An open-air, tianguis inspired restaurant

Jessica Evans has spent months pouring her blood, sweat and tears into transforming a downtown Albany, NY space into an urban Mexican haunt.   ama cocina, translated from Spanish as “she loves cooking” is Evans’ brainchild. Drawing inspiration from the tianguis [open-air pop up food truck & wares markets] of Mexico, the restaurant envelops a modern Mexican street food concept. With music pouring out onto the sidewalk from the open garage style doors, the giant portrait of Frida Kahlo greeting you as you walk in, and the hand-painted Mexican tile beneath your feet, you feel like you’re stepping out of the Mercado de San Juan and stopping for a moment to enjoy some food and a drink with friends.

FRONT

The materials and finishes, created by at least ten local artisans and artists, offer the space a welcome mix of texture and contrast. During the renovation Evans not only collaborated with the construction team, but often picked up a sledgehammer or metal sander herself to get the job done right.

FRIDA

ENTRANCE

Thoughtful and subtle details, like the salvaged oil lamp light pendants, and the shapes of street signs built into the bar back are what give this space its inviting and warm energy.

Reclaimed pallet sliding doors closes off a meeting space, and hand-painted geometric concrete tiles spill into the wood floor.

A local graffiti artist adds colorful sugar skulls on the bathroom walls.

BATHROOM

All in all, the ama cocina is the place to be for a high energy atmosphere and gourmet street food.

bus window

 

 

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The Five Barns Farm houses a family of artists

Walking in to this charming colonial style farmhouse in rural upstate NY, I am immediately greeted by the dog of the house, “Splash”, and get the feeling that this was the house of a magical childhood. The kind of childhood where you giggled with your friends under the dining room table, ran through the backyard at dusk collecting fireflies, and sat at the kitchen island daydreaming as the sun cast rays of light through the blue glass collection lined up on the window sills.

front

 

{Kitchen}

KITCHEN

 

The 2,500SF home is a blend of two old farmhouses built in 1850 and 1750, joined together over a hundred years ago. With five bedrooms and four bathrooms the house could have fit the Brady bunch, but instead the Mincher family, a family of three, has called it home for the past twenty-two years. Susan Mincher and daughter Chloe’s artwork decorates the walls and the mantels of the estate, which befittingly houses an artist studio on the top floor. Rick Mincher, a spoken word artist, showcases his creativity throughout the house with a multitude of renovation and remodeling work. “He is a very handy man,” Susan states as she gives me a tour.

 

{studio}

 

The large home is full of surprises that intrigue your imagination, like the secret passageway through the studio that winds through a closet and lands you in the master bedroom, or a hidden doorway behind a bookshelf that keeps an entire bedroom hidden from view.

 

{hidden doorway & secret passage)

 

daughters room

guest bed

Stepping softly over wide plank wooden floors, covered by a collection of oriental rugs, Susan’s paintings inviting you to stories from other parts of the world, enticing you to kick off your shoes and perch up in the screened-in porch with a copy of Pride and Prejudice.

 

{porch)

screened porch

 

{backyard}

barn

Balance

I’m an all or nothing kind of girl.  It’s taken me a long time to weed through the black and white polarities pervading my judgments, to find the grey.  Its always been “Its either perfect, or it’s a failure”.  Fortunately, someone pointed out to me that this ideation left me always in a heap of defeat, since, they said… “there is no such thing as perfection, therefore, in this thinking everything is always all wrong.” I then timidly entered, for the first time, into the world of grey… where things can be okay the way that they are, however imperfect I might have once judged them to be.

designer Paul Cocksedge's "Poised" Table

designer Paul Cocksedge’s “Poised” Table

In design, I often see symmetry- in perfectly spaced architectural elements, or evenly placed furnishings, and I have to ask myself: “is this necessary?”  Balance, when viewed not as the art of perfection, but as an opportunity to welcome a little bit of distortion, can make all the difference in creating a life space worth living in.

"Balance"

“Balance”

Link

What is Greenwashing?

Marketers have glommed onto the market interest in environmentally responsible products.  What you may not know is that there are several loopholes in the law that allows companies to make claims eluding to a sustainable value, when in fact the claim is unfounded and misleading.  A great example of this, is the use of the phrase “all natural”, which requires no real evidence and has no actual definition.  Meaning marketers can slap that onto a product just because they can.

Read more on greenwashing in this article

Getting in touch…

Aside

One way to get in to touch with what’s going on around you as well as what’s going on inside, is to check in with your senses.  External queues can be great indicators of sources of stress.  Once I started checking in with my senses, I began to develop an awareness of the way my body responds to a space, or elements within a space.  And after I got good at that, I began to understand how my emotions were tied to my body’s physiological state.  Since, most of the time, I take an action based on how I’m feeling, I can see the importance of gaining some manageability over my body’s responses to external factors.

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Anxiety is the body’s fight or flight response to a perceived threat of danger.  This series of messages along the neuro-pathway that govern our body, and gears us up for survival, is an evolutionary leftover.  It used to be useful, but now it is all jumbled up in an emotional thunderstorm that seems to fold over on itself, perpetuating a habituary reaction that makes us feel “crazy”.

The good news is, all of our bodies are wired to react this way to stress, so if it’s “crazy”…we are all crazy.  It’s just a matter of evaluating how deep this habit runs.  That’s a personal journey that takes time and effort, and too much space to elaborate on here.  However, one only needs a willingness to make a start, to reap the benefits of this kind of work.

Many people, places, and things elicit an uncomfortable emotional response, its not always “anxiety”, but for the sake of generalities we will keep using that as a reference point.  As I followed that journey I spoke of earlier, of identifying the sources of anxiety, I came to realize that there were several “small” factors that would create that physical response for me.  Not just the big stuff, as I had imagined.  That was a relief because it meant I could gain some manageability immediately, without needing to hire a therapist to sort out all the ways my crazy family had screwed me up.  Nope, I could start by paying attention to what was going on around me and make some simple, physical changes to my surroundings.

The first thing I noticed was that I had a strong reaction to daylight (or the lack thereof), and then all kinds of lighting.  Adjusting my environment to allow for more daylight has been crucial ever since.  Another thing I noticed was that clutter has a phenomenal impact on how settled I feel.  Getting rid of anything that did not have a function or a purpose served me well (FYI, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard was to take a picture of an object that holds sentimental value, and then toss it!).  Quarantining electronics to a certain area of my home also had an outstanding positive effect on my serenity (after the withdrawal subsided, of course).  Colors is an obvious element, however I had no idea how much it affected my mood until I started to take notice.  Desaturated colors have a very calming effect.  Some colors vibrate enough all on there own that its enough to induce a full fledged panic attack.  Tall ceilings and open spaces are some other elements that I favor for a stable emotional playing field.  Certain textures were more calming than others, and have since banned polyester from my bedroom.

I have talked here about our sense of touch, and sight, but what about smell?  I know for me, a certain familiar scent has the ability to send me reeling back to an uncomfortable point in time as much as it has the power to soothe.  But besides just lighting a candle, I think there is some very important information that we can pick up through becoming aware of what we smell.  After all, it is telling us about the air that we are breathing into our bodies.  And poor indoor air quality can be a cause all by itself for physical symptoms and illnesses.  At a later date I will go into further discussion about Sick Building Syndrome.  Once I tuned into this, I was never able to relegate the smell of toxic chemicals to a clean house again.  Now, that “clean” smell represents inflamed lung tissue and poor ventilation.  I have switched to organic cleaning supplies, which are easy to make yourself.  Also, candles smell like a putrid mix of chemicals and smoke, and now I can only justify using clean burning candles that are scented naturally.

Hiring a licensed Interior Designer or architect to evaluate the condition of the air quality in your home and taking steps to address it, along with all of the other ways your home or office creates a sense calm or directly contributes to a sense of anxiety in your next renovation can have a direct impact on your health and therefor your overall sense of well-being.

-LJ

Projection…

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I remember the first time I saw this photograph, for which I discovered via the always inspiring TheBlackWorkshop tumblr account. It was one of those rare, game-changing moments, where a concept I thought I knew, hit me over the head in a new and fantastic way. Oprah would call this an AH-HA” moment. And Doris Lessing would say it’s learning “That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.” I call it an epiphany.

The concept of “projection” has been one that was first brought to my attention when I started to take a look at how my emotions were affecting my behavior, and how I might gain some manageability by taking responsibility for them. My mentors would constantly point to me and say, “you’re projecting”; which I understood to mean that I was imagining a future outcome without weighing out all the alternatives. This was a great awareness that helped me in moments were I felt the familiar signs of anxiety start to take hold. I would think to myself “you’re projecting, things could go well just as easily, now make the doctor’s appointment, job interview, etc”. I practiced this for years before I saw this image.

However- my idea of projection changed upon seeing this image of light cast through stained glass, creating an abstraction of the existing element, onto the surfaces adjoining the element. And suddenly, I understood the ways in which I was propagating my own misery by viewing the many situations and relationships in my life through a set of lenses that abstracted my perception of what was real.  I suddenly realized that I was making assumptions about how people were feeling, based on how I was feeling.  Simply, I had imagined many of the tense or awkward dynamics that I felt were true among the people who touched my life.  I especially did this with pain.  I frequently found myself assuming people were in pain, when in actuality it was my own that I was projecting.

From design blog Trenhunter.com, who wrote a great review of this work by Armin Blasbichler Studio.

Now I am able to better understand that each person’s perception of a particular experience will have been molded by all other experiences leading up to that point.  I am able to ask people how they are perceiving an experience, and listen.  This gives me the opportunity to build compassion, for once I saw the ways my own experiences shaped my outlook, I was able to see how others could have arrived at theirs.  And today I can find some peace in the differences.

Like many of these epiphanies, they are big in the moment and often lost soon after their inception.  However, this realization possesses even more depth by the permanent association I will forever have binding this emotional sentiment to the architectural element of stained glass.  I am also fond of and intrigued by the purposeful use of shadow. These elements are used beautifully by Armin Blasbichler Studio, who is responsible for the door shown at the top.  The fascination I have lies in the ability to create a separate characteristic within a space with the addition of a light source.  Where, there was one element, there now are two.  And the displacement of the original creates a dimension that can create a feeling of the space, a feeling that can be thoughtfully manipulated; that is truly magnificent.

L.J. for StudioE-IQ

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Shadow- by NORHISHAM SHAFIE