12 Days of Giving: The Peace Project

2014 has been a great year for my family.  It wasn’t always like this.  We’ve had some pretty lean years in the past but hard work, faith, and determination put us on a blessed path.  There are plenty of places in the world where, no matter how hard citizens try, those qualities still don’t offer up a dream life.  This year, I felt it was important to give back to the universe that has created joy and plenty in my life but still finds so many people suffering around the world.  My husband and I both come from from traditions of charitable giving and volunteership.  No matter how impoverished we’ve been, we could always put food on the table and our parents taught us that meant we were still fortunate and it was our duty to offer assistance to those without.

So our regular checks to charitable organizations weren’t good enough this year.  A stellar year means we’d have to reach a little deeper.  But I’m lazy and volunteering with an infant while my husband is working overseas is more difficult than I can manage.  Instead, I found a great way to give while doing my regular weekly shopping at the Culver City Farmers Market.  The Whole 9 Gallery had a booth I could not avoid.  So many cute and cool things to buy!  And what’s this??  The money spent helps to support their charity The Peace Project??  Perfect!  Holiday shopping AND charitable giving, combined!  I bought more gifts than I had people to give to just so I could throw more money at a worthy cause.  And all of it was reasonably priced and very well made and unique.

The Peace Project is an effort by The Whole 9 online creative community to transform lives globally.  Started in 2010 by the community’s founder, the project has distributed crutches to amputees and victims of civil war in Sierra Leone, sponsored educational grants for African school-age children, built houses for Typhoon Haiyan victims in the Philippines, and been the benefactor for several artists on six continents.  Through their works, they’ve used art to bridge the gap between necessary resources and the community members who desperately require them.  The Whole 9 Gallery in Culver City sells the wares for several artists whose proceeds fund these works abroad.

To learn more about The Peace Project or to donate directly, visit http://thepeaceproject.com/donate.php.  Just want some last minute gifts that will fund the future happiness of others in our world?  Check out The Whole 9 Gallery at 3830 Main Street, Culver City, CA 90232.

‘Tis the Season for Crowds: Krampus on Parade & Renegade Craft Fair

I braved not one but TWO crowds today.  First up…  The Echo Park Holiday Parade!!!  I had high hopes for this because I’d heard a bunch of Krampus revelers were going to be there and I was not disappointed.  If you’re one of the uninitiated, “Krampus is a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish children during the Christmas season who had misbehaved… Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children and drag them off into the black forest.” (wiki)

Krampus was made popular a couple years ago by a viral video of hairy-costumed nightmares rampaging through a northern Italian mountain community and beating the ever-loving crap out of passersby.  I needed the little one to see this so she’d be on her best behavior for the next couple weeks.  But unlike Italy where it is apparently legal to beat innocent tourists, it’s frowned upon here, especially for 6 month olds.  That’s probably for the best.

There were other parade participants but I honestly can’t remember who they were after seeing the Krampus steam engine car built by Bay Area artist-engineer Kimeric Smythe.  Also several members of the Salzburg-area Alt Gnigler Krampus and Perchten Troupe joined the parade of domestic brand Krampus… Krampuses?  Krampen?  Krampai?  Whatever.  It was a hoot.

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As if seeing Krampus in Echo Park wasn’t enough, I dragged the kid downtown to Grand Park for the Renegade Craft Fair.  It’s one of my favorites.  Although I had nothing to buy this time (poor wallet…), I got to see some new friends like the ladies at Ave Dee.  I bought a fanny pack from them at the Patchwork Show in Long Beach and it’s been my saving grace on short outings with the kid.  Contrary to what movies tell you, you do not need to travel everywhere with a full diaper bag breaking your back.  Sometimes you just need your wallet, cell phone, car keys, and an emergency pacifier.  Maybe some chapstick.  Ave Dee’s fanny packs are the perfect hands-free device for busy mommas like me.  And they’re cool!  Anyone who says fanny packs are lame are probably pretty lame themselves.  And I guarantee you they’re carrying around way too much crap.

I also stopped in on good friends and former roommates extraordinare from Outlaw Soaps, Russ & Danielle Vincent.  These amazing villians started their business in our house just a couple years ago and look at them now!  Masters of saponification.  Lauded by the mighty Oprah herself, even.  I highly recommend you jump on their bandwagon, stat; they’re moving their productions from Oakland to a little parcel of land just southeast of Lake Tahoe and they’ve quit soap making until the new digs are up and running in January.  When I saw them today, they had very little stock left.  That’s what happens when your goods are being bought for wholesale by the likes of national retailers like Urban Outfitters and ThinkGeek!  I’m so proud of them, I could scream.

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Unique LA

Sunday was the final day to throw money at people at Unique LA.  Their Winter show seemed more chock full of shoppers than the Summer event, much to my kid’s wide 3-wheeled stroller’s dismay.  Navigating the aisles proved to be a practice in patience but there was so much eye candy, I was able to suck it up and toured the whole thing.  I even managed to buy some goodies and run into an old acquaintaince.

My first stop was the booth of my friend Miriam Dema to pick up a hand dyed scarf – the last gift on my shopping list. She’s a screenprint goddess selling felt pennants, coasters, posters, and a few handmade leather goods.  Next, I ran into Mark Brunner, an LA artist I first became acquainted with a few years ago through a mutual friend.  The last time I saw him, he didn’t have a beard and I didn’t have a kid. Ah, how life changes things.  I bought a very nice piece from his human robot series for my kid’s bedroom.  It’s her first original art!

Miriam Dema, maker of good things

I managed to sneak by the remaining vendors without opening my sad, depleated wallet.  All except one.  I lost the business card so I can’t rave about her but she made cute felt stuffies and there was a dinosaur named Coco that demanded I take him home.  Of all the edible delights, designer fashions, and trendy housewares on sale, hers was my favorite find.  Coco now lives in the kid’s crib and has been lovingly chewed and soaked with saliva.  I’m looking forward to the next Unique LA so I can buy a friend or two for him.

Coco is our friend
Coco is our friend

Artisanal LA

Artisanal LA Holiday City Market – Pasadena

I had no intention of going to Artisanal LA‘s holiday market in Pasadena but I found myself there anyway on Saturday.  It was ok.  Most  of the vendors didn’t really speak to my holiday shopping needs but I did manage to get some high falutin’ chocolates from Marco Paolo and a jar of Indian spiced tomato sauce from Mee’s Kut.  The chocolates will be given as a gift but the tomato sauce is mine, all mine!  I will probably eat it all in one sitting with a very large serving spoon.  Possibly a bib.  Also, a shout out to the ladies at Bond Bar…  Thanks for the 5lbs you’ve added to my hips in samples.  I appreciate your efforts but I was serious when I said I’m avoiding you.  My fu is stronger than your tasty treats!

The highlight of the event and the whole reason for the spontaneous visit was seeing Santa!  My little one had never met the big guy and I was nervous about her reaction so I went with a friend as a precursor to our real Santa excursion next week.  My darling daughter is a huge flirt though, so it was an instant love fest.  After a short wait to get him sprung from jail (he was stuck in a parking lot), she took up her seat of honor on his knee and stared longingly into his twinkling eyes while tangling her fingers in his beard.  Sadly, the pictures include a crummy tent tarp background in a lackluster general environment.  We’ll still visit a higher end Santa next week but for 5 bucks, Artisanal’s Santa experience wasn’t awful.

Santa made it onto his own naughty list.
Santa made it onto his own naughty list.
"Psst, big guy...  I have a present for you in my diaper!"
“Psst, big guy… I have a present for you in my diaper!”

Patchwork Craft Show No Go

I had every intention of going to the Patchwork Show in Santa Ana today but a series of events kept me from it.  First church (hi hippie Unitarians!) which got canceled due to the kid oversleeping her morning nap, then I spent too much time researching ways to use my remaining root vegetables from the Culver City Farmers Market to make leftover turkey chili, Skyped with the in laws, and then I happened to look at a map and discovered Santa Ana is hella far down in the OC. By that time, this wet stuff had started falling from the sky.  Too bad…  lots of great vendors were at the Long Beach show and I was looking forward to shoving some cash at them.  Next up…  Unique LA!

Have Infant, Will Travel

People often ask me how I get around so much with an infant. It’s pretty easy: my daughter is 5 months old and can’t say “please stop dragging me to everything, Mom.” Since her birth in June, we’ve been in perpetual motion, stopping only long enough to nurse and fight naps. There’s been a diaper change or two in there somewhere.

WeHo Pumpkin PatchWe’ve been to 3 weddings, 2 baby showers, a wedding shower, and a family reunion, visited folks in 4 states and the District of Columbia, saw the world’s largest rubber ducky in Long Beach, watched Shakespeare in Griffith Park, perused art at the world’s oldest and largest artist colony at the LA Brewery Art Walk, toured one of California’s most over-embellished homes at Hearst Castle, stared at the biggest trees in Big Sur, and gaped at the most expansive collection of Greek artifacts on the West Coast at the Getty Villa. There was a dust-free party for the Burning Man left-behinds in Reseda, a backyard Octoberfest in Eagle Rock, a quick spin through the Patchwork Craft Fair in Long Beach, a free ferry ride to Catalina for my birthday, a single visit to the “Birth Stories” lecture series in Venice, and more baby storytime at the local library than you can shake a stick at. We also spotted a well-known but poorly aging celebrity at a pumpkin patch in West Hollywood. Would it be LA without a star sighting?

I thought life with a baby would slow me down but I’ve been to more places with my tiny partner in crime than I ever went as a single entity. My desire to show my kid the best our world has to offer gets me out of my shell and reintroduces me to all the reasons I moved to California. We don’t plan on stopping. Well, maybe after this nap.