Adventures in Pittsburgh: The Strip District

Adventures in Pittsburgh: Vegan Groceries, Coffe, and Art in the Strip District

To an outsider’s ear, the Strip District doesn’t exactly sound like a place you want to spend a lovely Sunday morning. Let alone a place you’d pick up a slew of produce at dirt cheap prices or stock up on bulk locally roasted coffee or admire beautiful art from local artists. But the Strip is just the place to go for that sort of adventure. For the first seven months of living in the city, I actively avoided going to the Strip. The traffic is awful. Parking is worse. And there are so. many. people.

But let me tell you, it’s worth every minute you spend stuck waiting for j-walking pedestrians or battling your fellow drivers for a just-barely-big-enough stretch of curb to park on.

Why exactly?

Adventures in Pittsburgh: Vegan Groceries, Coffe, and Art in the Strip District miaprimacasa.comAdventures in Pittsburgh: Vegan Groceries, Coffe, and Art in the Strip District

Firstly, because I bought a week’s worth of produce for $15. FIFTEEN DOLLARS! In the middle of the city! I even found daikon root. I still don’t really know what it is, but it was less than a dollar and tastes delicious in fried rice.

Adventures in Pittsburgh: Vegan Groceries, Coffe, and Art in the Strip District

Secondly, because the Asian markets are numerous and well priced. I bought a jar of umeboshi plums for $6. The same sized jar costs about $9 at my local co-op. I did my shopping at the first place I found, which was a small Korean market with an extremely helpful owner who tolerated my request for lotus root. But I was told that Lotus is also a great Asian market (and presumably also has lotus root…).

Adventures in Pittsburgh: Vegan Groceries, Coffe, and Art in the Strip District miaprimacasa.comAdventures in Pittsburgh: Vegan Groceries, Coffe, and Art in the Strip District

Thirdly, because coffee. So much coffee! I even asked the guy behind the counter if I could buy one of their empty coffee sacks. Yes, yes I could. So I did. For $2, which means I now have the cheapest wall art ever.

Adventures in Pittsburgh: Vegan Groceries, Coffe, and Art in the Strip District

And fourthly, because of the people. Ok, I know the vendors might be overly friendly because you have a wad of cash in your pocket, but trust me, I’ve seen vendors in northern Italy blatantly insult customers, so… I was satisfied. There was the bread guy who went into his (then closed) shop to find me olive oil. There was the Russian photographer who chatted with about being a Pittsburgh newcomer (“No matter what they say, you don’t have to be a Steelers fan.”), and whose beautiful photo of the city is now hanging in my living room.

With it’s fresh, affordable produce and Asian markets, the Strip District is a vegan’s dream. Toss in some quality coffee and some quality people, and you have a recipe for one of the best Sunday mornings you can find in this town.



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Visions of Monaco (in 6 Screens)



Vintage-inspired Monaco Grand Prix poster screen print

If you follow my Instagram, you might be surprised to learn that I actually do in fact do more than just cook vegan food, go clothes shopping, and take adorable pictures of my cat. Actually, one of my latest ventures has been a beginning screen printing class at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. My ultimate goal is (to probably no surprise) to screen print on t-shirts and home decor items (think: inexpensive throw pillows!). But for my first project, I wanted to keep it 2D, and instead decided to create a vintage-inspired Monaco Grand Prix poster for my dad (in exchange for some handmade metal screens, of course…). I pulled inspiration from posters, below, and overall I am very satisfied with the piece. It took six unique screens to print and a lot more time that I originally thought (I didn’t use photo emulsion but instead hand “painted” the design onto the screen), but it’s a great start to what could be a pretty awesome body of screen printed work.Grand Prix poster inspiration

Courtesy of

grand prix poster inspiration

Courtesy of




Fall Mix Tape 2013

Fall Mix Tape Art #miaprimacasa
Every season, I ask my friends to think about the sights, sounds, and feelings that remind them of the season. For me at autumn, I think of sweaters, hot chocolate, football games, and burning leaves. Then, I ask them to send me any songs that conjure up that imagery. When everyone has submitted, I compile the music together into three curated albums and create cover art. In 2013, we are celebrating the anniversary of the mix tape! (And also celebrating the season and the joy that comes along with sharing music you love and getting to know your friends a bit better on a new level). So I thought I’d share the first album with you all today. The first album, titled “State”, might be my favorite and probably sums up the feeling of the complete mix tape best. Enjoy and happy fall!

Fall Mix Tape Art #miaprimacasaFall Mix Tape Art #miaprimacasaFall Mix Tape Art #miaprimacasaFall Mix Tape Art #miaprimacasaFall Mix Tape Art #miaprimacasaFall Mix Tape Art #miaprimacasaFall Mix Tape Art #miaprimacasa

State of Independence, 2013, mixed media: packing tape, recycled bubble mailers, pen and ink

Pgh Gallery Crawl: Like a Pub Crawl, Except You Get Drunk on Strobe Lights

Pgh Gallery Crawl

I’ve been to a slew of gallery crawls and gallery nights, mostly in Chicago, but also in Madison and Florence. The Pittsburgh gallery crawl was different simply because it was a new city whose art scene I have’t explored. And also, it was the first gallery night I’ve attended alone. I thought I could picture the night: me, wandering the cultural district trying to deceiver a tiny map from a brochure and barely making it past the parking garage let alone to a host of galleries. Thankfully, the night turned out quite the opposite. Was it the strobe lights? The crazy interactive video collages? The night air? The giant duckie? Who knows! Either way I had a blast, met a load of crazy people, and would do it again (alone) in a heart beat.

Pgh Gallery Crawl 2

Kurt Hentschlager

I waited in line for this exhibit for an hour. I never actually made it to the room where the piece was taking place. But somehow, I left feeling like I had a good taste of postmodern art. Or maybe I try to find art in places where it’s not (intended to be). I’m known for thinking broken fence posts are part of sculpture gardens and that missing electrical outlets are accidentally unmarked installations. So I didn’t feel too disappointed to have spent an hour, crammed inside a tiny room with forty people, watching the smoke hiss out from under the door of the exhibit, wondering if we’d ever make it inside. I witnessed tension rise between people after a group cut the line. I met a man who, like me, ventured to the exhibit alone, and who took a moment to write down a note in a notepad he kept crumbled in his pocket. “Just for, you know, story ideas.” And finally, I watched a man get carried out of the exhibit room after experiencing a seizure. I was outta there in a second.

Granular Synthesis: Model 5 and Pol
Kurt Hentschlager and Ulf Langheinrich

Ironically (or not), the next exhibit I visited featured a large screen and four images of a women’s face, twisting and convulsing in repeated, robotic movement. At times both terrible and hilarious, needless to the say, the pieces made me very comfortable. Thankfully, I find uncomfortable art often times the most effective. Better to be disgusted by something than to think it beautiful in every way. Why? Because often beauty doesn’t really challenge how we think. Discomfort does.

For instance, getting a bit uncomfortable and exploring the city alone one evening.



Unique Holiday Gifts You Can Feel Good About Buying!


Still looking for a holiday gift? Want something unique, beautiful, and handmade? My non-profit, The Uncovered Artistry Project and Boutique, has a new goal to reach $1000 in sales this holiday season. We sell all sorts of handmade products including candles, jewelry, ornaments, and home goods, which are all made by domestic and sexual abuse survivors or generously donated by artists. And we just added a slew of new items! Help us reach our goal and find a unique gift that you can feel good about buying.

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Happy Holidays!


Mineral Point Art Tour, Flea Markets, & Crocheted Scarves

Last weekend a couple friends and I took a trip to the Mineral Point Art Tour. On our way into Mineral Point we found a huge flea market, which of course, none of us could resist. As usual, I found a piece of vintage jewelry that I fell in love with. It looks like a 60s costume jewelry necklace, but I can’t be so sure! The necklace reminded me of some of j.crew’s new jeweled statement jewelry pieces and is perfectly in line with this fall’s blingy vintage-inspired style.

I’ve been falling more and more in love with menswear this season (it’s not long before I try pulling off a skinny tie!), so I was delighted to come across a vintage men’s jewelry box. The tie bar holder is even labeled. It will make a unique addition to my vanity.

My friend Jaqui who joined me on the trip actually finished crocheting a beautiful cowl scarf on the car ride there and wore it through the flea market and the art tour.

I had never been on a art tour quite like this. I knew that artists opening up their homes and studios was the norm, but I was stunned by some of the amazing studio spaces and architecture that I saw. My favorite was a sculpture garden at Peter Flanary and Sandra Peterson’s gorgeous rural home. We also enjoyed the small town’s speciality, ceramics, at a downtown gallery after lunch at the local deli. All of this makes me think I ought to set up a studio in my basement and get back into creating!

The Artisan Gallery’s Latest Opening

The end of September and beginning of October are full of gallery openings and art shows, and I try to find myself at as many as I can. Even out in seemingly the middle of nowhere (cornfields, dirt roads, and country bars included), I found an amazing artisan gallery in Belleville, WI on historic Paoli Street. On Friday the 15th, I attended The Artisan Gallery’s opening of William Lemke: Photographs of the Grand Canyon, Group Show: 9th Annual Ceramics Invitational, and In the Cooler: Collaborations.
I love this gallery for its large and varied assortment of ceramic and sculpture work. I also appreciate the thought-provoking exhibitions they host, including In the Cooler: Collaborations, a colloborative exhibition that is currently showing (by the way it actually takes place in what used to be an old long, narrow cooler), and features painting, sculpture, and writing. The Artisan Gallery is a breath of fresh air in the Southern Wisconsin art scene and for a moment, made me forget some of my favorite galleries down in Chicago. Worth a visit also for the gallery’s creamery, and down the road, a cheese house and bakery.
To learn more about the gallery, check out their website here.

Creating Beautiful Framed Art on a Budget

You would be suprised how much something is elevated by framing it. A mat and a simple frame can make a piece of art  (or something else entirely) into a beautiful and affordable way to decorate a space. There are three main objects that make beautiful wall decor when framed:

1. Artwork. I am artist so this one is pretty easy for me. For one project, I found a matted poster frame at Ikea and framed a conte crayon drawing I drew in Florence. Matting it really transformed and elevated the work. I also collect artwork from street and art fairs around the world. When I travelled to Europe, I bought a painting (usually quite cheap from a local artist on the street) in every city I stayed in for more than three days. I did the same upon returning to the States but chose to purchase prints instead of originals as originals tend to be more expensive here. It was a fun way to collect memories and also a fun way to decorate my home.

2. Postcards. I also collected postcards from Europe, particularly postcards of my favorite artwork from galleries and museums. The postcards were usually less than a dollar and I found cheap matted and unmatted frames at GoodWill to frame them with. Framing the postcards, especially the art postcards, was an easy and affordable way to introduce some beautiful art to my space.

3. Sheet music books. My mom found a few old sheet music books from a garage sale, and they manged to fall into my hands and end up in my apartment. They were so easy to frame because they came in a standard frame size. I chose to use a matted frame because the edges of the sheets were worn slightly. The mat hid the wear and made the sheet (and the stunning art on it) really stand out. The results were fun, retro art pieces that added interest and needed ivory coloring to my living room.

What is your favorite decorating idea?



My Living Room: Before & After

One Month Ago

I’ve been putting most of my decorating efforts into my living room. I spend much of my time there or in the kitchen, and (given my lack of dining room) I plan on using the space for most of my entertaining. As a result, after only a month and a half, my living room has already gone through a transformation.

I framed a whole lot of art, bought new curtains, add splashes of much needed ivories through cushions and flowers, and finally bought light bulbs for my lamps (you’d be surprised how much that changes the atmosphere of a place!).


My future plans include painting my coffee table neon green (seriously, trust me on this), creating some more art for the space, and adding more bright colors through painted jars (DIY project courtesy of Pinterest, of course).

Any suggestions on the space?



Great Finds: Affordable Art (Seriously!)

I recently attended the Art Fair on the Square in Madison, WI, and, since I am now making an income, I decided to purchase a piece of art for my bedroom. I gave myself a budget of $50, which is pretty modest considering the price of much of the work. As expected, the most striking pieces were large…and expensive. I was nearly out of hope until I found collage artist Chelsea Hrynick’s booth. She creates amazingly intricate and symmetrical patterns out of origami paper and painted wood. The medium is perfectly simple, letting the details of her designs stand out.

(Photo from artist’s website. Visit it here!) 

To me, they reminded me of Venetian lace and Native American textiles. “I incorporate design patterns seen in different cultures throughout history such as Celtic jewelry, Islamic rugs, Modern architecture, and Ancient Greek pottery,” writes the artist on her website. “I feel a passionate connection when I work with patterns; decoration somehow transcends distance, time, and beliefs.”

Cool, right?

I bought two small square pieces for $30, which I think is a great deal given the quality of the work.

Have you had any luck with art fairs this summer?