¡Oye! A LAtina perspective on food, fashion, familia and art.

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The Update

by Laura E. Alvarez



Remember Give Yourself a Present? This is way-over-the-top Give Yourself a Present. This is double saturated, spilling over, crack the sides from rich abundance Give Yourself a Present. It’s called…

The Update.

Yes, The Update is what is invented when you are off the grid. It is what happens when you are above the ocean fog, surrounded by an organic farm, oak trees, lounging in a dream of a house, far, far above and away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. It is a happening. It is an action. A situation. But you don’t have to travel miles and miles to enjoy The Update. I traveled miles and miles to bring it back to you. Now you can initiate an Update session of your own in your very own condo or picnic blanket or wherever you are dining.

I hope you can see from the above photo documentation that the instructions are very simple. First, create an elegant edible concoction of your own choosing. Something with a bit of flourish. Now, along the way, as you enjoy your delectable treat, your in-home chef (that might be you) must “update” the dish at least two different times (at least two) so that the whole visual experience… or journey, shall we say, is completely and utterly intoxicating. It’s taking things to the next level, and now that I have finally watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I finally understand the distance to which humans will go with the symphony that is dining. So much love in it. So much. And to leave you with another mind blower, because of Jiro, I discovered the world of photographing food at Noma, known as the “best restaurant in the world.” I’m just catching up. I haven’t tried it, but when you see what the food looks like, you might wonder, “But what if they Updated it?!”


Thanks to home chef and primo (cousin), Ben Korman for the Update, one of his many genius weekend inventions.

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Hiromi Paper

by Laura E. Alvarez


Where am I? Hogwarts? Japan? No, I have entered yet another portal in Santa Monica. A little jem of a place bursting, yes, bursting with papers. My three favorite kinds of shops to get lost in are the following:

1) Book stores.

2) Art supply stores.

3) Stationary shops.

What do these three stores all have in common?




Hiromi Paper has been going since 1988 on the west side of Los Angeles. Their reach is international. You can find them at paper conferences all over the world. You can find the papers they have collected in art books, prints, installations… and more – all over the world. They actually know the people who make these papers. Washi. The “wa” means Japanese. The “shi” means paper. Hiromi Paper. You can order their products online. Yes! I follow their facebook page. They also have a lovely blog here. It’s a whole world of Washi.


This represents my Martha Stewart obsession for organization that accompanied my first pregnancy. Good times. I’m not like that anymore, but this little shelf of stationary cubbies does make my heart sing a little.


It’s a slice of cedar tree. That you can write on. I’m not making this up.20140721-234924-85764866.jpg

A sheet of blood oranges to make a grocery list on. See what I mean? It’s another world.20140721-234924-85764100.jpg

Pop, pop, pop. There’s a little secret notebook. And pencil.20140721-234923-85763351.jpg

Okay, now. Here’s the story. My boy decided he would make a book. So he chose the above paper in the middle for the cover. Handmade in Nepal. You can’t go wrong. He loved this photo so much that it is his home screen on his ipad mini.20140721-234930-85770320.jpg

Next, he chose the above paper for the pages of his book. It’s pretty thick, kinda green, Chu Tsharsho, naturally dyed from Bhutan.              20140721-234927-85767955.jpg

Joanna and Yuki are part of the Hiromi Paper team. They are super nice, knowledgeable and helpful. They told my boy he could try drawing on a sample of the Chu Tsharsho, naturally dyed from Bhutan. 20140721-234927-85767198.jpg

The drawing on the sample worked out.20140721-234928-85768798.jpg

It’s all wrapped up so pretty. Stay tuned for Hiromi Paper, Part Two where you see how the book gets made!

Also, check out photos here from when I actually got to teach a printmaking workshop at Hiromi Paper. That was SO fun.


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Mandado a McCabe’s

by Laura E. Alvarez


As a kid my parents called them “mandados”. Essentially, the word translates as errands. Every word has connotations. I imagine a paige in a castle running errands. I see someone going to pick up dry cleaning and super glue. “Errand” originates in the Old English word, ærende, meaning “message, mission.” Yet it doesn’t matter who does the errand. It could be anyone. On the other hand, “mandados”… Is it just me, or does it carry more importance? “Mandar” means to command. It’s almost like what the “mandados” are comes from some higher source. It’s like God commanded you to go to the bank to deposit checks or God told you to go send that package to Mexico. My parents always said “mandados” with this seriousness. You don’t mess with “mandados”. You go respectfully, helping to put all positive energy into this command from God. The whole family would go. My dad would drive, my mom would have important documents and packages in hand, and my brother and I would go along when we were too little to stay home.

Once there, we would observe everything. There were people and there were things and there were things to mess with sometimes. There were things and scenes that might end up in drawings later… or a drawing right there if I remembered to bring a sketchbook.

Some people think learning to experience things completely – be it listening, touching, sensing, looking – is half of being any kind of artist. I remember going for walks with my brother and mom all the time and talking about the gardens. Touching plants, smelling flowers, stealing a strawberry or a cutting to plant later. In the fabric store we touched everything, talked about the colors, textures, weights. “Going for a drive”, my dad would point out trees, rain clouds coming, or what used to be where when he was a kid. Always looking, touching, listening. “Did you hear the waves last night?” The ocean was a mile away but in the middle of the night when all was quiet you could hear them sometimes.

We had a “mandado a” McCabe’s Guitar Shop the other day. There was a broken ukulele string in our midst and a higher source was clearing saying that not another day could go by without that ukulele being played. I mean, we had recently discussed with friends at a kind of ukulele-ish bbq that the playing of these instruments might be part of mankind’s fight against whatever evil is obviously forcing us to do bad things to our planet. Obviously.

A mandado to McCabe’s was a real gem as far as mandados go, and as far as full sensory experiences go. It was a high point of our day. The younger son’s friend was all over the old cash register as soon as we walked in. It felt like we had walked into a workshop, a club, an arts center, a school, and a store. There seemed to be teenage boys everywhere with guitar faces (You know, that face they make when they are playing guitar and you are trying to talk to them?) Were there ukuleles, you ask? There was a ukulele hallway of happiness where the young men in our party descended and stayed for the entirety of the visit. The woman who helped us made us feel like we were the first people to ever walk in and ask for a ukulele string. She generously replaced it herself on the guitar altar, behind which the guitar masters sat full of purpose. The masters clearly knew who they were. They were grounded in fretboards, and necks, and bridges. I tried to play it cool, but it was all too exciting. This was a super mandado. I look forward to the next time we are mandado to go there.


I Heart Ice Bat

by Laura E. Alvarez






Okay, this is the perfect kid show as per my post about taking your kids/teenagers to an art show. It doesn’t hurt that it is surrounded by incredible food, toys, and awesome t shirts.  Where is this paradise? Sawtelle Blvd. in West Los Angeles, of course. Sawtelle, land of Japanese markets, Beard Papa, Vietnamese food, sushi shops disguised as Game Stops, and a place that can lift my spirits anytime. The art show is at GR2, as in Giant Robot 2 which is part gift shop, part art gallery.  If you are not already familiar with the brilliance of Giant Robot’s magazine and stores, you just have to go check it out for yourself… or you can prep by checking out their website here.

But let’s get to the show! Uglycon 2014 is a tribute to Ugly Dolls which were created by David Horvath and Sunmin Kim. These adorable dolls redefine the word “ugly” with their wit and unique personalities. When I say wit, I mean the cards that accompany them are so funny in the way they describe each doll’s personality that they add a whole other layer to your enjoyment of them. For example, this description accompanies a doll named, “Wage”…

Wage is a hard worker, just like you! He works at the local Super
Mart and wears his apron to serve his customers best. Does Super
Mart know that Wage works there? Nope.But Wage doesn’t mind.He
likes to put things in bags, especially snacks.

Also hilarious and deep is the book, Ugly Guide to the Uglyverse. There are others, but this one is in our library.

UglyCon 2014 celebrates the ten years that Ugly Doll’s Ice Bats have graced our planet by asking artists to represent Ice Bat in different mediums. The results range from comedic to dreamy to adorable. This is a must-see show for anyone who likes monster-y dolls, and visiting that special place where pop culture meets fine art. It’s a place I like to visit whenever I get the chance. But go soon, soon, soon. This show ends July 9th!!

And… oh yeah, my boys loved it. We went home and brought out our Ice Bats to full display, as we had just learned it was their birthday.


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All of Us

By Laura E. Alvarez


All of us.  All of us have struggles and revelations, and we have things to share with each other.  In the same day I listened to Holocaust survivors tell their stories, I guided and watched inner city youth make art about the stories and ask the survivors questions.  In the same day I traveled back to “not the inner city” and attended a mom’s council – as a mom.  Mothers of middle school kids got together to talk about issues they’ve struggled with over the past year with their children.  I think I can be respectful of “what is said in the council stays in the council” when I share my revelations of that day.  Let’s make this short and sweet.  In all cases throughout the day I was  stunned by how brave everyone was, how brave they were to share their stories, their questions, their creative expression about something so serious, so precious to them.  At the end of the day, I realized once again that we are all the same person.  Regardless of age, what kind of car we drive, where we grew up, when we open our hearts, something magic happens in the room.  Just like the youth in that classroom downtown that asked the elders for hugs at the end of their story-telling, more than one mom at the other end of the freeway said they wanted to “hug everyone in the room” after hearing all their stories.  See?  A heart-flower opening leading to another heart-flower opening.  I also realized once again that everyone has something to teach each other. Even an inner city youth to a mom in not in the inner city.  He has something to show her, even.  It’s true!  All of us.




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Life as Art

by Laura E. Alvarez20140513-145925.jpg

I have been pondering the idea of someone’s life as a work of art.  Frida Khalo is someone I would think of in the past, but there she stays in the past.  Safely stays.  I would say, “You know, Frida Khalo.  Walking through the outdoor market buying mangoes was an art performance.”  But I have known real people like this.  Not many.  But I have known some.  Maybe every trip to the market wasn’t an art performance, but whenever I’ve encountered them, it’s been like visiting another planet, a beautiful world.  You go to their house and its’ like stepping inside a film that’s been shot in saturated colors or grainy black and white.  When I googled “life as art” I came across various books and chats about how to live a more creative life.  I didn’t expect to find this.  I expected to find photos of real people who’s lives are like artworks.

What I am finding now, in 2014 is that because of social media, camera phones, and photo filters, many of us are creating art out of our lives.  Lives that don’t exist outside of photos, stories, and quotes shared.  On the one hand, it’s an exciting, fascinating art form. On the other, it’s strangely all made up. Nobody knows what’s real anymore.  So… I give you something that’s admittedly not real.

I was planning a picnic with myself from before I left the house in the morning.  I had my sketchbook, art book, lunch, and blanket packed.  I planned to go to a park with a pond inhabited by ducks, framed by rocks and my favorite Monterey Pines at lunch time.  First, I wrote for a couple of hours at a cafe.  Already I am painting a pretty picture, right? While writing, I invited a friend via text who couldn’t come.  I bragged to another via text that I was going to “unplug” and told her of my unusual plans.  I was so smug.

I arrived at the park and found something I hadn’t expected. The park was “full”.  Yes, not only was it full at 11:30 am on a weekday, but it was full of screaming two year olds.  Not four year olds.  Two year olds.  There were upset or excited two year olds in every nook and cranny of the park.  I wouldn’t back down, though.  I worked hard to find a spot facing the pond and foliage and set up my picnic.  I took out my phone.  (Oh, no!) It was just too pretty to go undocumented.  The photo doesn’t capture the screaming.  Well, now my phone was out and I texted with my sweetheart. “Oh, you finished your project early?  What’s that?  I should come home now and have coffee with you? Sounds delightful.”  I packed up my photo composition – I mean, picnic as quickly as I could.  I think I lasted about five minutes.


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by Laura E. Alvarez


“Emerging in the 15th century as a reaction to the prevailing aesthetic of lavishness, ornamentation, and rich materials, wabi-sabi is the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness, of revering authenticity above all.” Read more here in this great article about wabi-sabi.  The idea of wabi-sabi is so close to Byron and my heart that we almost put it in the name of our blog. 

I care just as much about showing you how to patch your jeans as I care about showing you the beauty in imperfection as a way of life.  With each patch, as I lovingly choose a different shade of gray, blue or white thread the jeans become more and more beautiful.  This particular pair uses scraps from his younger son’s ripped up jeans that were all but destroyed scrambling down a rock in Joshua Tree over a year ago.  That’s the darker bits you see above.20140511-211227.jpg

These are what is left of the younger son’s jeans after snatching away many pieces for patches.20140511-211243.jpgFirst, I cut out a nice little piece from the sacrificial jeans that will cover the rip with a bit of extra space around it.
20140511-210502.jpgNext, I turn the jeans I am going to repair inside out. I pin the little scrap which is indeed a patch to the inside of the jeans, covering the rip.20140511-210529.jpgI zigzag around the patch, letting the zig zag stitch go back and forth partly on the patch, partly on the jeans.  This is really a fun part.20140511-210259.jpgI turn the jeans back right side out and zig zag over the rip in whatever way makes sense.  The goal is to have the rip closed.

And lastly, I admire the new patch, as it has once again changed this pair of jeans, furthering it as an artwork and example of wabi-sabi.

All denim by Levi’s.