2018 Holiday Gift Guide by Rachel Alvarez Art

My Story.

I don’t know about you, but I always have the hardest time trying to think of gifts for my loved ones. Whether they are young or old, my mind gets swamped with ideas and information and I usually end up settling for a simple, easy to please them….gift card.

That’s why this year I thought it would be fun to help out my art followers with some easy gift ideas so they can cross off some people on their list.

So, here goes!

For the traveler on your list: 

  • this US travel tracker map. Formatted from 50 individual watercolor paintings, you won’t see anything like it! Each weatherproof vinyl decal can be placed individually so that your wanderluster can celebrate the places that they’ve checked off!

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For the coffee lover (or new mom 😉 ) 

  • the brunette version seen below was originally painted on International Women’s Day. You can read the full reason why here. I’m looking forward to expanding this series as time allows. So fun to paint!

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For the long-distance family or friend:

  • tell them you can’t live without them- even across the miles- with this customizable long distance love art print. (also great for wedding and anniversary gifts!)

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For the college student: 

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For the foodie or chef:

  • Help them bring a splash of color to their walls (not just their meals) with these pretty watercolor fruit and herb prints. (Also available as blank notecards.)

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For the vintage lover: 

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For the photographer: 

  • a little something to inspire them to share their gifts with the world: a camera sticker that they can put anywhere.

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For you: 

  • a way to celebrate the places you’ve made memories. All 50 state art prints available in standard, framable sizes- pop them in a frame and make your own beautiful gallery wall!

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For everyone on your list:  

  • gift cards, available in any denomination. Would they want a custom home portrait? Maybe a painting of their beloved pup? The sky is the limit when you let them pick something they will cherish forever.
  • donut notecards…because, who doesn’t love donuts?!

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So, there you go friends! Lots of ideas for everyone on your list.

Be sure to check out the full shop here: www.rachelalvarezart.com (also, you will get a 10% coupon if you sign up for the newsletter!)

Have a wonderful holiday, everyone!

– Rachel

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5 Fun Seattle Neighborhoods to Explore

50 state stickers blog series

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Written by guest bloggers: Adam & Kathryn 

5 Fun Seattle Neighborhoods to Explore

One of the things that makes Seattle special are all of the quaint, unique, and fun neighborhoods that surround the city. As you walk the tree lined streets, you often forget that you’re just a few miles from downtown. We love having the ability to escape the hustle and bustle of the city so easily and love the different personalities that each neighborhood has.

Here are our five favorite Seattle neighborhoods (it was so hard to choose!) and some of the top restaurants, coffee shops, and things to do in each one. Whether you’re a Seattleite or planning a trip to Seattle in the future, we hope that this helps you discover new spots within the city!

PS: If you are looking for an itinerary for Seattle, check out our 3 Days in Seattle guide, which features most of these neighborhoods.

Upper Queen Anne

Kerry park

Upper Queen Anne is where we call home and we absolutely love this gem of a neighborhood! Upper Queen Anne is less touristy than some of the other neighborhoods on this list, as it’s a quieter, family-friendly area with less trendy restaurants. However, it’s still filled with so many great spots, including our favorite view of the city!

Where to eat: We admittedly have not eaten at many of the restaurants in Queen Anne, partially due to the fact that we don’t eat out that much and also because we are usually out exploring other areas. However, there are a handful of super great restaurants in Queen Anne worth checking out: Bounty Kitchen, 5 Spot, Macrina Bakery & Cafe, Bite Box, Mezcaleria Oaxaca, Homegrown, and How to Cook a Wolf (pricey!). For dessert, we recommend Molly Moon’s Ice Cream!

Coffee Shops: Our favorite coffee shop in Queen Anne is El Diablo, which is a cuban-inspired cafe with great coffee, awesome breakfast sandwiches, and great indoor and outdoor spaces for working or hanging out. Some other coffee shops we love in the neighborhood are The Wick Motorcycles and Coffee (a joint motorcycle and coffee shop!) and Storyville Coffee.

Thing to do: By far the best thing to do in Queen Anne is Kerry Park, which actually isn’t much of a park, but it is a beautiful scenic viewpoint overlooking the Seattle skyline, Puget Sound, and on a clear day, Mount Rainier. This is one of our top must do things in Seattle! While you’re at Kerry Park, make sure to continue walking down Highland Drive to see some crazy big and beautiful houses, as well as check out the other viewpoint at the end of the street. And for Grey’s Anatomy fans, the house from the show is located right around this area too!

Ballard

Golden Gardens

Ballard is probably our favorite neighborhood in Seattle. Its tree lined streets, great restaurants, bars, and cute shops make it such a fun area to explore!

Where to eat: One of our favorite restaurants in Seattle, Asadero, is in Ballard. This is a steak lover’s paradise! Their carne asada is a good price for the size (and totally shareable!) and their homemade guacamole and salsas are so good! Some other great spots in Ballard include Pestle Rock, Biscuit and Bean, Un Bien (a little north of Ballard, but super close!), Cafe Besalu, and The Walrus and the Carpenter (if you’re feeling fancy!). For dessert, make sure you swing by Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery!

Coffee Shops: Ballard is home to many coffee shops! Some of our favorites include: Ballard Coffee Works, Slate Coffee Roasters, and Cafe Umbria. Slate Coffee Roasters does something pretty unique that is worth trying–a deconstructed latte, which is a latte broken up into three glasses. One has espresso, one has milk, and one has a traditional latte and the purpose is to taste the elements separately from one another. It’s a cool thing to try once!

Things to do: There is no shortage of things to do in Ballard! The neighborhood has a lot of Scandinavian and maritime history, as it’s right by the water. One super unique thing to do in the area is check out the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, where you can watch boats go from Lake Washington and Lake Union into the Puget Sound. It’s surprisingly very interesting! You can also watch salmon migrate up a fish ladder in the summer months. Another one of our favorite attractions near Ballard is Golden Gardens Park, which is a beach on the Puget Sound with views of the Olympic Mountains. This is a great place to relax for a couple hours, have a picnic, and watch the sunset. On Sundays, one of the best things to do in Seattle is go to the Ballard Farmers Market. This is our favorite market in town and features tons of local vendors–make sure to go hungry! And lastly, Ballard is home to many breweries, including Stoup Brewing and Reuben’s Brews, which makes it a great neighborhood to go brewery hopping.

Fremont

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Gas Works Park

Fremont is known as the Center of the Universe and is a quirky and fun neighborhood across Lake Union from downtown Seattle. Similar to Ballard, the streets are tree lined and we could spend hours walking around the area.

Where to eat: Two of our top restaurants in Seattle are in Fremont: Stoneway Cafe and Uneeda Burger. Stoneway Cafe is our go-to quick spot for affordable and fresh food (almost everything is under $10). They serve breakfast all day and we love their breakfast burrito, their pulled pork, and their salads. Uneeda Burger is an order at the counter burger spot cranking out high quality, fancy burgers and amazing fries. They have an awesome outdoor patio for those non rainy Seattle days. A handful of other popular spots in Fremont include: Royal Grinders, SWeL, Manolin, and RockCreek Seafood & Spirits.

Coffee Shops: Fremont, just like the rest of Seattle is full of great coffee shops. A few top shops to check out are: Milstead, MiiR, and Fremont Coffee. Milstead is a delicious coffee shop right by the Fremont Troll and close to Gasworks Park, making it super convenient for anyone exploring those areas. MiiR is a pretty unique place to grab coffee, as it’s a small outdoor gear shop that also serves coffee and beer, while Fremont Coffee is in an old house and has a nice cozy vibe.

Things to do:  Some of our favorite tourist attractions in Seattle happen to be in Fremont. First up, Gas Works Park, which is is unlike anything we have ever seen before. It’s a former gasification plant on Lake Union that is now a park with views of Seattle. It’s a great picnic and kite flying spot and you can also watch the seaplanes take off and land! It technically may be in the Wallingford neighborhood, but it’s so close to Fremont that we are going to include it anyways. 🙂 After exploring Gas Works Park, head to the Fremont Troll which is one of the weirdest and most random landmarks in Seattle, but makes for a great photo opp! It is a huge sculpture of a troll crushing a VW bug underneath a bridge and is fun to climb on. If you love chocolate, you must check out the Theo Chocolate Tour. Theo is a local chocolate factory and during the hour long tour (which is only $10) you get tons of free chocolate samples! You also get to learn a lot about the chocolate making process. Lastly, the Fremont Sunday Street Market, similar to the Ballard Farmers Market, is a market full of local vendors. The Fremont market is a bit different because it’s indoors and outdoors and is more of a flea market than a produce and food item market.

West Seattle

Alki Beach

West Seattle, as the name implies, is the area west of downtown Seattle and has an awesome laid back beach town vibe. With a large beach, views of the city and mountains, and miles of beachfront biking and walking paths, there is no better place to be in the city on a sunny summer day!

Where to eat: Whenever we go to West Seattle we always go to the same place to eat: Marination Ma Kai. This Hawaiian fusion restaurant is right on the water, has breathtaking views of Seattle, delicious food (try the kimchi fried rice!), and is pretty affordable. You can also take the water taxi from downtown Seattle to West Seattle and it drops you off right in front of the restaurant. If you’re not craving Hawaiian food, we recommend checking out Husky Deli and The Swinery for sandwiches or Cactus for Mexican food with a view.

Coffee Shops: If you’re in need of caffeine while exploring West Seattle, we highly suggest getting a cup of coffee at Sound & Fog, Olympia Coffee, or Realfine Coffee. We can’t pick a favorite among the three–they are all great!

Things to do:  The big appeal of West Seattle is its proximity to the water and it’s no surprise that the best activities in the area are water related! Our must-do item while over in West Seattle is to spend some time at Alki Beach. There are volleyball courts, fire pits, lots of space to lay out, and amazing views of the mountains and city. The water isn’t the best for swimming, so we recommend renting a kayak or stand up paddle board to actually get out on the water. And if you’re lucky, you may see a seal! When we aren’t at Alki Beach in West Seattle, you can usually find us at Lincoln Park, which is a little south of the main area, but has nice walking trails, water access, picnic spots, and mountain views.

Capitol Hill

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Capitol Hill is a bustling, colorful, hip neighborhood just east of downtown Seattle, known for being the city’s LGBTQ hub and home of Seattle’s nightlife. It’s probably Seattle’s most popular neighborhood and is full of Seattle’s top restaurants and coffee shops!

Where to eat: Our all time favorite place to eat in Seattle is an amazing taco shop called Tacos Chukis. Their original location is in Capitol Hill and is a bit of a hole in the wall, but their signature Tacos Chukis tacos with pineapple are so delicious! A few other great spots to check out include: Witness, Fogón Cocina Mexicana, Mamnoon,and Cascina Spinasse. For a sweet treat, we love Frankie & Jo’s, a vegan and plant based ice cream shop with the best waffle cones ever. Verve Bowls, for acai bowls, and General Porpoise, for filled doughnuts, are two more super cute options to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Coffee Shops: If you’re looking for coffee paradise, head to Capitol Hill! There are way too many great coffee shops to list here, so we’re sticking to some of our absolute favorites! For coffee and an awesome experience, visit the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room. This is unlike any Starbucks you have ever been to. You can watch them roast and package coffee, as well as try drinks that aren’t available at regular Starbucks. For another unique coffee shop experience, head to Ada’s Technical Books and Cafe, which is a technical bookstore and coffee shop, with great coffee, food, and really neat tables that are full of trinkets. We love going here to work! For more traditional coffee shop vibes, Victrola Coffee and Capitol Coffee Works are both solid coffee shops in the heart of Capitol Hill.

Things to do: As we mentioned above, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room is a super cool experience and one of our favorite activities in Capitol Hill. Another thing we love to do in this area is walk around the shops. A few awesome shops to check out are The Elliott Bay Book Company, Standard Goods, Glasswing, and Retrofit Home. For those of you who love to go out, Capitol Hill is full of fun bars and clubs. We hardly ever go out, but we have been to Rock Box, which is a super fun karaoke bar where you can rent out your own karaoke room with friends. A few other popular spots are Unicorn, Sun Liquor, and Pie Bar. While Capitol Hill is known for its going out scene, it’s also home to the beautiful Volunteer Park and Conservatory, which is nice escape from the hustle and bustle of Capitol Hill. We love going into the conservatory and seeing all of the unique plants, as well as going to the top of the water tower for great views of the city and mountains!

And that’s a wrap on our 5 favorite neighborhoods in Seattle! We absolutely love this city and the little areas that make it special. Now that you have a list of many of Seattle’s neighborhood gems, it’s time to get exploring. Which spot will you head to first?

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About Us

We’re Adam and Kathryn, an adventurous married couple living in Seattle. You can often find us driving all around the PNW on the weekends, cuddling our fur child Kona, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos, climbing mountains, and dreaming about Hawaii. Our goal is to make travel planning easier for others by blogging about our adventures and creating free travel guides for the cities we visit. Come explore with us at Adventures of A+K!

 

 

This blog series features fine artists, makers and photographers from all 50 states as part of a #50statestickers project by Rachel Alvarez Art. You can see the inspiration for this series here: www.rachelalvarezart.com
Thank you so much for following along!

Greetings from Austin

50 state stickers blog series

Written by guest blogger: Candace Perry

Austin, Texas is known for The Longhorns, barbeque, and being the Live Music Capital of the World. It boast great events like South by Southwest (SXSW) and Austin City Limits (ACL), but Austin has so much more to offer.

We were in Austin for my daughter’s birthday this year, so we decided to visit a few of its well known places. We have lived in Austin for 4 years, but had never checked out these sights.

The first place we wanted to see was the Greetings from Austin mural, so we headed downtown to the corner of South First and Annie Street.  The kids enjoyed looking at the details of the mural and getting their picture in front of it. The mural was originally painted in 1998 by local artist and business owner Todd Sanders, and was restored in the fall of 2013. Today, it is one of the most recognizable images associated with the city. 

Austin Mural

Next we went to a place where you can be the artist, The Graffiti Wall. Sadly this installation will be moving to make way for condos, but it was definitely a part of the Keep Austin Weird movement, and a great way for people to express themselves. There are so many talented people in this world and it was amazing to see all of the unique beautiful art created with just a can of spray paint. The birthday girl even found a painting that had been created and dated that day. 

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Zilker Park is 350 acre park in the middle of Austin. We were there just for the playground, which was pretty spectacular, but it also has a naturally formed Barton Springs swimming hole, a mini train, disc golf, soccer fields and great green spaces just to hang out. The kids had a blast running around to the different playground areas, including one made from a vintage fire engine.

If you want to get out and enjoy nature, in Austin, you can do that too! In the middle of the city we found a beautiful trail; River Place Nature Trail. You’ll want to get an early start if you decide to hike this trail in the summer. It warms up quick and the trees hold in the moisture, so it gets really humid. The trail was scenic, with a few small waterfalls, and the lake at the trail head was full of turtles.  We did the Panther Hollow and Little Fern Trail. From start to finish it was 2 miles, but if you add the Canyon Trail it totals about 6 miles. We weren’t quite up for that, but it is a place that we are likely to visit again.

While these places may not be the reason you come to Austin, they are fun places to check out that are family friendly that give a sense of what Austin is all about.

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Candace Perry is a crafter, blogger and mother of five, who for the last year has been traveling the United States in an RV, exploring the history and the natural wonders of the country. When she is not roaming and homeschooling her children, you will find her crocheting, sewing, and capturing family memories with her camera.

You can find her handmade crochet items at MyRedBalloonBouquet.com and you can follow her family’s journey at RainbowsAndRainBoots.com

 

 

This blog series will feature fine artists, makers and photographers from all 50 states as part of a #50statestickers project by Rachel Alvarez Art. You can see the inspiration for this series here: www.rachelalvarezart.com
Thank you so much for following along!

Ideas & tips for hanging artwork properly

Tip and Tricks

I don’t do art fairs often, so it’s not usual that I have the opportunity to see people interact with my artwork in person. However, last week I participated in The National Folk Festival and, while I was there, I had several people ask me for framing and sizing suggestions for artwork. So, if this is something that you have had questions about, please know that you are not alone.  Here is a quick post concerning the proper display of art, and some real-life customer photos so that you can see examples.

First things first: art ALWAYS looks better in a frame than it does alone. I cannot stress this enough! I remember when I was in college working for the on campus galleries and art would sometimes be shipped to us un-framed. Framing makes a big difference! It can take a piece of art from pretty to being the focal point of the entire room. Matting is almost as important. It helps to let the art “breathe”, giving the eye a place to rest between the art and the frame’s edge.

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photo by Etsy customer: Melissa M.

Size matters. All of the prints in my shops are “standard size”, which means that they were intentionally designed in a way so that my customers could go to any home decor shop and find the frame of their choosing- eliminating the need for costly custom framing. When a customer requests something with really unique dimensions, I take the time to explain that it may require custom framing- which isn’t an expense that I want the customer to have to endure unexpectedly.

Standard sizes for art are as follows:

  • 4×6 inches
  • 5×7 inches
  • 8×10 inches
  • 11×14 inches
  • 16×20 inches
  • 18×24 inches
  • 24×36 inches

All of the sizes listed above can be easily placed in any frame from Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, A.C Moore or any other home decor/craft retailer. For sizes larger than 11×14, pre-cut mats may not be available, so you may need to have one cut for you by the faming department. In my small town we have Hobby Lobby & Michael’s to choose from. Personally, I prefer Hobby Lobby because their services and prices are much better than Michael’s, in my opinion.

 

Go bigger than you think.

It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally I will get an exchange request for art. In those instances, it is ALWAYS for a larger size. A good way to test your wall space is to cut a piece of brown paper and use painter’s tape to place it in the spot you are intending to hang something. This will give you a very quick visual for the appropriate size art for the space.

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photo by Breanna B.

As a rule of thumb, art should be between 1/2 – 2/3 the size of the furniture you are hanging it over. I’ll never forget going to an open house with my mom and there was a 4″x6″ piece of artwork hanging over the person’s bed- in one word: WEIRD! HAHAH!!

Here is an example of this. This piece was printed in the largest size available, 18×24 inches, and it works well in this space above her washer and dryer in the laundry room. Many thanks to Abby of twistmepretty.com for allowing me to share this photo of your beautiful laundry room makeover, and for choosing my work for your lovely space!

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Photo provided by Abby of twistmepretty.com

Group art close together.

If you are hanging a gallery wall, it is important that it looks intentional. By keeping them tight in the display, you are ensuring that the grouping looks cohesive.

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photo by Kara P. IG: @hey.poindexter

Don’t feel like you have to hang in a straight horizontal line. 

Here are some examples of unique ways to hang art:

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photos by IG: @amritakauranand

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photo by Etsy customer: Grace E.

Take advantage of small spaces.

You do not need to hang art on your largest walls- sometimes the little corners of your home can be the most interesting ones. Don’t forget about them!

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Well, that wraps it up. Applying these simple tips can help you to design your rooms in an even more beautiful way.

Feel free to take a look at my Pinterest board here for some really fun display ideas. There is lots of practical information online about how to hang art- so, have fun! Also, if you are hanging original watercolor art, you need to follow some basic rules to ensure that your art can be enjoyed for many years to come. Please check out this post for most information on that.

Thank you so much to everyone that allowed me to share photos. I love seeing all of the creative ways that you have displayed your art.

Hope this helps, but please feel free to reach out to me if you have any specific questions. You can always send me an email right thru the homepage on my website here: rachelalvarezart.com

Have a beautiful day!

Rachel

 

Want to receive more helpful tips and coupons right to your inbox? Sign up for my zero spam email list here.

 

 

7 Best Beaches Near San Francisco

50 state stickers blog series

Written by guest blogger: Caitlyn Lunsford

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The San Francisco Bay Area has been my “home” my entire life, whether I actually lived there or not.  My family moved around a lot when I was young but I remember even as a little girl, we would visit my grandparents and I would get so excited once we reached the streets that were lined with palm trees.  They swayed back and forth in the breeze as if they were welcoming me back.

When I was seventeen, I moved out of my parents’ house in Ohio to California with big dreams of going to college for marine biology and I felt that same sense of home that I felt all those years ago, as if nothing had ever changed.  Ultimately, I decided not to pursue marine biology and became a photographer, but I still have a passion for the ocean and I visit the beach as often as possible.

Sometimes the beach was a hangout spot with a group of friends from college.  Sometimes it was a place for my husband and I to explore the world around us. Other times, it was a place for me to relax alone, while I breathed in that salty ocean air.

Today, I am going to describe a few of my favorite beaches in the bay area that stretch from San Francisco to Carmel-by-the-Sea.  All of them are located in close proximity to California’s coastal Highway 1 and will be discussed in order from North to South.

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Ocean Beach

The first beach I’m going to talk about is one that is dear to my heart. Ocean Beach is the first beach that I went to with my husband and it is where we kissed for the first time.  Three miles of sand stretches across the western coast of San Francisco, which is great for those long walks so many people claim to enjoy. It is across the street from Golden Gate Park and only about an hour walk until you can view the Golden Gate Bridge. The sunsets are gorgeous and there are always surfers out trying to catch some waves.  The only downside is, it’s in San Francisco and the weather can change quickly! Don’t forget to wear layers to stay warm in the cold wind! At night, the bonfires in the fire pits light up this beach.

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Rockaway Beach

This is my favorite secret beach, secluded behind restaurants and hotels and would be a great weekend getaway destination!  The beach itself is pretty small, but it features great rocky views and sunsets that never disappoint! There is a small lot where you can park for free and you don’t even have to leave your car to enjoy the beauty that Rockaway Beach has to offer!

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Pacifica State Beach

If you are a fan of fast food, specifically Taco Bell, this is the beach for you!  There is a Taco Bell restaurant right on the beach with a walk up window for you to place your order.  I usually opt for a crunchwrap supreme! This beach tends to be very windy, so it can be cold, but it is also a great place to fly kites.  Unfortunately, parking isn’t free, but I would say the visit is definitely worth the price!

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Wilder Ranch State Park

This state park features a historical dairy farm with live animals and hiking trails along the coast.  The Old Cove Landing Trail is a fairly easy walk that starts near the ranch and loops along the coast back to the parking lot. This is a great place to have a picnic and enjoy the ocean breeze.  There are secluded beaches along the trail, but they are a little bit of a climb down to get to the sand.

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Seabright State Beach

This is a very popular beach, but not nearly as crowded as the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk down the street.  You could easily walk over to the amusement park or to the nearby shops and restaurants. The parking is free along the street or you can pay for a spot at the harbor.  There is also a lighthouse at the end of Seabright State Beach and I saw two dolphins playing in the waves near it the last time I was there!

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Seacliff State Beach

A concrete shipwreck at the end of a long pier makes Seacliff State Beach unique.  It was built as a tanker for WWI, but the war ended before they finished construction.  The parking is $10 and if the lower lot is full, you can park in the large overflow lot at the top of the hill with beach access via a long wooden staircase.  Also, if you enjoy camping, they have a lot for RVs and trailers.

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Carmel Beach

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a cute beach town with tons of shops in the downtown area.   Every time I have gone, there have been fancy cars parked along the streets and by fancy; I mean Lamborghini, Porsche, and Ferrari. This is a great beach to relax with a good book or explore the tide pools.  After a long day by the water, I recommend getting a pizza at Allegro Gourmet Pizzeria or taking a drive down the scenic 17-Mile Drive. If you have an extra day in the area, you should definitely check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium just north in Monterey.

Fun fact: Clint Eastwood was the mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea between the years of 1986 and 1988.

Each of these beaches hold so many of my memories and I hope that you will get a chance to make your own memories at one of them someday!  If you do, I would love to see pictures from your own beach trip! Be sure to follow along with Rachel Alvarez to read posts from some other really fun guest bloggers from all 50 states!

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Caitlyn Lunsford freezes memories like it’s her superpower in Seattle and San Francisco. She enjoys spending time with family and is always craving chocolate, adventure and a trip to the beach! You can follow along with her on her website:  www.caitlynlunsford.com or on facebook, and instagram.

 

 

This blog series will feature fine artists, makers and photographers from all 50 states as part of a #50statestickers project by Rachel Alvarez Art. You can see the inspiration for this series here: www.rachelalvarezart.com
Thank you so much for following along!

 

Best Off the Beaten Places in Naples, FL.

50 state stickers blog series, Art Scene

written by guest blogger Lauren Connelly

It’s crazy to think that my hometown is one of the world’s most visited places. There are palm trees everywhere and the beach is only minutes away. Now living 700 miles away in Greenville, South Carolina, I feel like I know Naples so much better. As a former local, I am giving you my favorite places to make sure I stop at when I’m home!

Kunjani Coffee

My heart beats a little faster for small businesses. I love that Kunjani is ran by a mom and daughter duo from South Africa. Not only are they making delicious coffee and serving the yummiest pastries, they are also changing the world. One side of their coffee shop holds jewelry and crafts made by artisans all over the world. Some are local to Naples and others are residents of South Africa. It’s definitely a hidden gem that won’t be hiding much longer.

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Koreshan State Park

Koreshan State Park is located in Estero, Florida. (Estero is only 15 minutes north of Naples) If you’re looking for a perfect backdrop of photos, this is the best spot. There are small houses around the property. Although the houses are vacant, it was a small community build by the Koreshans. You’ll see some houses used to be sawmills, bakeries, boat works, and even a printing facility.

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Naples Botanical Garden

If flowers are your love language, this place is for you. With over seven different gardens covering the 170-acres, you’ll find plants perfect for different climates. There is also a children’s garden where you can find a butterfly house. If you want a photo of you holding a butterfly, that’s the place to be.

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Kayaking or Paddle Boarding at Estero River Outfitters

Like I said, Estero is only 15 minutes north of Naples. It’s not as developed as Naples but still tons to do. Estero River Outfitters is the best place to kayak and/or paddle board because the waters are easier to paddle through. (It’s also $14 for 2 hours of kayaking! Steal!) If you’ve never kayaked or paddle boarded before, I would definitely recommend this for all experience levels. Plus, the owners are so kind and extremely helpful.

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Tacos and Tequila on Vanderbilt Beach Road and US 41

Tacos and Tequila opened a little over two years ago and is already the new craze. The atmosphere is casual with doors open and the chips are made to perfection. Right now there are three locations in Naples, but I think this one is the best. Their menu has so much variety that no one is going hungry. If it was up to me, i’d have the California Taco and the Signature Taco for dinner every single night. It’s that good.

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Have you visited Naples before? What’s on you “must do” list?

 

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Hi there! My name is Lauren Connelly and you can find me over at WriterLaurenConnelly.com. I’m a content writer and product photographer living in Greenville, South Carolina. As a content writer, I work specifically with photographers helping them with their blog content and creating other materials to help their business succeed. One fun fact about me is that I moved to Greenville, SC after googling top places to live in South Carolina. Greenville came up as #1, I visited once, convinced my sister to move with me, and two months later we were living in a new city and didn’t know a single soul. It has been the best decision I’ve ever made. If I had to tell myself one thing, it would be don’t let fear hold you back. Everything works out. Keep up with me on Instagram at @Lauren_Connelly

This blog series will feature fine artists, makers and photographers from all 50 states as part of a #50statestickers project by Rachel Alvarez Art. You can see the inspiration for this series here: www.rachelalvarezart.com
Thank you so much for following along!

 

A Delmarvelous weekend – 48 hours of local fun in (and around) Salisbury, Md.

My Story.

Salisbury, Md. on Delmarva's Eastern Shore

 

I was born on a stretch of land on the Eastern Shore of Maryland called the Delmarva Peninsula, in the small town of Salisbury (population 33,114). Little did I know at the time that I would leave only to move back 3 different times. You see, when you grow up here, it’s easy to take things for granted.  When you are 16 wanting to go to a live concert, or 20 hoping for a bit of “city life”, you definitely won’t find it here. However, now as an adult, having lived a few different places, I fully understand now why people choose to “settle down” here.

 

To get here from anywhere west or south, you have to go over quite a few bridges or even drive into underwater tunnels. Perhaps, if you are a Marylander, you’ve only driven past Salisbury on your way to Ocean City or Assateague because that’s where ALL of the people go- (funny side story: when I first brought my Dominican husband to Ocean City on Memorial Day weekend of 2012 he asked, “are they giving away money or food?”)

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Image shown with permission : Zamonin

 

As a local, I do enjoy those other beach hangouts but usually only during off season (when I’m not snuggling up next to a stranger on my beach towel. …”what are you drinking?”). So, this post is all about my hometown- the places that I love to go to on a regular basis- and the places that I think that the locals would brag about. Honestly, it’s very hard to narrow down the list for this post but I’m gonna try to sum them up into one Delmarvelous weekend.

Here goes:

Day one:

  1. Start your day off right with a latte and breakfast from Rise Up  – A local favorite! Rise Up has the BEST local coffee. It’s Fair Trade and they have the happiest servers on the planet. Seriously. While you’re there, admire the beautiful window art painted by local artist Dean McNelia.
  2. Go to Pemberton Park for a hike on one of its many secluded trails. Make sure to read up on some of the history behind the planation home that was built there in 1741. Bring a book and sit at the picnic table surrounded by water.Pemberton Historical Park, Salisbury, MarylandPemberton Historical Park, Salisbury, Md.
  3. Roaring Point/Cove Beach – Take a country drive down Nanticoke Road to a pristine secluded beach on the bay (perfect for kids because there are no ocean waves to worry about). Stop by Westside Grocery, Bait & Tackle first to get your picnic lunch supplies. 20247947_10159119398720215_3921127018061044373_o
  4. Red Roost for dinner: crabs, fried chicken and corn on the cob. Two words- OLD BAY (seasoning) – a Maryland staple.
  5. Stay at the Whitehaven Hotel and go for an evening kayak or bike ride. (both are provided free of charge to guests.)

Day two:

  1. Take the Whitehaven Ferry over to Deal Island beach and search for beach glass. (make sure bring a bucket and to wear flip flops or beach shoes- some of the glass is still raw.) Deal Island Beach, Deal Island Maryland
  2. Drive down to the end of Deal Island Road to Wenona to see the crab shacks and boat slips of the local watermen.17545502_10158478543935215_4293836132741013794_o
  3. head over to Salisbury for lunch at Market Street Inn.
  4. take a walk thru the Salisbury City Park & Zoo– located in the heart of Salisbury.
  5. Visit the Ward Museum
  6. Dinner and local brews at Evolution Craft Brewing Co.
  7. Go to a Shorebirds Game- if you have kids, make sure bring extra money for the carousel and stay for the fireworks.

Well, there you have it folks. Here a summer fun itinerary for you. Our kids just had their very last day of preschool for the year, so we will be doing lots of exploring this summer. Can’t wait!

Be sure to follow along to read posts from some really fun guest bloggers from all 50 states! Next up: Arizona. We will hear from Alyssa Ryan from @alyssaryanphotography about her recent trip to Page, Arizona.

About the writer: Rachel Alvarez is a watercolor artist living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her work celebrates life’s simple pleasures. Her custom watercolor paintings and illustrations reflect a love for travel, adventure, memory making and family history. You can see more of her work or commission your own piece of art here: www.rachelalvarezart.com

Follow her on Instagram here: @rachelalvarezart

Want to follow along as we travel to all 50 states? Receive an email newsletter every two weeks and freebies & coupons along the way>here<. Thanks for following along!

Have a beautiful day,

Rachel

 

 

*Please note: none of the content is this post was endorsed in any way.

Tips for properly framing watercolor art.

My Story.

Ove the past year, I have had more and more requests for custom watercolor paintings – whether it is a custom home portrait or a family memory piece, one thing that I always to try to communicate to potential clients is the need to properly frame watercolors. Unlike acrylics and oils, which have their own specific framing/preservation needs, watercolors are painted onto paper. This process allows an image to be painted in a soft & delicate unique way, but extra care must be taken so that the art can be enjoyed, without damage, for many years to come.

Here is a simple infographic with tips on how to frame your custom piece. Doing these 5 things will allow your custom art to be preserved for many years, allowing you to celebrate your memories the way that they should be- in beautiful, vivid color.

If you have any specific questions concerning framing or custom art, feel free to reach out to me thru the contact form on my website here: www.rachelalvarezart.com

framing

Want to see some of the commissions that I have been working on lately? Check out my Instagram feed for all of my most recent projects here: @rachelalvarezart

Have a beautiful day!

Rachel

2017 Year in Review

My Story.

It’s April 3rd, and I am FINALLY getting around to writing about what happened in 2017. Funny thing is with tax prep, current art projects and LIFE, I just hadn’t made it a priority to sit down and reflect on what had happened, and what I would like to see happen in 2018. So, here we are!

Last year was a big, fun whirlwind. Being a small art business owner has it’s own unique challenges, but coupling that with being a full time stay at home mom makes the days & tasks all kind of run together. I’ve never been all that great at making time for reflection (as seen in this here blog post, ha!), but I am trying to be better about it.

Sometime at the beginning of the last year I read this article: 4 motivations that make artists successful. In the article, it talks about how there are 4 major things that inspire artists to succeed – people can either be motivated by one, or a combination of all of them:

  • financial success
  • social interactions
  • compulsion to create
  • the freedom of the artist lifestyle

After I read the article, I realized that my desire to paint every day is definitely linked to all four, with financial success at the bottom of the list and social interactions at the top, in terms of importance to me.

The one thing that sticks out to me the most about 2017 is all of the social interactions. I was blessed to be able to work on twice as many custom paintings compared to 2016. Each of those pieces offered me an opportunity to really connect with an individual- to see a glimpse into what they hold dear and see as meaningful in their own life. This is my absolute favorite kind of work. There is just something about being trusted with someone’s memories that really makes being an artist rewarding emotionally. Here are some of the custom pieces I painted last year:

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I definitely feel a compulsion to paint (although I really don’t like that word “compulsion” at all.) It’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s almost like I don’t feel the compulsion, but more the absence of something when I don’t make time for art. Last year I made time for it, and that felt really good.

It’s true, there is great freedom in the artist’s lifestyle but, as it’s been said, with great freedom comes great responsibility. Unlike my previous “traditional” jobs, I have no one giving me a morning to-do list, setting up my meetings, or paying my taxes or contributing to my matching 401k. In 2017 it was a big learning curve for me to manage my time wisely but I am SO thankful that it was ME managing MY time. I had the freedom to say “yes” to projects that really meant something to me and “no” to ones that didn’t.

Here are a few of the highlights of 2017:

 

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  • participated in my first art fair, and a very dark photo to prove it. /\
  • successfully potty trained our daughter
  • got accepted to see on Handmade at Amazon
  • all 50 state paintings were formatted into decals:

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  • I made our bed EVERY SINGLE MORNING after watching this >video<
  • I was able to collaborate with The Maryland Citizens for the Arts on a project to help raise arts awareness in our state:

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  • I stopped feeding myself solely with the random food left on my kid’s lunchtime plates – ie. goldfish crackers and cold Mac n’ cheese….
  • 37 unique commissions were completed
  • first commercial rights art project completed
  • used colored pencils for the first time since college (15 years ago):

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  • first newspaper article was written about me concerning balancing being a mom and artist
  • successfully learned all of the songs from Disney’s Frozen and then subsequently performed them during my kid’s bath time every day (pro tip: bathroom echoes make for better concerts, let me tell you…)
  • first foreign country painted:DSC_2617

2016/2017 side by side:

Overall, It was a great year with many opportunities for personal growth. There were many “firsts” and even more “what the heck am I doing?!” moments.

So, what are my goals in 2018?

  1. learn to pump the brakes. A perfectionist by nature, I can sometimes try to take on too much at once. I’m learning to be intentional with my time, both as a mother and an artist.
  2. cultivate better friendships, especially with other artists. As much as I love the social interactions that being an artist affords, it can sometimes be a lonely place too. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best friend someone can have- not because I don’t care- quite the contrary- I am simply not very good at reaching out.
  3. grow the wholesale side of the business. There is something very special about the thought of having my work be a part of someone else’s dream to have a small business. It’s like we are in this together, and I love that.
  4. Paint things that make me uncomfortable and force me to flex my art muscles.
  5. Be better about book- keeping throughout the year so I am not writing my 2018 re-cap in April of next year… (2019, don’t quote me on this one. haha!!)

Well, there you have it. Lots of things happened, and here’s to setting (and reaching) some new goals in 2018.

Thank you so much for following along, everyone.

Your support means the world to me!

See more “real-time” art projects on my Instagram >here<.

Have a beautiful day,

– Rachel

8 tips for battling self doubt as an artist. techniques to increase productivity for artists, makers and creatives by Rachel Alvarez Art

8 tips for battling self doubt as an artist.

My Story.

True story. I am consistently battling self-doubt. As they say, we are all our worst critics, right? Self doubt is what kept me from using my art degree for over 15 years. It took me becoming a SAHM, after a long corporate career, to feel confident enough to try to paint again (mostly because we were going to be relying on one income anyways so, if I failed, it wouldn’t really affect anyone else but me.)

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After 2 years of painting every single day, I have had many opportunities to face my fears head on. It crops up in many ways, but here are some of the effects that self doubt has had on my art if I let it get to the best of me:

  1. Under-charging for my work. I’ve caught myself typing an email response to a custom painting inquiry and instead of putting my true prices and sticking to them, I typed a number- back spaced- and re-typed a lower amount. Or, something has been thrown in for free.
  2. I’ve said no to certain projects just because it wasn’t in my “comfort zone” and I was afraid of failing.
  3. Procrastination happens more often when I am not believing in myself.

8 tips for battling self doubt as an artist. techniques to increase productivity for artists, makers and creatives by Rachel Alvarez Art
During the last year or so, I have been really intentional about acknowledging these feelings and determining their roots. Here are some things that have really helped me to produce when I am not feeling the best about my ability:

  1. Having email templates ready so that I can respond to inquiries in the same manner every time. This takes the emotional ups and downs out of the equation. Doing this has helped me to have even more confidence in my work than if I had accepted commission work at a discounted rate (which leaves me feeling defeated for not allowing myself to get paid what any person should get paid for the amount of hours/effort I am putting in.)
  2. Making the decision to never say “no” (as long as I have time in my schedule to take it on). Last year, I made a personal decision to do my absolute best to take on all painting challenges- even the ones that tempted me to run in the opposite direction. I am a perfectionist by nature, and doing this has helped me to deliver quality pieces of art that are completely outside of my normal subject matter…like a rooster wearing earrings eating chocolate, or a Venus Fly Trap. In the end, I have found that the completion of art that utterly terrifies me actually encourages me to take on an even bigger challenge the next time.
  3. Deciding to produce every single day for an audience (even if there isn’t one). This may sound strange, but if I make a commitment to produce every day in honor of my followers, it helps me get past self doubt. It helps me focus on the process and get away from the hangups that are sometimes associated with it. It helps me to get outside of myself and give me hope that I might make someone smile that day- and that makes getting past that moment of doubt worth every bit of the courage that it takes to paint.
  4. Keep a journal of quotes from happy customers. Self explanatory, I’m sure, but remembering people who have previously trusted me with their vision and memories helps me to know that I am capable of doing it successfully again.
  5. Studying previous personal art and looking for times when technical improvements or better use of materials were developed.
  6. Going outside. There is just something really healing about getting fresh air and then sitting back down in the studio.
  7. Recording the painting process. Last year, I had many moments of self doubt when the image on my watercolor paper was still in the mid-beginning stages. By filming the process, and then speeding it up, I can study how elements like shape, color, contrast and texture develop over time. It helps me to understand the concept of growth in my art. Just like a seed, it takes many other critical steps of development before that seed becomes a flower, blooming out of the dirt.
  8. Never throw away an unfinished piece of art. This decision was born out of this 50 state watercolor project, which took a little more than 5 months to complete. For that project, I had personal deadline- November 1st. With limited time available to paint (literally during the nap times of my kids) I could not afford to fail. If I started something that I wasn’t happy with I set it aside, moved onto something else, and re-visited it on another day. Somehow, I managed to paint 50 consecutive paintings without throwing away a single piece of paper – and I finished the last one on, you guessed it, November 1st.

watercolor United States map - 50 state paintings celebrating America the Beautiful. by Rachel Alvarez

How does your self doubt effect your business? What do you do to combat it?

Let’s get in touch. I would love to hear about your work, and the art that only YOU can do.

-Rachel @rachelalvarezart

PS. Along the way, I have been greatly inspired by other fellow artists and entrepreneurs. Here are some links to some of my favorite speeches and podcasts on this topic.

Recently, I had the privilege of hearing Adam Lerner talk about the risk of failure at Maryland Arts Day in Annapolis. It was very inspirational. He spoke about his Failure Project- which was designed to allow kids the opportunity to fail- while trying. Students were awarded “biggest failure” based on how much of a risk they were willing to take in order to create. This speech is similar to the one I heard last week:

“Hacks to get more done” via Amy Porterfield’s podcast

“Keeping Real on Social Media” via Jenna Kutcher’s podcast

Read my latest blog post here: I didn’t get the art scholarship.