Singing in Chobani’s “Fruit Symphony” Commercial

Inspiration

All the years I spent pursuing my love of music, I never pictured myself in a national commercial. I am truly overwhelmed in the most positive of ways, and have so many thoughts and feelings regarding the amazing opportunity I was given. Right now, all I can say is that I am truly blessed and have led a very fortunate life. Thank you, Chobani, for being a force of good in this world and for helping me to live my dreams.

Read more about the new commercial on Fast CompanyMediaPost and brandchannel.

An Enchanted Retelling of the Tale as Old as Time

Pop Culture, Review

Even though it took me a little while (8 days following the release to be exact) to make it to the movies to see this incredibly anticipated film for the first time, I’m happy to say I have now officially watched Disney’s live action remake of “Beauty and the Beast” twice.

Staying true to the original story, this film was full of the magic we associate with the animated class, while still bringing something new to the table. Emma Waston was, of course, fabulous as Belle, retaining the old world charm we remember of the original character while also furthering Belle’s charisma and fearlessness.

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A round of applause is also in order for Dan Stevens who played quite the believable Beast.

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Aside from the amazing talent and incredible reputations backing up each of the cast members, there were so many other elements that contributed to this film being spectacular, and dare I say, even better than the original…? That might be a debate for another day.

In the mean time, here are (in my humble opinion) the top five changes that made this live action retelling so successful:

Character Development. Characters are one of the most important pieces in your story. While filmmakers already had most of the plot laid out for them, sticking to the original story, it was essential that they add to the characters of Belle and Beast to make them fit for a full-length live action rendition. Adding backstory to both protagonists (essentially the deaths of parents) gave viewers a deeper understanding  of both characters.

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New Songs. Speaking of character development, how fantastic were both “Days in the Sun” and “Evermore?” Did anyone else feel their hearts ripping in half during the latter? Thank you, Disney for giving us new songs to obsess over! (“Be Out Guest” was still amazing of course.)

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Gaston and Lefou: Watching this movie, I realized I didn’t hate Gaston as much as I did in the original. In fact, for a while, I quite enjoyed his role in the movie. Don’t get me wrong, by the end I was wishing to push him off the bridge myself, but I enjoyed the filmmakers’ decision to create a like-able villain, deviating from the always-despicable cartoon version.

And Lefou? He was just hilarious. Enough said.

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Style. While there were definitely differences from the original, I absolutely adored the stylization of the furniture, castle interior and costumes. As I mentioned in a previous post, this story demonstrates Rococo influence, making it absolutely stunning to behold.

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Special Effects. An outstanding bravo to the film’s art department – you guys killed it! In a piece that relies so heavily on fantastical characters it’s easy to become focused on where the fictional representations are lacking. This certainly wasn’t the case with “Beauty and the Beast” – the team behind all of the fabulous special effects did an outstanding job. I’ll be waiting any day now for my tea cup to strike up a conversation.

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Clearly, my overall opinion is positive. Unlike so many other movies, I didn’t feel like I was watching the film, I felt like I was experiencing it. Truly an elegant masterpiece that will be enjoyed for many years to come.

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Can’t get enough “Beauty and the Beast?” Check out my story-inspired embroidery piece here and drawing here.

Getting ready to see #BeautyandtheBeast for a second time – this time with mom and grammie! ❤️🥀

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Celebrating the DVD Release of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”

Art

The magic is back: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them releases on DVD today! The last four months have certainly dragged – but we all know that it was well worth the wait.

Even though I know you’re very busy, out frantically shopping for your copy and consequently watching the film overandoverandover again, I’d like to take a minute and share with you my latest Beasts piece.

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We all remember Dougal the Demiguise right? The crazy, kind of scary but also incredibly cute creature that can turn invisible and see the future? If not, here’s a quick memory jogger:

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He’s also the first Beast alluded to in the film, as our first look at Newt Scamander shows him speaking to Dougal through his magical case:

This sketch was one of the first I completed upon receiving my Prismacolor pencil set and I was having a lot of fun combining grey and purple tones.

I’m liken to think it has character – very much like the character as a matter of fact!

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But that’s enough about me – get the popcorn going, it’s time to re-watch this film!

“Wicked” (Touring) – Nothing Short of Spellbinding

Pop Culture, Review

We’re not in Syracuse anymore! 

This weekend I had the immense pleasure of attending my first off-Broadway show: “Wicked,” touring at the Landmark Theater in Syracuse, NY.

Although I had read the book, I was unsure of what to expect from the musical. Obviously I had heard it was good, and considering my predisposed love for “The Wizard of Oz,” I was eager to see what the hype was all about.

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One of the many Scarecrow-inspired paintings I created during my undergraduate studies.

If you read the title to this post,  you probably have a pretty good idea as to what I’m going to say. That being, this musical was FANTASTIC, or should I say WONDERFUL. 

Everything about this production was spot-on, magical and completely bewitching. I kid you not when I say I sat at the edge of my seat during the entire show. That’s a full 150 minutes of sitting up as far as I possibly could on my child-sized, 1920s-constructed balcony seat, eager to witness, listen and experience every sound and dance move being performed onstage.

Feeling a little bit #wicked!!! 💚

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Whether you’re a Central New Yorker currently debating whether or not to buy tickets for the show, or someone considering seeing it on Broadway in the future, here are three reasons why you absolutely, positively should:

MUSIC

I’ll preface this subsection by first saying that I love music and I love musicals, BUT sometimes, just sometimes, there are musicals that start to lose me in the second act, whether it be through an over-played dramatic number or a rhythm that just doesn’t catch. The great thing about “Wicked?” All of the songs are great! Catchy with character, all of the musical numbers directly contribute to moving the story forward, while also conveying an impact and overall experience that acting alone would fall short of. Some of my favorites included “Defying Gravity,” “One Short Day” and “The Wizard and I.”

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SPECIAL EFFECTS

I don’t care who you are – special effects are fun. Especially when those special effects are portraying a young girl’s transition from bookish outcast to the Wicked Witch of the West. No joke, the end of Act 1 gave me goosebumps. There’s also a lot to be said of watching Glinda fly in on a steampunk inspired bubble.

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STORY

Finally, I’m always one for a strong story – it’s what drives effective communication and makes for the most memorable entertainment. Whether you are a fan of “The Wizard of Oz” or not (though admittedly, it helps) this musical supplies audience members with a strong story, as magical as it is relatable. Themes of love, friendship and the search for identity make this show accessible to all ages. And truthfully, aren’t you just a little bit curious about how the Wicked Witch comes to be? No? How about the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion then?

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Outside of my top three, there are also countless other elements that make this show amazing, including but not limited to costumes, lighting design and the immense talent of the entire cast. All of which goes into my saying that I couldn’t have been happier with my “Wicked” experience – the show was everything I’d hoped it would be and more.

If you ever have the opportunity to see it, I highly recommend you do so. After all, it’s not every day you get to defy gravity.

*Respecting the request of the theater and production, the author refrained from photography during the show. Photographs of the show featured in this article were retrieved from Google Images.

Talking about Rococo, Tea Cups and “Beauty and the Beast”

Art, Pop Culture

“Beauty and the Beast” releases in theaters today and dear God I couldn’t be more excited! Although I may not be able to make it to the theater for a few more days, I’d like to celebrate this happy day with my latest art piece, a colored pencil drawing inspired by the Rococo art period, a movement that is very much visible in “Beauty and the Beast.”

First thing is first: what is Rococo? Having been an art major in college, I took my fair share of art history courses and would be more than happy to fill you in.

While most of us have at least heard of movements such as Impressionism (You know, the blurry French paintings? Monet?) or Cubism (think Picasso)  the term Rococo isn’t quite as mainstream.

An art period that unfolded in late 18th century France, Rococo strongly concentrated on light and very much intricate detail. You may be familiar with this piece, “The Swing” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard:

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Well, at least you’ve probably seen it here:

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(Needless to say, Rococo is a wee bit flirtatious).

If not, perhaps you’ve seen my personal favorite of the period “The Embarkation for Cythera” by Jean-Antoine Watteau.

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Either way, you get the picture.

Rococo. It’s light, its airy, it’s pink-hued and it’s intricately detailed. It’s also a style which I’m very much reminded of as I eagerly await the release of  Disney’s live-action”Beauty and the Beast.”

Debate among Disney-enthusiasts has not yet revealed a conclusive answer as to whether or not the fairy tale is meant to be set in the Baroque or Rococo time period. Either way, we know it’s French and it’s beautiful, and maybe that’s all we really need to know.

All of which brings me back to main point, which is to share with you my latest drawing, inspired by “Beauty and the Beast” aesthetics.

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Although they’re no Mrs. Pots and Chip, these tea cups stand up in their own right (literally and metaphorically speaking).

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Inspired by an image I came across on Pinterest, I loved blocking in the variety of colors with Prismacolor pencils.

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The smooth texture was later achieved by blending the pigments together with a blending pencil.

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Hopefully you find this drawing inspiring – I know you’re just excited about tonight’s movie release as I am – and stay tuned for future “Beauty and the Beast” inspired artwork!

(Something tells me there is going to be a lot of it.)

Marble Cake with Apricot Filling and Decadent Mocha Frosting

Baking

A special post-birthday shout-out to my boyfriend Andy who turned 33 this week! While last year we celebrating by exploring the fabulous town of Skaneateles, this year we celebrated by going out to eat at SUMO hibachi and later enjoying his favorite cake – a marble filled with apricot preserves and topped with a rich mocha frosting.

Here’s how to make it:

INGREDIENTS

For the cake:

  • 1 box of marble cake mix (I’ve mentioned before that the men in my family prefer box-cake. Thankfully, it’s a great solution when you are looking to save time and feature your frosting.)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs

For the filling:

  • 1/2 jar of Smucker’s Apricot Preserves, 18 oz

For the frosting:

  • 1 cup salted butter, room temperature (or unsalted, if preferred)
  • 2 tbs instant coffee granules
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup melted semi-sweet chocolate– cooled slightly (you can use chocolate chips for this)

Painting with #cakebatter. 🥄

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DIRECTIONS

  1. Bake the cake according to the instructions on the box, using two 9-inch rounds.
  2. Let cake cool completely.
  3. Spread the apricot preserves over the first round. Be generous, as the cake will absorb the preserves over time.
  4. To prepare frosting, whip butter and instant coffee granules together until fluffy.with an electric mixer.
  5. Turn mixer to medium/high speed and slowly pour in whipping cream and whip until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  6.  Mix in vanilla extract and melted chocolate while whipping on medium/high speed.
  7. Turn mixer speed down to medium/low and slowly add in your powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until the frosting has reached your desired thickness.(Tip: If you are using a strong variation of instant coffee, you will want to use the full four cups of sugar to balance the bitterness of the granules.)
  8. Gently place the second round of your cake atop the first.
  9. Generously apply frosting to the top and sides of your cake.
  10. If desired, decorate with chocolate chips and cocoa powder.

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Original frosting recipe retrieved from http://www.bakeaholicmama.com/2014/01/chocolate-cake-with-whipped-mocha.html. The recipe has been altered from its original format.

 

Embroidering Elsa’s Coronation Dress

Art

Those of your who follow me on Instagram received a subtle preview to the piece that I am featuring today. Although we’ve seen a few 70 degree days over the past couple of weeks, Upstate New York is witnessing a resurgence of winter, with this weekend being particularly frigid, heralding sub-zero temperatures. With bone chilling winds blustering outside, what better time to share my latest Frozen-inspired piece?

This winter, when I was feeling particularly tired post-Christmas, I was looking for a simple, quick project to keep my hands busy as I recovered from the holidays and put more serious thought into what my next piece would be.

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Thinking about textiles and re-representing them in textile art, I decided to do an embroidery piece based on Elsa’s coronation dress from Disney’s Frozen (because, let’s face it, we all know I love that movie and it is great inspiration for winter).

The design and color palette of her dress is simple, refined and very-much Scandinavian, and the design found on the bodice embodies those traits. I wanted my simple embroidery piece to be much the same.


When starting this embroidery, I didn’t have any fabric on hand that was the same color as Elsa’s dress. No matter! I wanted to make the piece mine after all. Instead of using the dark turquoise color, I landed on a light blue before free-hand drawing the design on with a ballpoint pen.

After that, it was a matter of filling the piece in with corresponding colors.

Feminine with allusions to both winter and spring, I’m hoping this is the last cold-weather inspired artwork that I will be sharing for a while!

Sketch for Inspiration, Not Perfection

Art

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time drawing with and talking about Prismacolor Premier pencils. While I’ve already shown you my latest hedgehog drawing, today I’m featuring a 45 minute sketch that actually pre-dated the hog.

I titled the piece “Expelling Evil” and, admittedly, it is way outside my usual subject matter and artistic vibe. It all started with a silhouette of a woman’s face, before then transitioning into experimenting with the wide range of colors featured in the pencil set. (Hence the purple-blue hair and bright red lips.)

I’m sharing this drawing not because it is one of my greatest works, but because it is a sketch in the purest sense of the word. While drawing, I reached a point where I gave up thinking about the piece and instead let my hand just draw.

As an artist, it is so, so, SO important to avoid getting caught up in your own mind. To do so would be to become crippled with over-thinking and not allow for your artistic instincts to reveal new perspectives of your creative mind.

Even if a drawing doesn’t turn out quite how you imagined it, there is so much value to be gained from trying new things. Much more value than if you were to draw the same thing over and over agin perfectly.

So get out there and drawing something new. Draw something ugly. Draw to discover a new side of yourself and to re-discover your inspiration.

A Brief Jaunt To Los Angeles: Highlights

Travel

Last week I took a last-minute, whirlwind business trip to Los Angeles. Although there wasn’t much time for activities outside of work, there were (thankfully) brief amounts of time to take in a few sites and enjoy some of the local eats.

These were some of the highlights from my trip:

Hollywood Walk of Fame:

If you’re staying as close to Hollywood as I was, seeing this iconic site is kind of a must. Although it was raining (and evening) by the time my colleagues and I were finally able to take the walk, it was still well worth the time. Some of my favorite stars included Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball and Walt Disney of course!

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Thai Food:

Living where I do, I’ve never actually had the opportunity to try Thai food. An avid watcher of The Big Bang Theory, I was under the impression that this cultural cuisine was pretty mainstream in California – and I wasn’t disappointed!  I’m happy to report that my rice bowl with chicken and peanut sauce was DELICIOUS! (And so was the Thai beer).

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Thai beer? First time for everything. #wheninla #lalaland

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L.A. Live:

We decided to spend our last evening in La La Land at cultural hotspot L.A. Live, eating some more good food and, admittedly, looking for celebrities. If you’re looking for some class and Mediterranean eats for an affordable price, definitely check out Cleo.

It was also really cool seeing the Staples Center a few days proceeding the GRAMMYs.

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Despite being fast-paced with a business focus, it was still a fun trip and a destination that I would definitely recommend. With its beautiful weather, immense variety of food and long-standing reputation as the ultimate hub of the entertainment industry, there is something magical about L.A.

After a seven-hour delay, I've never been so happy to be home.

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