Star Lamps in the Bohemian Home: How to Assemble a Paper Star Lantern

A gorgeous galaxy of star lanterns graces us with their glow at the Newcastle store!

A gorgeous galaxy of star lanterns graces us with their glow!

1. Open the star lantern by gently inserting your hand into each wing, one after the other.

2. Lift up the separated wings so that the star opens out without forcing it.

3. Tie the starlamp around a bulb using the thread to form a bow. You can use any lightbulb that doesn’t exceed 40W. We recommend a CFL (those swirly, curly ones) or an LED, because they put off minimal heat. LEDs are a bit more expensive but don’t heat up at all. Many of us Mexicali folk who have paper lanterns at home use CFLs with no issues, so it is really just a matter of preference.

Here’s a video, so you can see the process in action:

Enjoy the gorgeous cosmic glow of your sweet new star lantern!  Check out our massive selection of paper lanterns, star lamps, and pretty party lights here: http://ow.ly/IuWTj

C’mon Get Happy: Clearing and Refreshing the Energy of Your Home with Sage, Cedar, Pine, & Lavender

ImageSmudging is a traditional Native American method of cleansing an energetic space.  You can use smudging to refresh the energy of your home, dissipating negativity and releasing the ghosts of past events.  There are many reasons why a house could have collected negative energy, and if the negativity persists, a block may form.  If there has been sadness or anger experienced in your home, and you find yourself being frequently and easily pulled back into that feeling, you might be operating under the weight of an energetic block.  Other signs that your space could do with a good energetic clearing are the accumulation of clutter, increase in arguments or bad dreams, and growing frequency of things breaking or not working properly.

Light the stick with a match or lighter and allow it to flame for a moment. Then gently blow out the flame and let it smolder and smoke. Move to the area where you suspect the block and hold the stick at about chest level, watching to see if the smoke rises straight up. If it does, move to the next area, but if it doesn’t, you have probably found the block. Move the smoking stick back and forth through this blocked area, “drawing” in the air whatever shapes or symbols your intuition guides you towards–there is no wrong way to do this, as long as your intention is pure and positive!  Check your results by again lowering the wand below where the block was to see if the smoke now does rise straight up. If the smoke still does not rise, continue waving the smudge stick around in that area, focusing your emotional attention on giving whatever is clinging there loving permission to leave.  Once the smoke starts moving straight up, the area is clear!  Smudging on a regular basis can keep the entire house more energetically balanced, and is also a great way to “clear the air” when you’re feeling the need for a fresh start!

Get your own lavender, sage, cedar, or pine smudge stick right here:http://ow.ly/Ck6Qq

Mexicali DIY: Hippie Teepee Fort for Kids or Adults!

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Whether you are five or eighty-five, sometimes you just want to build a fort!  Creating your own little cozy zone is fun, easy, and you get to hang out in it when you’re done!  We love the idea of making a teepee fort for reading and relaxing, or as a cool & colorful playhouse where kids’ imaginations can run wild!  We wanted to build a teepee that reflected our bohemian ways, so we used a traditional India block print tapestry for happy hippie walls!  Making your own teepee is so easy; we’ll show you how!

You will need:

optionalOptional:

Step 1:

dowelsesTie the dowels together with hemp twine, at least a few inches away from the top ends.  It isn’t necessary to be particularly precise with your tying, though we wove the twine in and out in a bit of a figure-eight pattern, making sure it was wrapped securely around each individual dowel as well as connected to the others.

Step 2:

teepsStand up your teepee framework and pull the “legs” out as wide as you will want it to be.  The twine tied at the top will keep the dowels fixed to one another and make this step surprisingly simple!

Step 3:

shelbyeaWrap your tapestry around the teepee structure, lining it up so the ends of the tapestry are towards where you want the entrance to be.  Our tapestry was a little bit taller than our dowels, so we folded the top of it down to make it the right size.

Step 4:

pinsies Secure the tapestry to the dowels with safety pins.  Just wrap or twist around and pin!  We pinned it both at the top and the bottom of the teepee.pinsStep 5:

youdididStand back & take a moment to bask in the glory of your crafty greatness!

Step 6:

zzzFinish decorating your teepee with colorful scarves and prayer flags.  Fill it with cozy pillows and blankets, and settle into your cool new fort for a secret meeting, or a nap!

Creative Ways to Use Batik Sarongs in Your Bohemian Decor

We love using our batik sarongs as an easy and cute coverup or impromptu beach towel, but when the weather turns cool or we don’t get outside as often as we like, we start to miss seeing our favorite sarongs on a regular basis. We are always looking for new ways to spruce up our decor, and using sarongs is a super fast and affordable way to do it!

Read on to see our top three ways to use a sarong!

A sarong as a simple curtain

This way does have a potential to fade the colors of the sarong, but we don’t mind the sunwashed look!

Try a sarong as an unique table cloth for a smaller sized table

Cover a worn out couch or chair, or change up the color of your favorite furniture!

Wondering how to wear a sarong? Check out our tutorial video playlist below:

These batik sarongs are just $14 or $10 each when you buy 3 or more!

What is your favorite non-conventional way to use beautiful material?

Traditional Techniques: The Art of Henna

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Pretty henna photo by Michael Day

The art of body painting with henna has been practiced for over 5000 years in Pakistan, India, Africa, and the Middle East.  Because henna has natural cooling properties, it originally was applied as a paste to soothe overheated hands and feet.  When the stain then faded away, it naturally left patterns on the skin surface.  This eventually led to the idea of using henna to make designs for decorative purposes, which is how we usually rock it today!

While intricate henna painting has long been used in many cultures as adornment for celebrating weddings, birthdays, and holidays, it is so incredibly easy to use that we just love it as a gorgeous way to express personal style in a non-permanent way.  Particularly in the Summer, this exotic body art looks so boho chic peeking out from under your favorite tank top or sundress!

Fun henna fact: Henna can act as a sunblock, creating tan lines around the patterns you create! If you create a henna design and would like to see this awesomeness in action, let its natural color stay on for 3-5 days, and then go hang out in the sun for awhile!

Here’s our video tutorial on how to get started with henna:

Feeling curious about henna?  Mexicali Blues offers a full kit so you can try out this terrific traditional body art for only $5!

Mexicali DIY: Mini Planters

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When we first saw our mosaic candle holders, we instantly loved them for dressing up a room (and our desks at work!). But alas, it is hard to keep an eye on a lit candle, and who has the time to shop for a flameless battery operated version? Our votives were too short to be much use holding pencils and other supplies so we thought, what can we do with these adorable jars?! Mini planters of course!

Supplies are simple for this project. Succulents are an excellent choice for small planters because they grow well when crowded, don’t need water very often (think once a month – similar to a cactus!), and like a sunny spot (such as a winter windowsill). Bringing greenery indoors is an easy way to brighten up your drab winter decor and get a jump start on spring. Read on to see how we are decorating our space with this cute, quick, and affordable DIY!

You will need:

supples
  • Succulent cuttings (or other tiny plants)
  • soil
  • small rocks for drainage
  • cute candle holder or other small container

Ask your friends or relatives for cuttings of their succulent plants, or if you have your own just snip a piece off a larger specimen. Most succulent varieties can root from just a “leaf” of the plant but it will take longer to grow! After taking a cutting, let the piece dry out for a couple of days in a sunny spot. The succulent needs to form a callous where you cut it off, otherwise it could start to rot the roots.

First, place rocks in the bottom of the votive for adequate drainage. You could also experiment with crushed shells or coarse sand.

puttherocksinthereNext add the soil. Soil with fertilizer added is not necessary; many succulents thrive in “sandy” soil, and some only need the small rocks to root in! Check out how the cuttings were growing before and try that. Don’t pack the soil in tightly, the plant needs air in there to begin the rooting.

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Remove leaves from the bottom of the cutting, leaving about 1 inch bare. You can do more if you want; the plant will form a stronger root more quickly that way.

trimthebottomsNext, plant your cuttings.  We love the look of 2 or 3 varieties packed into one planter!  Remember, succulents like being crowded.

puttheplantsinWater every 2-3 days so the soil is moist (like a squeezed sponge). After a month, cut back to monthly watering.  The leaves will probably shrivel a bit as the plant forms roots.  The plant is living off the stored energy in its leaves.  This is normal.  You may also lose a few leaves, which is also normal.  Do not use this as an excuse to over water!  If in doubt, DON’T WATER. Too much water will quickly kill your succulents by causing the roots to rot.

Now enjoy your cute and colorful greenery!  It’s a lovely way to bring a bit of that Spring spirit indoors, and makes a thoughtful gift!  Get the mosaic candle holders and the Maine Grateful Dead shot glass at our website, right here.

Making a Tapestry Wall Hanging: Creative Block Printing & Dyeing in India

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Mexicali owners Pete & Kim Erskine choosing their favorite block print tapestries.

The traditional Indian print tapestry is a familiar sight to bohemian spirits of all ages and walks of life!  These intricately patterned tapestry wall hangings can turn even the drabbest dorm into a hippie haven, or bring a bit of the boho chic to a tastefully tailored home.  There’s a reason these unimitable tapestries have been around forever–they’re an easy and instant favorite!

Aside from looking groovy, these floral tapestries have a rich history in India, and are still produced using handmade techniques that make each piece a subtly individual work of art!  Although the younger generations of textile artists in India are shifting their focus to less labor-intensive screenprinting, the artisans who create our India print tapestries are keeping tradition alive through hand-dyeing and block-printing.

PAKFIDFFNEPOHKJO_jumboThe Jaipur region of Rajahstan is the epicenter of tapestry-making in India.  Known as the “Pink City” because of the giant pink fort built around its borders, the opulent heritage of Jaipur is evident in the elegance of the tapestry designs it produces.  The intricate floral and animal prints of these block printed tapestries are heavily influenced by the tastes of the royalty who at one time were the niche market for this type of wall hanging textile art. PAKFADMKAJEHGNJO_jumboWhile mandala tapestries always have a background of one of four colors, traditional block print tapestries are usually created with colored ink on white or off-white fabric.  Wonderfully detailed floral prints are printed using intricately carved wooden blocks, pressed into the fabric by hand, with different colors and patterns layered upon each other to create a harmoniously colorful whole.

Here’s a video we recorded of a block print tapestry being created in Jaipur:

We travel frequently to India and other far-flung locales , importing responsibly through creating and maintaining long-term and mutually beneficial relationships with the artisans and families who create our merchandise.  We are proud to offer tapestries, reversible block print bags, bohemian scarves, and other cool decor items that are created using block printing and other traditional techniques!

4 Ways to Wear it: Our Long Sleeve Wrap Around Top

finishedlooksWe love this one size top because there are just so many ways to wear it! In addition to being versatile, it’s solid colors mean it will coordinate with any of your favorite gypsy skirts and looks equally splendid with jeans or leggings. It’s also ultra comfortable! The soft rayon jersey with 5% spandex means it remains fairly wrinkle-free while fitting many different body shapes and sizes. Read on to see four of our favorite ways to tie this clever shirt!

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Take the swath of fabric and loop it around your neck. Twice around will stay nicely in place, while once around will make your shirt look elegantly draped. Easy!

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Wrap the swath of fabric around your torso once, keeping it as wide and flat as possible. Keep wrapping a second time around to define your waist, stretching the fabric slightly as you go, and tuck in the end in the back or the side of your waist.

scarfyBring the swath of fabric across the front of your body, up and around your left shoulder. Tuck the fabric drape in between the layers to hold it in place.

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Bring the swath of fabric across the front of your body, twist the fabric one time (the bottom edge is now the top). Pull the fabric around your back under your right armpit and bring across your waist. Tuck the end of the fabric into the piece going across your back. Look in the mirror at your cool new shirt!

We love seeing creative new ways to wear this shirt, have you come up with any ways we haven’t? Share in the comments or on our Facebook page!

Mexicali DIY: “Namaste” Hanging Organizer

We come indoors from the Winter weather and shed our layers of coats, hats, scarves, and everything else that keeps us from turning into snowpeople, and put it…where? Many of us wind up tossing all our Winter gear on a chair, table, or even onto a steadily growing pile on the floor (If it’s in a corner, it’s doesn’t count as clutter…right?).  Well, toss NO MORE!  It is time to make a super groovy rack organizer for corralling coats and scarves!

whatyouwillmakeYou will need:

  • supplies
  • Our large (5.5″ x 12″) Namaste sign. Namaste is a Sanskrit greeting of positivity, meaning “I bow to you”; a fabulously zen, good-vibe way to be welcomed home!
  • One 8″ x 12″ piece of wood & a similarly sized scrap piece of wood if you have it
  • A drill & screwdriver (our electric one does both)
  • 2 screws
  • 4 hand-painted ceramic knobs
  • a ruler & a pencil

Step 1:

unscrewingUnscrew the hanger from the back of your Namaste sign.  Be sure not to lose it; you’ll be using it later!

Step 2:

measuringandmarkingPlace the Namaste sign on top of your wood piece as shown above.  Figure out where you want to drill the holes for your knobs using a ruler to make sure the distance between them is even. Be sure that the holes for the knobs are at least an inch away from the edge of the Namaste sign, creating ample room for the things you will be hanging on the knobs.

Step 3:

drillingDrill the holes for the knobs where you marked them.  Bonus tip: If you put another piece of wood under it as you drill, you won’t get a jolt when the screw pops out on the other side!

Step 4:

drillingnamasteDrill a hole on each end of the Namaste sign, one between the N and the A, and the other between the T and the E.  This is where you will screw the two pieces of wood together.  We did this on top of our scrap piece of wood, to make the drilling smoother.

Step 5:

allholescompleteLine up the two drilled pieces so the top edges are even.

Step 6:

putthescrewinPlace the two screws into the two holes you have made on the Namaste sign, and screw them together with your screwdriver.  Once that is complete, it should look like this:

screwedtogetherStep 7:

preparetheknobPrepare your knobs for this project by removing one nut and washer from each, and flipping over the bronze base so the wider end is facing away from the ceramic knob.

Step 8:

finalknobtwistPut the first knob spindle through the holes you’ve drilled, and screw a washer and then a nut onto the end.  Pull the knob so most of the spindle is sticking out the front of the wood.  We did this so that there would be more room to hold coats and other bulky items on each knob.  Although, fastened like this, the spindle can slip back and forth, once it is on a wall, it won’t.

Step 9:

wediditRepeat step 8 with the rest of the knobs.

Step 10:

putthescrewbackinUsing manual (hand) power, screw the hanger that you took from the back of the Namaste sign onto the back of your new creation.

Step 11:

greatsuccessHang your new organizing rack on the wall!  Put your stuff on it! Bask in the glory of your crafty awesomeness!

Mala Beads: How to Use Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Beads

ImageWhat are mala beads?

‘Mala’ is the Sanskrit word for garland or necklace.  For centuries, mala beads have been used as a meditation tool.  Counting the mala beads by moving them through the fingers and reciting a mantra helps to build awareness and concentration on intention and the present moment.  Mala beads were originally created by the Hindus, many of whom took the beads and this method of prayer along with them when they converted to Buddhism.  Prayer beads have since become a part of many religions ranging from Islam to Roman Catholicism.

Nine is known as the sacred number in many spiritual societies, and this number is the common denominator in all Buddhist prayer beads.  The most common malas are 27, 54, or 108 beads in length.  Predating Buddhism, the Hindus believed the number 108 to be sacred and said that the gods Ganesh and Shiva had 108 names.

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Regardless of how many beads one posseses on their mala bead strand, counting each bead by holding it offers the opportunity to chant a mantra and build spiritual power or “tapa”.  This tapa can help to attract certain qualities to your life or mindset, or bring greater awareness to a particular aspect of life.

Mala beads can be made from a variety of different materials, each possessing their own powers before the first mantra is even spoken.

  • Yak Bone – used in practice because the more that death is contemplated the more meaningful life becomes. Yaks are an important animal in Tibet, and to honor their passing their bones are used so that the animal is continuing to be of service as they pass from this consciousness to another.
  • Lotus Seed – symbolizes spiritual knowledge and power. The lotus flower grows in the mud and blossoms into a beautiful flower, never getting wet by the water. This type of mala bead in particular helps us to be mindful of our spiritual selves and walk through life unencumbered by the trappings of the material world.
  • Rudraksha Seed – brings peace of mind, protects against evil, and brings prosperity. Buddha, the Dalai Lama and Gandhi all wore Rudraksha beads. The beads have electro-magnetic properties similar to magnets.
  • Rosewood – associated with the heart chakra, traditionally used for nervous tension, headaches, skin inflammations, and is especially effective in spiritual healing.
  • Sandalwood – has a soothing fragrance. Sandalwood attracts positive energy and clear perception, and acts as an antidepressant, antiseptic and assists the immune system.

How to use mala beads:

The mala should be held in the left hand, and always used with gentleness and respect.  One bead is counted for each recitation of the mantra, starting with the first bead next to the “guru” bead. The guru bead is usually larger or more decorative, sometimes with a tassel coming out of it, which represents enlightenment. The first bead is held between the index finger and thumb, and with each count the thumb pulls another bead in place over the index finger.

As you recite your mantra; move your thumb and forefinger along to the next bead; recite the mantra again, and repeat the movement.  After completing a full circuit around the mala, you should flip it around 180 degrees, and continue as before, in reversed order.  One generally avoids passing over the “guru” bead, as doing so is symbolically likened to stepping over one’s teacher.

Choosing a mantra:

Mantras are sacred sounds that are meant to uplift the speaker and help with concentration.  Oftentimes these words or phrases are religious in nature, but it isn’t required.  It is said that certain Sanskrit mantras possess a certain vibration and have been repeated with intention so many times over so many years that it is not even necessary to understand the exact translation–the vibration, your intention, and that of those throughout history give the mantra power anyway.

  • “Aum” is the sacred sound of Hinduism and Buddhism, meaning variously: It Is, Will Be or To Become.
  • “Om Mani Padme Hum” originates from Tibet, and calls upon the Buddha of Compassion.
  • “Namo AmitaBha” pays homage to the Buddha of boundless light.
  • “I am that I am” is one of the most famous lines from the Hebrew Torah, and it was God’s answer to Moses when Moses asked for his name.
  • “Shreem Lakshmi Maa” is directed to the Mother Goddess of Abundance, to attract prosperity.

There are many more traditional mantras, and these are just a tiny sampling.  Whether you choose a classic mantra from the Ancients, or a modern word or phrase that resonates with you, you will still be receiving the benefits of your mala beads and this meditation!