, though that the sweater has a tight weave so those icy winds don’t creep through.

•Layers. This is the most obvious hack, right? Everyone knows this one. But… it’s all about nice colors, shape, textures that go with the sun dress at hand. The layers compliment the dress. Here, I wear a thin, but warm long sleeve t shirt that wishes it was Patagonia. Also, tights. Gotta have those. Good, thick ones.

Back to the music… Here is some k-blamo music featuring a photo from this shoot. Yes, we have a youtube channel you can subscribe to now! Just click on “subscribe” and you will get an email whenever we (k-blamo) post a video.

*When I say cold, I mean it is lower than the 70’s. I know it’s funny, but come on. Lower than 70’s fahrenheit in the evening is not sun dress weather!

Dress label was removed (friend’s closet clean out!). Sweater by 21 up. Scarf homemade. T shirt by Uniqlo. Boots by Hanna Anderson.

All photos by Evan Hartzell

New Music Merch Equals New Purse

        I’ve mentioned before on Clothes Stories that I speak many languages. One of those languages is music. k-blamo is a music project I do with Evan Hartzell, and I always say that it sounds like music from another planet. At least that is how it sounds to me. This makes me sound like a juggler of many hats or however you say it, but really I’m not. Evan does all the music, says, “Can we record vocals tonight?”, “Hmmm… I don’t know, ” I say (an embarrassment of riches, I tell you) or maybe I say, “Yeah, that sounds good.” and then maybe it still doesn’t happen. Eventually, though, I say, “Let’s do this!” Then, all I have to do is grab a notebook, the appropriate writing tool (more on THAT later) sit in the most comfortable, paint splattered, leather chair, and listen to the track. As I listen, I see things, and I let the words flow out on to the paper. Finish that, and boom; we hit record on that mic. Melody or spoken word, I just go with whatever I hear. Not thinking is key. I think enough with other languages I speak. Then, Evan does all that cool stuff with his machines to make it an actual song. Then, I get to enjoy the listening of that.

So, we got a new EP coming out April 25th called neptune. EP means five songs, and I’m really excited about the way these songs all go together. I think neptune is a perfect name (credit goes to Evan on that one) for this set of tunes — ha, ha; just noticed that — because like I said, it sounds like a transmission from a far off land be it in the deep sea or a mysterious planet. As it goes with new music, the “merch” as they call the merchandise related to the tour or record in the music industry, lands before the actual music. In this case, the merch is now my new purse. It’ s actually smaller in person. The bag is about 13″ x 13″, kind of squishy, and I love how the image appears to wrap around it. Nice photo on the bag, Evan! You might recognize the outfit on the bag from this post — a great example of connecting those different languages. You can order one here. There’s also t shirts!  I’ll be posting a link to the actual music when it drops, but for now if you are k-blamo curious you can check out past recordings, short films here.

For now, let’s look inside my bag. I don’t know about you, but I love when people show us what is in their bag that they carry around. It is like a mini portrait of the inside of their life/head/heart or something. You can learn so much about a person. Learn something about one of my favorite writers here.

Sweater by Costco (no, I’m serious. It’s says, “Kirkland” on it), jeans by Levi’s, shoes vintage

All photos by Evan Hartzell

Accept Yourself

         I LOVE uniforms. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. It’s why the main character of my art wears uniforms so much.

"Oaxacan Protection", graphite and ink on paper, 9" x 12", Laura E. Alvarez, 2015

“Oaxacan Protection”, graphite and ink on paper, 9″ x 12″, Laura E. Alvarez, 2015

And as I’ve also said before, maybe if I was mandated to wear one, I wouldn’t be so obsessed. I’ve always enjoyed my fashion freedom, and if there was the slightest hint at a dress code, I was going to break it. See three month “Artist Residency at Starbucks” in the early to mid nineties recession of my youth. Or, when the director of a school was going over the teacher dress code (“professional” was the code) with the faculty, then gave me a pass when she looked at the creative patches on my jeans and said, “Well, you’re going to ruin your clothes (with paint, etc.) anyway.”

So, because I don’t know what it’s like to be forced to conform, it’s easy to have fun with uniforms. Forest green  modern shirt dress? I’m the den mother of young conceptual campers. White version with flower embroidery? I’m a lab technician in tropical Mex. Hawaiian print jump suit? I fix rusty Plymouths in Havana.

But I never thought I literally had a “uniform”. You know how some people have their self-imposed go-to outfit? They own it a lot times, too. They say, “Yeah, you know me. I’ve got my uniform. Black jeans, black sweater. Black shoes. Don’t have to think about it.”

You’d be surprised at how many people in the fashion and costume industry self-impose uniforms. Or maybe you wouldn’t be. After all, you are reading a FASHION BLOG. But, just in case you got here by accident because you googled “crossing guard uniforms” then I will elaborate. Make up artists wear mechanic jumpsuits. Fashion designers find a simple composition and stick with it – maybe so they can concentrate on creating outside of themselves. Even fashion magazine editors do this, and I get it. It’s one less thing to think about. These are people that choose the uniform because it compliments their highly productive mode. It simplifies things.

But then there’s the uniform as the sign of depression. This, I’m scared of. You know, “I’m wearing pajamas everyday because essentially, I have given up.” Or, “Sad, olive green t shirt, ill fitting jeans, and running shoes? Yeah, I’ve given up too.” With the last one picture no eye contact, while person continues programing user interface two blocks from the ocean with no windows. Or the workout suit that never comes off. “What? I’m just coming from spinning!”

No, we can’t give up.

So, no uniform for me. No sir. I pride myself on being unpredictable. Well, of course I am somewhat predictable – how late I like to sleep (definitely after 10 if I have my say), where I deem is appropriate to consume a cappuccino (Caffe Luxxe, not Starbucks), or how often The Smiths are on my playlist (I need a good Smiths/Morrissey fest at least once a month. By the way, that is a Smith song as the title of this post!). But when it comes to dressing, if I wear jeans two days in a row, it’s a bad sign. You know, maybe one day it was the perfect item to wear with a great lace top and silver shoes, then the next day I am cleaning out moldy things in the back yard so there’s really no other choice. But, it still makes me a little sad. Because mixing it up and being creative with my outfits really gives me a lift everyday.

So, imagine my surprise when one day, THIS happened…

I was teaching at a school. I saw a mom – a personal stylist, no less –  who was dropping off her children in the morning. She wore a cream colored sweater, a plaid, wool, orange and brown skirt, tights, and lovely brown boots. After I complimented her outfit, she said to me, “Thanks. Oh, I’m doing you today.”

Wait. Hold on right there. She said, “doing you”?? Doing me? A person can do me? That means I’m predictable! And I loved her outfit. I complimented it. Of course, she expected me to because she was “doing me”. This kind of freaked me out. It freaked me out because like I said, I prided myself on being unpredictable, on always mixing it up, and it turns out, I, like all these other people, had a UNIFORM.

My uniform. Three things. Sweater. Boots. Tights. Skirt. Not in that order.

My uniform – Three things: Sweater. Boots. Tights. Skirt. Not in that order.

I just couldn’t believe this uniform had been happening all this time under my very nose. Yes, on MY body without me even noticing. I mean, what kind of disconnect was that? Didn’t I own a full length mirror? I was upset by this experience. And then when I thought about it more over time, I realized that the signs were always there. I even remembered saying some things that were clues. It was like I had green paint on my cheek and nobody told me. I had to find out for myself in the wall to wall carpeted reception area of a busy rainy morning of elementary school drop off. In front of EVERYONE.

So, to process my acceptance of my uniform – which I noticed I was wearing on the above photographed rainy day – I thought I would break the uniform down into parts… Because, obviously this is A REALLY IMPORTANT ISSUE.

Let’s start with the sweaters. I can now admit that I have always had a huge amount of sweaters. However, I do look at them from time to time and say, “Oh my goodness. This is terrible. I have like, NO sweaters.” I seriously do that. That means I can never have enough sweaters. It is like when I asked my younger son when he was a wee lad, “Wait, a second. I was just wondering… If you could get a new stuffed animal every day, would you?” I think you know what the answer was. No, it was a good conversation because it was after that that I knew it was A HOLE THAT COULD NEVER BE FILLED. Oh, my god; it’s like sweaters are an addiction. No. I don’t have a problem BECAUSE I CAN’T FIT ANY MORE SWEATERS INTO MY SWEATER DRAWER. That’s the only thing stopping me.

Let’s not separate the sweaters from the skirts. Sweaters love skirts in my world going back to me wanting to be a 1940’s cheerleader when I was 14, wanting to dress like Midge in 1958 Vertigo, AND always having adored those school uniforms I didn’t have to wear. In some ways sweaters and skirts together created the image of a romantic feminist. Does that make ANY sense? I mean, it somehow was what to wear if you were kind of conservative in dress because you wanted people to pay attention to your brain, yet you were still prone to riding your bike to write poetry under a tree. See? It’s comfortable, cute, and kind of ready for action. Action, like saving-the-world-action, I mean. Or at least adventure-action.

Which brings me to the boots. That’s where I know the signs were there. I mean, it was even in my original Facebook profile — something about “never having enough boots”. I’m not a big shoe person — one pair of sneakers, one pair of sandals, one pair of sparkly shoes. But the boots? Yeah, right now there are at least five pairs of boots in my closet. And with that said, that is like, so not enough boots. If I could afford more boots you bet there would be way more boots in my life.  I can say right now — no, you better sit down for this — I don’t own one pair of cowboy boots. Yes, I do have a New Mexico Pinterest board and still no cowboy boots to speak of. (I do have a pair of custom made moccasins however. Whew!) And there is not one pair of Doc Marten boots in there. And I call myself an Anglophile? Not one pair of Docs? That is tragic. I would also take a pair of some kind of Inuit boot. LOVE me a good Inuit boot. A Victorian pair? Right this way, please. Size 7.5. Thank you. And yes, I would also take some rain boots. I’m not kidding. I find them so adorable. I’m not sure why, but if I had some I would wear them tomorrow rain or shine.

I adore almost all kinds of boots. I think I could have a blog just about boots. I just feel so powerful in them. That must be it. I could ride a horse, construct a house, hike a trail, save the world like Nausicaa, splash through a puddle. I mean the possibilities are endless. This paragraph is still about boots, but I made it a new paragraph because the boot paragraph was getting too long.

So, eventually I decided to embrace this uniform. Sure, I don’t go there everyday, but when I do, it feels so good. I feel so solidly me, if that makes any sense. See, with all this going on now I get why. And that makes it even better.

Do you have a uniform? What’s it all about? Why do you like it so much? Please tell us. Please.

Shrunken sweater from Costco by Calvin Klein that used to be Evan’s (and it is my FAVORITE SWEATER). Skirt by Banana Republic circa 2005. Boots by Teva. Hair cut by Scott.

All photos by Evan Hartzell.

Bladerunner Teen D.J.

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Plastic stars in lantern nights,

The blue and white and neon lights,

Liquid in the flowing pipes,

Mist my eyes the sounds are loud,

Cold the air my hands withstand,

I yearn,

I yearn to be,

I see the signs,

See the signs and dream,

When the music makes my ears,

The sky,

Darker white then the early morning,

Fear to touch,

Touch the ground,

For I might,

Pick up to have found,

A thing a fear of past steps there,

And smile not upon their sight,

For shadowed face and pocket hands,

They keep me safe,

I wish for sand,

Oh I may live to breath the air,

Air of sea that the sun dearly loves,

And find to me that I am to be loved,

Streaking lights and dizzy stars,

On a day there shall be,

A shining star.

-Aristotle Hartzell, 2017

Is he the teen d.j. for the 1984 original or for the 2017 sequel? And what music will he spin? For the original it would surely be this, whereas for the sequel it may be this.

All photos by Evan Hartzell.

Suit jacket by Topman, customized by Aristotle. Wind breaker by Patagonia. Cords by Old Navy. Socks by Uniqlo. Shoes by Fashion.