Days 3-7: Tuscany

The wanna-be Italian cruising through the country side. 

Where an American girl finds her passion among cobblestone hills. 

November 25, 2013// Day 2// 10:15pm

THE GAME PLAN:

Orvieto

Montepulciano

Montichiello

Montalcino

Siena

Where I decide that I can no longer live in the USA.

The last few days have been life changing. Every little detail has been a new visual adventure. Every experience is teaching me more about what it really means to live. Tuscany will forever live in my work and the life that I wish to create for myself.

Tuscan cities just have it right. A beauty without being pretentious. Clean, friendly and humble. They drive small efficient cars, recycle everything and stop eating when they are full. They walk around and meet in cafes with friends. They live a full-bodied life of long talks over local wine and rich landscapes. They just seem to have an innate sense of what life is about and don’t need more than what satisfies their basic needs. This is a life I aspire to live.

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Rome: Day 2

The wet crusader in a city of clown cars and marble wonders.

Saturday November 23, 2013// 10:31pm

Well, we quite literally did “Rome in a day”. This city is chalk full of history. It’s crazy to be surrounded by buildings that are over 500 hundred years old. We did the “Caesar Shuffle”- starting with visiting the Vatican City, which is it’s own COUNTRY inside of Italy. Inside, we saw the Vatican museums and the Sistine chapel. The beauty was almost overwhelming. I couldn’t even fully take in the magnitude of the artwork work around me. Every square inch from the ground we walked on to the expansive ceilings were gilded, carved and painted to a maddening perfection. This city could keep even the most fidgety traveler satisfied and eyes entertained. We also visited the Spanish steps (I would have skipped this one due to our tight schedule) and the Trevi fountain (a beautiful must see).

There is heated debate between whether Lonely Planet or Rick Steves is a better literary tour guide. Clint and I are team Rick- his style of writing is like reading recommendations from a friend and peppered with racy humor (which you know I love). He led us to a small italian restaurant for some fried cheese and spaghetti. Afterward, we picked up some wine at a local market and went home to rest our aching feet.

It rained the ENTIRE day- which I honestly thought was quite charming at first, romantically damp and sidewalks full of lovers holding each other tight under colored umbrellas. And it was all fun and games until the temperature dropped to 30 and the water was so deep on the sidewalks that it completely flooded my shoes and I was left to slosh in freezing water for a few miles with my drenched hair and coat. This was about the time that Clint probably had a small panic attack about the trip- wondering why he brought a sun loving girl to Europe in the winter.

Tomorrow we leave for Tuscany.

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Rome: Day 1

Backpacking through Europe:

I will be chronicling my trip through the writings I scribbled down in my journal. I hope to be completely honest in my experiences- good and bad. I do not claim to be a history buff nor a well seasoned traveler- so I understand if one may have very differing views of areas I will be writing about, but this is my personal experience as I saw, smelt, touched and ate my way through 4 countries.

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The novice with a notebook and a backpack.

Where she has 8 clean pair of underwear and an open mind.

November 21, 2013//8pm American Time

Sitting in the airport about to leave. We will be flying to London for a 40 minute layover. I wish that we were staying long enough to see it. It’s my first time flying on British Airways, and I feel like a “real” traveler already. Everyone around me has different accents that tell of their journeys that they have weathered- the ones that I am about to experience for myself. Going on my first back packing trip is like crossing over into a new world- one where travelers speak their own language of passion and intrigue- and me and my 45 gallon pack are suddenly allowed to sit at the table and listen.

I am entering this trip hoping to truly move something inside of me. I am honestly quite frightened. Not for my safety or health- but of the unknown. I am scared I am going to be severed from the possession and places that define me- and when those things are gone I will find something within myself that scares me. Like that I was naive to believe that I could really travel 3 weeks on 2 measly outfits and some travel toothpaste. That my idea of traveling was but a fool’s paradise that will melt into a big ugly puddle of disillusion in front of me. (I can be quite melodramatic when left alone with a pen, can’t I?)

Last night I journaled a small prayer:

“Lord, please keep my heart and my mind wide open. Show me a part of myself and a part of you that I must fight for. Help me find a deeper connection to the world, to develop relationships that enrich, to be blessed by strangers, and see the world with childlike curiosity.

I want to let go of my need for control that as kept me from loving others over being comfortable. I want to embrace my individualism outside of vanity. I want to soak in my surroundings to my very core- learning more than what is simply given to me. Please help me eat up every little bite of beauty and let it pour out of my work and my life in a way that changes the world around me and brings glory to your name. I want to learn who I am without the comforts of home or the material possessions that I believe to define me or others. Give me the strength to be authentic and full of beauty the world lends to me for the next 3 weeks. Amen.”

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November 22, 2013// 1:30am Rome Time

I need to sleep, but I wanted to write a few things down about the day.

We flew around 15 hours and finally arrived in Rome around 8pm. It’s a 9 hour difference between here and the states. We took a train to the home we will be staying in for the next 2 nights. We found most of the places we will be staying through Air B&B, and tonight we are sharing a small apartment with a woman named Angiola, a writer in her late 50s. She came and picked us up at the station- which we were extremely grateful for because we were worried about being able to find her place in the dark. Once we arrived at her apartment, small but full of old charm- white washed with creaky wood floors and high crowned walls, she poured us a glass of wine and patiently helped us figure out how to get to the colosseum. We met her brother who currently lives with her. He introduced himself as Michelangelo, followed by the only english he knew: “like the painter!” in a giddy Italian lilt. We wasted no time getting back out to explore, even though it was dark, cold and raining (a temperament that would follow us around for most of our time in Rome).

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Google has ruined the magic of the great wonders of the world. Before the all mighty internet, one would have to actually TRAVEL the world to see something like the colosseum. And I stood in front of it sadly realizing that the pictures on Pintrest that I looked up a few days before were alot better looking than the real thing. (Note from future self: Rome wasn’t my favorite. And before you get worried that I’m going to rant on google being better than one of the most important historical sites in the world, I won’t. Until we get to Paris.)

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We got some pizza at a small cafe. We learned very quickly that there is no such thing as free water here. If you want water, it will be bottled and almost as expensive as your entire meal. So you might as well have a beer.

Walk through this world of tiny cars, ornate buildings and gelato- wondering how we could really actually be here. Right now. Starting our journey.

When we get back to the apartment, we realize we can’t figure out how to use the Italian keys. We end up waking up Angiola with our loud attempts of entering past midnight. She graciously assured us that she was “up writing”, but I saw her robe and disheveled hair and tip toed around the house to keep from any further disturbances.

Clint excitedly told me there was a urinal in the bathroom, along with the toilet. (This “urinal” turned out to be a beday. But I’m pretty sure he still peed it for the remainder of our visit.)

More to talk about later, but it’s 1:30am and I haven’t slept for 2 days.

Buonanotte!

 

life, as told by hops.

This weekend was full of french fries, laughing until I teared up, finding ourselves in an underground club by complete accident, brewery tours, inappropriate and loud games of cards for humanity while indian style on dirty floors, watching youtube diaries of complete strangers, staying up all night telling secrets, waiters with weird tattoos and missing teeth, cocktails with flowers, snuggling, and running and dancing through the pouring rain with 3 of my oldest and dearest friends.

It’s weekends like this last one that reminds me how fun life is. And how nice it feels to be around the people who are as close as family where you don’t have to think before you talk and you don’t have to brush your hair for 3 days. To have people around you who make a simple trip to lunch into a great memory. And who remind you how to laugh without fear of tomorrow- because all you need is playing out right before you.

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austin street art.

It’s no secret how much I miss Austin. I was spoiled rotten by living in a city that encompassed everything I love. A city where you didn’t even have to go looking for an amazing dive bar, live music, delicious hole in the wall, or a store busting at the seams with vintage vinyls and apparel. But distance makes the heart grow fonder, and I treasure each time I have an excuse to make it back to my stomping grounds.

Something that I love about Austin is it’s saturation of artistic expression. While some people find this to be overwhelming, I am so interested in the varied ways that human’s choose to leave their mark on the world. The amount of character and passion that is embraced by this city is so quirky and fun. It’s like walking into your grandfather’s study that is littered with knick knacks, but the intention behind every object makes you feel at home.

This trip, I decided to snap a few shots of graffiti with my friend Whitney from an area called “Castle Hill”- a sanctuary for spray paint artists that are free to billboard their art onto huge cement walls. It’s different every time you go, as each work of art is always evolving or covered up by a new one. I was pleasantly surprised to find so many heartfelt messages on the walls, not just Jnko Jeans font scribbled into different tag names.  austin-0671 austin-0673 austin-0681 austin-0701 austin-0705 austin-0710 austin-0717 austin-0719

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It was actually Whitney’s birthday, so the picture of her by the cake with “Happy Birthday” beside it was quite fitting. And the last one is of her little fluff of a son, Juju.

If you ever happen to find yourself in Austin, here are just a few places that I would stop by:

1. Hop Doddy. Oh how I miss that place. Truly the best burger you can imagine with plenty of cold hops to wash it down with.

2. Kayaking on Towne Lake. You can rent canoes or kayaks for 10 dollars an hour/30 for the day and spend the day paddling through downtown Austin with a friend or lover or bottle of wine. You can even paddle board. Or be super hip and take a paddle board yoga class.

3. Congress. This street is teaming with antique shops, costume shops, boutiques, rustic/quirky hotels, and great restaurants.

4. The Oasis. This HUGE three-floor restaurant looks out over lake Austin and is super beautiful at sunset. Great prices for a fun date night or night out with the girls.

5. Castle Hill. Because I just blogged about it. Duh.

And I just realized from my list that I like wine and food. Welcome to my life.

XOXO, K.

painting for paris.

First of all, I would like to thank all my readers for the overwhelming response to WCW.  My most genuine gratitude to all of your kind words and encouragement on the new series/photography. You are pure gold.

Second, happy Labor Day to all of you. I hope you are grilling up some delicious meat with some of the people you love the most. I cheers you from Houston.

Thirdly, Clint and I have been painfully itching for a trip. For the last year, we have been saving, planning, brainstorming and dreaming of our next adventure. And we have finally decided on backpacking across Europe and ending in Morocco. We are still in intense research mode, but we are hoping to take a modest 2-3 week trip across the Northern Hemisphere this Winter (crosses both fingers) with nothing but a pair of cameras and the clothes on our backs.

Clint is doing most of the planning for all the incredible places we are stopping, but has given me Paris as my own project to plan. I am in love with Paris from afar. The culture. The fashion. The romanticism. The history. From Hemingway to Chanel, I am fascinated with this city that curated so much of what I find to be so magical and lovely. And while I tried to pretend that the Eiffel tower was overrated and touristy, I long to see it. And have a coffee where Fitzgerald changed literature. To witness the city that is deep and sad and buzzing and hip all at once. And while I know I am going to be in unwashed clothes and train slept hair when I see it, I am beside myself with anticipation.

Lately, I have taken up painting. I stumbled upon a work of art that I adored at an antique shop. I loved it so much, I would stop in every once in a while to look at it, each time hoping that it hadn’t been sold. With a handsome price tag of 4 grand, I knew it would never be mine. So I decided to try my own hand and make my own. So I went out and bought myself a 28″x36″ canvas and some new brushes. Much of the paints and supplies I still had from my college art classes. I took the evening and I painted my own piece of work with the same color scheme I found so beautiful in the antique shop painting. I sent a picture of the finished product to my friend who strongly encouraged me to post it on social media to get input. Once I did, the response was truly surprising. I was getting offers to buy it, along with generous praise. I was FLOORED. I was so scared to even post it in public and they wanted to BUY IT? I hung it up in my office, but soon after, I was wanting to paint more of them. Half out of curiosity (that was surely a one hit wonder.. right?) and half out of the creative freedom I felt while painting the first one. I felt like time flew by and was alone to express my emotions with a paint brush.

So I painted some more. One for over the fireplace. One for the bathroom. One for our bedroom. Another for the office. I was loving this. And running out of room. And money. (Thank goodness for hobby lobby’s 40% coupons.) But I still wasn’t selling them. I wanted to have a good enough cause.

And once this backpacking trip became a reality, I decided it was time. Time to paint for Paris. So in the next few weeks, I will be spending my free time painting different sizes of canvases to sell to help support our trip. I’m not sure yet on how I will be selling- on etsy, or simply by word of mouth through social media. If any of you readers sell handmade goods, please comment with your recommendations! I will be ever so grateful! I would love to get one (or 4!) of these labor of loves into the homes of the people I cherish.

I will be open for business once I can get about 5-10 paintings ready.

But here are a few snap shots of my project from this week, and my first attempt at using gold leaf in my work.

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Thank you for reading! And all of your continual support.

XOXO, k.

things that inspire.

There were so many times I wanted to sit myself down and write this post, but I have had so much buzzing in my head lately, I didn’t know how to lock down a single idea to talk about, but 18 days is far too long to have been off the blogging radar, and so here I am. I am also at a hotel sin motor vehicle and prematurely boasted to Clint about how much writing and blogging I could get caught up on, and I’ll be damned if he comes back from working all day and all I have to show for is a rerun of a Tom Hanks movie and a change of yoga pants. And I only said a change of yoga pants to act like I’m civilized. We all know I’m in the same yoga pants.

So, I have been jotting down ideas of what to write about, and I found that everything kind of horseshoes back to what has been inspiring me. So instead of spilling on about my recent life, I’m going to tell you a little about what has been keeping me up at night. And hopefully something will inspire you too.

1. INSTA CREATIVES.

Okay. I will shamelessly admit that I am borderline obsessed with the instagrams of a few very creative individuals… that I have never even met. Yes. It’s really weird, but I seek them out. I try to find these artsy little fireballs out in the virtual world and find great inspiration from their lifestyle and art that they share in little 3″x3″ squares. I find this form of virtual community, if utilized correctly, an instant library of ideas and advice. And unlike Pinterest’s unrealistic push for perfection, these ladies and gentlemen on Instagram are just posting about their day to day adventures from a camera phone, helping me understand that no one’s life is truly that much more fabulous than anyone else’s. It’s just actively finding beauty where you are. And no matter what your life looks like- there is inspiration all around you.

Here are the 10 most recent that I have been following:

@jennyhighsmith //graphic design and fashion

@taylorflower //rustic and simple, aspiring wedding designer

@chelseapetaja //paper goods and traveling

@bleubird //vintage inspiration and creative mother

@dalepartridge //CEO of Sevenly (next on my list of inspirations) and beautiful typography

@haleykjar //simple, authentic living and creative mommy

@stephsterjovski //beautiful prints and fashion inspiration

@thedoorsofnewyork //beautifully crafted entrances across NYC

@meaganhilde //gorgeous photos of simple life and traveling

@lucyspartalis //wedding photographer

2. SEVENLY.

I stumbled upon Sevenly.org while in my recent search or some well designed typography tees. Not only did this website fit the bill, the website’s cause was so inspiring to me.  I often brainstorm about how my creative skills could best.. in short… change the world. Because, while that might be a bold claim, I truly want to embrace this life and make as many huge changes as I can. Not just observe it passing me by. And sometimes I wonder how that’s possible as an artist. Sevenly showed me how something as simple as good design can make a huge impact in the lives of others all over the world. This website adopts a different cause every week, and the Sevenly team of artists create T-shirts, posters, and jewelry that represent the need. This merchandise raises money for the cause while also producing walking billboards for change. This idea has exploded, helping raise almost all the needed funds every single week. And you get a T-shirt that you actually feel really cool wearing. Witnessing someone use their talents to make a difference in the world is something worth living for. And I hope I can find a way to use mine.

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3. A SOUL COMING TO LIFE.

This is a phrase that my dear friend, Bri, wrote me in a letter from Switzerland lately. (You can find her lovely blog here.) She said, “Oh Kendall, my soul has come alive!” as she described her travels across Europe this summer, helping with Young Life. Her letter and picture of where she was staying meant so much to me that I hung it up by my desk to remember to pray for her journey as well as remind myself that the whole world is out there to conquer. She recently returned from her trip and called me today. We spent over an hour on the phone as I begged her to tell me everything. She was simply gushing over her experiences abroad. She spoke of the freedom she felt and the way she not only experienced a different culture, but got to meet a different part of her own self. I could almost touch her excitement over the phone. And it reminded me of how I felt with my trip to the Philippines and how aware and alive I felt. Bri went on to tell me what I believe to be true: You must do the things that make you feel alive. That these things usually come with huge risk and sacrifice, but they are available to everyone. It may not be traveling out of the country. It is attempting to conquer the thing that you believe to be impossible. And whether you succeed or fail isn’t what matters. It is that you are fighting death and fear and… sometimes even worse… mediocrity.

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In other news, I am starting a new blog segment called “Women Crush Wednesday” that highlights different women of different walks of life that inspire me. My first interview will be posted this.. you guessed it.. Wednesday. Stay tuned.

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XO, K.