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

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Make it Up Monday

by Laura E. Alvarez20140615-214626.jpg20140615-214641.jpg20140615-214656.jpg20140615-214721.jpg20140615-214734.jpg

Starting at the top:

1. Homemade left over pinto beans that were cooked in Oaxacan pot. Thank you, Artesanias Oaxaquenias.

2.  Left over sauteed squash and carrots (Abundant Harvest Organics rules) mixed with a little left over ground taco beef (seasoned with chili powder and salt).

3.  Aforementioned items on top of melting colby jack cheese on top of corn tortillas on hot iron comal.

4.  Another corn tortilla on top of concoction. Notice butter on tortilla.  Yum.

5.  Cut up pretty on Japanese plates.

What are these?  Confession. Inspired by evil, weird quesadilla-type things I used to buy in high school at that Taco Bell across the street from the beach after running five miles.  But these are better.  Of course.  Point is, after years of thinking I couldn’t cook, an amazing friend from the U.K. living with us for a while – you know, the type of person who can just open your pantry and make some AMAZING vegetarian (I know this isn’t vegetarian, but that detail makes him even more impressive) feast -, then years of cooking anything but meat because it was too scary, and then following some recipes for a few years, then really paying attention to watching people cook, then maybe tasting some ingredients by themselves, and lastly but most importantly, watching Ratatouille many times, I am able to fully embrace being an artist in the kitchen and making crazy things that actually taste and look pretty good like this.  And that was a long sentence.


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Coffee Cookie

By Laura E. Alvarez




What came over me?  Spontaneous peanut butter cookie making?  I’m trying to be that person.  I might not be my mom who ALWAYS had homemade cookies in the cookie jar, but I can randomly blow everyone’s minds with a surprise baking spree.  Last night I made waffles at 8:30 pm FOR NO REASON.   Straight to teenage boys’ hearts. Cups from Tortoise. Spoons from Tokyo Shop. Plates from La Paloma Market.


Cazbah Cafe beautifulness.  Just exquisite.  The same people work there from 14 years ago.  That’s saying something.  I want ALL the clothes they sell there. That place was made for me.


Shout out to home chef, Cynthia Agustin for the above feast that was so over the top I’m still in a warm bath of gratefulness.  “Do you want vanilla ice cream on your hot, homemade peach pie.”  I’m fainting from happiness.

This makes our life rich. A friend that was moving to New Zealand was remarking that his family’s new life would mean more time for “coffee cookie”, and that this was a standard by which one could evaluate one’s quality of life. “Coffee Cookie” was something we invented when the boys were just babies.  We wanted to carry on with our bohemian artist lifestyle after the kids were born.  So we took them to art shows, they hung out for music recordings and painting sessions, and they did “coffee cookie”.  Just throw the word “cookie” in there and a four year old is happy to accompany you to a cappuccino, sketch, and conversation outing.

In Japan you have tea ceremonies, in México you have “la merienda”, and in England they used to ask us if our kettle was broke if we didn’t offer tea in the first five minutes.  It’s all about slowing down, by ourselves or with others.  Yes, give yourself a present, here we come again.  Just be.  Well, don’t just be.  Be and drink your tea or pretty coffee.  And you know, don’t just be and drink your tea or pretty coffee and nibble on your spirulina churro.  Take a picture before you eat it all. Post it or tweet it or instagram it, show it off some other way or just save it on your phone so later you can look at it and think, “Oh yeah, that was so nice.  Let’s do it again… RIGHT NOW.”


Cafe Dulce blog bomb… AGAIN.  Love you, Cafe Dulce.  Sorry to not dedicate a whole blog post to you… yet.


Love you, Ikea… for your cheap little frother that makes my life so fancy at home – even with almond milk!



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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.





Rapp Saloon

by Laura E. Alvarez





I was trying to think of a name for the outfit I came up with for an event for last Saturday night and realized that the outfit is the exact representation of what I experienced the night before at Rapp Saloon.  “Where’s the poetry?” Byron likes to ask.  Well, we found it the night before where we were privileged to hear the live poetry of Gloria Enedina Alvarez, featured poet that night.

Doesn’t this just look like an outfit you would wear to the oldest brick building in a sea side southern Californian city where you might find someone playing stand up bass, someone else playing the beats made on their phone to accompany Spanglish poetry, and someone else finishing a stint busking on the mall only to run over and recite more poetry?

I was inspired by the brick, the word “saloon”, and the bright pink flower in the hostess’ hair.  Wearing that Hermione Love jacket a lot lately.  Just can’t get enough.  Some articles of clothing just capture your current chapter, don’t they?  I’m kind of glad I figured out the outfit the day after.  It made the poetry last all weekend.

Jacket by Salt & Pepper, dress by Glam Vintage Soul, boots vintage, fish necklace vintage

Thank you, Evan Hartzell for the above photos.


Evan Hartzell playing his IPhone beats as he accompanies poet, Gloria Enedina Alvarez.



The… That Changed Everything

by Laura E. Alvarez


I was checking out a Face Book post where my very inspiring friend, Marietta, had shared a story about a photo journalist who had just died very young and in the midst of her work in Africa.   Marietta asked the question, “Was it worth her sharing these images with the world in hopes it would make a difference….”?  This question really moved me.  I answered, “YES.” I kept thinking about the work we do.  We, humans.  

Another friend with a beautiful heart expressed to me a few months ago that she believed every person deep down wants to make a positive difference in the world.  I had never thought this before.  Never.  Do you think it’s true?  I hope it is.  

Marietta’s share also got me thinking about those experiences “that changed everything” for me.  I could make a list of them, but because of that photo journalist, I want to focus right now on creations, something someone made, that, when I experienced it, was a defining moment for me.  

1.  A song.  “Imagine” by John Lennon, 1971.

I sat on the floor of my bedroom  in a small space between my bed and the radio under the window.  I was 17 years old.  This was it.  I really had to focus.  Would I go to fashion design school or would I accept UC Santa Cruz’ offer and study art?  Art or fashion design.  Fashion design or art.  Little school in a mall of Orange County or little UC in a redwood forest.  A promised VW vintage to commute in or a new mountain bike.  I was stuck.  My mind was blank with indecision.  I never would have considered art if the fashion school hadn’t required me to take an art class my senior year in high school.  Art was clearly my soul, but the design world had been my everything since I was twelve years old.  “Imagine” suddenly came on the radio.  My blank mind took in the lyrics.  As always, I pictured everything a song had to offer me.  The images in my head were like 70’s animation.  I saw all of it.  My synesthesia was in high gear.  I saw my place in the world.  I was an agent of change.  I didn’t expect any of this.  None of this had entered my mind before that moment.  It was the song.  My 17 year old self picked up the university letter and  went to find my dad sitting with his newspaper to tell him my decision.

2.  A painting. “White Center” by Mark Rothko, 1957

I hadn’t been exposed to a lot of art.  It was 1988, visiting Los Angeles Museum of Art with my new boyfriend.  First year of college on break from aforementioned little UC in the redwood forest. Everything was very impressive, and I liked to check it all out very thoroughly.  Sculpture, prints, drawings, paintings.  I couldn’t really close my mouth.  It was the permanent collection so there weren’t a lot of people around. My memory tells me that it was very dark.  That’s just how I remember it… maybe because my memory likes to put a spotlight on certain things. At the end of a room I saw it.  A glowing red and white painting.  I was drawn to it, so much so that I went and sat on the bench in front of it.  My eyes waded into the layers of color.  Deeper I went, deeper until I felt the artist’s soul.  My tears started to fall. I didn’t know anything about the artist.  I didn’t know his name yet.  It was an unnamed emotion.  It was beauty mixed with sadness mixed with joy mixed with revelation.  I didn’t know a painting could make someone cry until that day.


3. A poem. “The Hundred Languages of Children” by Loris Malaguzzi.

I read it my first year of art grad school.  I was interning with the great Chicana muralist Juana Alicia in San Francisco.  I wanted to be Juana Alicia.  She was everything I went to grad school for.  She was an agent of change, a skilled artist and she had style for miles. The fact that interning with her wasn’t on some amazing Mission district two story mural didn’t matter.  The fact that I was assisting her with a bunch of kindergartners in the studio of a new elementary school was… fine, I thought.  I never wanted to make a career of working with children.  My first two experiences teaching children had been kind of traumatizing. One was with serious special education students who would bite me and run away from school.  The other was with 6th graders in East Los Angeles where I was in way over my head.  This new experience was blowing my mind.  I was facilitating conceptual explorations with six year olds in a lab/research center that was disguised as a school.  This poem said it all.  Everyone that was going to be inspired by the Reggio Emilia Approach to education had to read this poem.  I learned from that poem more quickly than I did from any essay by a professor, teacher, or administrator had written about this approach.  Now that I revisit it, I realize the profound effect that it has had on my life.  It says it is about children, but it is about humans.  It is about us.  It helped me say “yes” to so many things and to so many things that I thought did not belong together… like painting and music, like joy and washing dishes, and like prayer and junkyards.  One poem could do all that. One creation by one of us can move somebody.  Searching, expressing, connecting… and bringing us all up together.

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Thank You Ted Allen and “Chopped”


photoBy  M. Byron Trent

I found a box of photos yesterday.  What was most surprising to me, beyond the obvious of how much time has passed, was that I had blocked out so many memories.  It’s no wonder that I have always been a woman on the verge of something with never actually seeing much through to fruition.  I am realizing that whenever anyone or anything really good came too close, I shut it out.  I shut it all out.  I erase everything.  I never learned how to keep something for myself.  I would subconsciously reinvent myself and start all over again.  It’s exhausting.  It’s also no wonder that there’s a part of me that is still very child-like and naive.  Arrested development.  I have been walking away from everything my whole life.  I have always been easily accessible and also easily spooked.  Sadly, that doesn’t mean that I would listen to those instincts.  In fact, ironically, in the past (and I’m still working on it),  I would become tolerant and endure situations that most would walk away from.  I suppose that it is not so unusual for most artist and creative types.  But, we must grow up and become adults especially if we are to have any kind of resiliency in this world because it doesn’t stop for us.

I wish I could say that these reflections came to me on a deeper level.  But,  honestly, I was watching “Chopped.”  There, I said it.  I was checking out, watching the Food Network and the contestants were all people who had been able to overcome addiction or other obstacles in their lives and find a focus and put their passion into food and become successful.  I see this as a common theme with many chefs.  I love that my daughter refers to me as a chef.  George Eliot said, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”  I have taken those words to heart.  I was given my first cookbook when I was seven years old and sat glued to the TV never to miss an episode of The Galloping Gourmet.  Much later in the mid 90’s I became addicted to the Food Network when it was informative and they had real chefs (although I loved Ready, Set, Cook!…we used to play it at home – mostly because we were broke and we had to rummage through the pantry and work with what we had).  So, maybe I haven’t completely reinvented myself.  Maybe, I’m revisiting.

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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.