September 30, 2011

Looking Up at the Park

Previously, I've written here about how much I admire the overall attention to design and prop details at Disneyland, specifically how even the smallest corners of the park are not forgotten.

Last week, we were at Disneyland again, after an enforced summer break. (Our annual passes are blacked out for most of the busy tourist season.) It was good to be back; the park is totally decked out and ready for Halloween, and we checked out the newly revamped Star Tours ride and the new Little Mermaid slow ride, over at the California Adventures park.

Here are some shots of more park details, specifically what you'll see if you just look up.
Entering the "Great Moments with Lincoln" attraction, on Main Street.
  I don't think I've ever seen this show! (Not on this visit, either.)
Inside the art gallery on Main Street
Decorated ledge at the Animation Studio, inside California Adventures

Again, in the Animation Studio room
My family at the Beast's Library, an interactive exhibit at California Adventures
And then there's always the Haunted Mansion, which transforms into a Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas theme, from the Halloween season through Christmas. 
I have always wanted to live in the Haunted Mansion, and admired
the ironwork way back before I ever knew what it was called.  

Yeah, it's coming too soon, I know....
Hope you enjoyed another peek at the park.  And speaking of Tim Burton, I really need to get on it and order tickets for the awesome retrospective of his career,  running now at LACMA.  My daughter is a big Burton fan and is amped to go, and the show ends on Halloween (of course).

September 27, 2011

Little Corner of the TV World

Last week, I found out about this:
Holy Hell, how did I miss the fact that a Gilmore Girls soundtrack is out there in the world? 

I loved the show so much.  For me, it's the television equivalent of a hot toddy, a warm throw and cozy new socks on a chilly night.  Just...pretty much perfect, for that specific mood.  One day last year, I felt literally sick and tired, like I was coming down with a bad cold. In the middle of the day, I crashed on the couch, too exhausted to do much besides point the remote at the television.  And there on ABC Family was a Gilmore Girls re-run.  I dont remember what particular episode, but there was Lorelai and Rory with all their sassy, smart banter. There was Luke, looking hunky behind the counter, offering up his coffee and pie.  A small, germy tear of happiness leaked out onto my pillow.
I was sorry when the show got cancelled after seven seasons, but I think it came at just the right time in the storyline. My favorite episode might be the one ('cause I have several) where Lorelai is feeling miserable about her relationship with Luke, and she's sitting at home, watching Judy Garland sing "The Man that Got Away," from A Star is Born, and then Luke rings her doorbell...  Yeah. That was a good one.  

I wonder, if I play this soundtrack in my car, with my Monkey Girl riding with me, will our conversation suddenly become witty and loaded with pop-culture references? Will our hometown seem as charming and quirky as Stars Hollow, Connecticut? 
Probably not, huh?  First of all, she's not even quite big enough to ride shotgun yet.  Also, since I didn't have her when I was eighteen, there's really no chance at all of me ever being as cool and hip a mom as Lorelai.  Also, our town is the extreme opposite of a small, quirky New England town, fictional or not.

By the way, I found out about the soundtrack after digging around to find out what the show's creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, has been up to these days.  According to Wikipedia, she recently created and pitched a new series for the The CW that never made it on-air.  The plot synopsis?  "Gilmore Girls meets Little House on the Prairie."


September 20, 2011


Image from here. Originally found via this lovely post.
Sometimes, interwebs, you do not disappoint.  Sometimes I find the most beautiful, unusual, inspiring images out there.  They remind me, when I am stuck in a rut, when my world looks and feels small and wholly known to me, when looking out at my horizon feels flat and blasé and ho-hum and yeah, yeah, got it -- these images remind me of how big the world can be.  

Forget the minds reels at the numbers, at explanations of light-years, of quantum this and particle that, until I feel in my gut that it's all elaborate smoke and mirrors by a particularly remote Oz.  No, planet earth, terra firma, is large and mysterious enough for me, thank you. 

The gorgeous reading room above is something from a dream, something imagined in some wee early morning, when I pull up the coverlet against chilly air and burrow deeper, with some half-remembered nostalgia for Christmas, for snow, for another life, not yet lived. 

If the shot above is the interior world of that half-dream, than here is what it looks like, just out the windows:
Image found (and available for purchase) here.
According to the Flickr comments on the first photo, that library or reading room is somewhere in either the Netherlands or perhaps Germany.  The bottom photograph is of New York City.

But it's my dream, my imagined universe.  If I find it hard to imagine a life where  I'd ever need a full-body parka to brave the cold out my front door, or be able to sit in an old, old room surrounded by beauty and history, I can look out there, into the ever-expanding universe of the web, and find images to make such undreamed corners of the earth possible, seem like places that I might visit, might even inhabit.  Someday.

September 16, 2011

Not Young Enough in the Young Way

Image found here.
Most of this summer, the music by San Francisco-based My First Earthquake has been really, really popular over at my house.  My kids both have a few of their songs on each of their little Sansa MP3 players. (Those players have taken a hell of a licking and still keep ticking, after at least 3 years of abuse.)

My husband, who is the musical maverick around here, first heard them on PopTron, an online station through SomaFM that plays lots of synthesizer-heavy, 80s'-inspired electronica. He's in his late 40s, but still listens to and seeks out new music, unlike some of his Old White Guy peers who are content to still be workin' on their night moves with Bob Seger.  (Although in full disclosure, we'll both crank it up for original, Roth-era Van Halen.)

Anway, so he played the music for the kids, showed them the cute, low-budget videos on YouTube, and my kids have been hooked.  The songs are fun, poppy and bouncy, the lead singer is a cutie, and I can totally relate to the song, (I'm Not) Cool Enough in the Cool Way:

"I can't be compared, without mentioning old ladies/
I can't be compared, without mentioning old ladies holding babies!

Had a fantasy about dark socks/Got a cup of tea, but Earl Grey rocks..."
Video Below:

My daughter and husband both claim "Mad Tight" as their favorite. (Should I be concerned that my husband bops so happily along to a song about a dress being mad tight, because it got left in the dryer too long?)

Anyway, I'm not trying show off how hip we are.  Hardly. I'm just sharing what it sounds like under our particular roof these days.  I like their music too, but feel a little "I'm not worthy." As in, maybe I'm just not young enough in the young way.   I'm also probably too old and nerdy to be lurking around some of the hipster blogging circles that I do, but no one has called me out on that, not yet.  (I do weep a little into my cold coffee, though, when I read a blog post by a whippersnapper fondly recalling her preschool days, back in the early 90s.)

On the other hand, the fact that I honestly like My First Earthquake gives me some hope.  I'm not at all fond of much new music these days, the type favored by young indie hipsters.  Especially the music put out by all those bands full of earnest young men and their facial hair.  I just...don't...get it? (Maybe I need to move to Portland?)
Fleet Foxes, image from here.
Mumford and Sons, image from here.
See, I like me a little banjo and all, but when I hear it, my brain immediately thinks of this guy:
Roy Clark on banjo, Buck Owens on the gee-tar. Ernest Borgnine (?!?) providing hand-claps. Image via here.
See?  I'm not cool enough, by a long shot. And yes, I have sat in a living room in my childhood, while Hee-Haw played on the televison. A great big, huge console television, and someone had to get up off the couch to change the channel. Suck on that, hipsters.

September 14, 2011

Fantastic Ms. Fox

Paula Fox. I wouldn't mind looking like this when I'm older: smart, warm, and more than a bit intimidating.

A few posts back I mentioned picking up a Paula Fox book at the library, in a hurry, in one of those moments when I flip open the dust jacket, say "hmm, okay," and throw it in my bookbag, on top of 20-odd children's titles.
(Recurrent nightmare: I'm in a library, or sometimes a clothing store, and the clock is ticking down and I have to just make a choice, dammit, but I'm frozen in a paralysis of indecision.)

So, speaking of nightmares, that first book was The God of Nightmares.  Good stuff: New Orleans, prior to WWII, a young woman making her way among bohemians and drunks (or both) and a homosexual or two. The French Quarter feels like a small-town neighborhood, and everyone seems to know each other, and each other's business.  But it's not the plot, it's the characters, the razor-sharp outlines of people and of moments.
This spurred me onto Borrowed Finery, the author's memoir.  Considering the helluva childhood Ms. Fox endured, this book could easily have been twice as long. Born to a young couple, unwanted, the young Paula lives first with a kindly, cultured Congregational minister for her first five years.  At one point, her father shows up, deposits a box of children's books at the house, then leaves again.  After the age of five, young Paula kicks around between an apartment with her Cuban maternal grandmother, a sugar plantation in Cuba, and back to New York City, before her father brings her out to Los Angeles, where he is working as a Hollywood scriptwriter (this is back in the late 30s).  After only a couple of days, her mother pronounces, "either she goes, or I go."  And so Paula is shipped off to a stranger's house in Redlands, a citrus town about sixty miles east of L.A.
The central, terrible character in this spare, slim memoir is the mother.  She is neither explained nor psychoanalysed, as a younger writer, or one from our current generation, might feel tempted to do.  The reader is left to glean from between the lines that the beautiful, glamourous Elsie was simply immature and frankly envious of the few, small moments that Paula shares with her father. A bit of a spoiler here, but let's just say that Ms. Fox never reconciles with her mother.  Toward the end of her mother's life, the adult Paula pays a visit to Elsie, after not seeing her for literally decades.  I was floored by this telling detail:  Fox's "revulsion" (her word) for Elsie remains so strong, she opts to go outside to urinate in the yard, rather than sit on the toilet seat in her mother's house. Whew. 

Finally, I've just finished reading The Village By the Sea, a children's book. (Fox was an even more prolific author of children's books, and has won the Newbery Award.)  Despite, or maybe because it is a children's book, I was more deeply affected by this than the other two.  It is about a 10-year-old girl, Emma, who must go stay with distant relatives for two weeks while her father undergoes open-heart surgery.  Aunt Bea, her father's older half-sister, is already well-known as a "terror" to her parents, but Emma experiences her aunt's caustic personality first-hand. The terrible dread that Emma feels living in her aunt's home by the sea, a dread that flares up at every thought of walking past her aunt, or provoking another of her bitter comments, was so vivid to me, and so reminiscent of a similar time in my own life, that at one point I had to put the book down, as my eyes were filling with tears.
Of course, after reading her memoir, I can see how Fox's writing sensibilities would be uniquely tuned toward how adults can be baffling, hypocritical and downright terrifying to children.  After all, despite what children may sense or know, the adults wield all the power.

Now I have one of her back-in-print novels, Desperate Characters, winging its way to my doorstep, and I can't wait to read it.  In a funny twist, many of Fox's older novels are now back in print after Desperate Characters was re-discovered and championed by big-time author Jonathan Franzen. And I first mentioned discovering Paula Fox at the end of my post here, when I discussed reading Franzen's novel Freedom.  Not that any of it has a thing to do with me, but I still like those little moments of literary kismet.  The book world is a small world, after all.

September 9, 2011

Big Blue Blenko

Say it three times fast.  Look at this lovely.  I got it on a recent trip to Palm Springs, where we stayed at the Hotel California. We could check in any time we liked (after 3pm) and we could never leave (but had to come home anyway).

Our first night in town, we strolled though a little outdoor mall with a collection of vintage stores on the north end of the Palm Canyon shopping district.  I found the greatest little shop, called Bon Vivant. Loved it. The owner has a great collection of stuff...just so well curated, I wanted to pause and fondle it all.  He also had a beautiful collection of vintage Blenko glass pieces. They're like big shards of hard candy that you wanna lick. Or at least I do.
Photo from here.
Usually my husband sort of intimidates me into not spending when he's around. (I won't say he's cheap, but....)  However, after about ten minutes inside Bon Vivant, I knew I wasn't going to be able to leave empty-handed. Also, we were in town for a romantic anniversary getaway, so I was able to play that card.


Turns out that Bon Vivant and its collection of Blenko glass was mentioned in this April's issue of Martha Stewart Living.  Read all about that on the shop website, or visit their Facebook page, where I read how J.A., Jonathan Adler himself, is quoted as saying that this store has some of the best pieces at some of the best prices around. 

Well there ya go.  And that's why me and J.A. are so tight like that, see?

Read about the rest of my desert weekend here, over at my new-ish travel blog.  I'm still sorting it out over there, and trying to figure out how to write an informative post in less than 12 hours.  Sheesh.

September 2, 2011

Our Ikea Kitchen (Only 3 Years Late!)

No more being a tease, it's full-monty time.  Here it is: our Ikea kitchen with the Nexus yellow-brown cabinets.  It was completed back in May & June of 2008.  I can't believe we've lived with it for over three years now. 

Except for the granite installation, my husband did all of the work himself, all the way down from ripping out and installing drywall (apparently, the old ceramic tile backsplash did not want to leave), on up to screwing in every piece of cabinet hardware.  You can see a "Before" shot and some of the process here on this old post. (Note: he's not a contractor by trade. In fact, he's plays a mild-mannered computer geek by day.)

I live in a very typical, newer (11 years old) builder-grade home, and everything about the old kitchen was builder-grade.  We didn't change any of the architecture or tear down any's just a typical u-shaped kitchen. Except now we like it much, much better.
I remember this part as being the biggest pain in the ass: installing that narrow top cabinet above the fridge.  Oy.  I recall the full weight of it resting on my husband's head and shoulders as he tried to wrestle it into place.  Evidently, the width of the front of this niche was narrower than the back. Fun!  And no, we did not go out and buy a new Subzero fridge.  It was free. FREE.

My father-in-law is an installer and repair guy for high-end appliances, and this was a "second" that a client didn't want.  (It had a couple of scratches and a small ding.) He drove it down from Oregon for us. That kind of windfall never happens to us, but this time, it did. 

Some other shots, from the top:
We created the island by putting two base cabinets back-to-back.  The front of the island, facing the family room, stores kids homework and craft supplies. The back of the island has two deep drawers.  The island, with the granite slab, is heavy.  Standing right next to it, I can feel a slight depression in the laminate floor from its weight. 
My husband was able to link all the under-cabinet lighting together, so that I can flick all of them on & off with one switch. (As opposed to going down the line and doing them individually.)  
The lighting fixture is also Ikea (no longer available).  I didn't want to go "all Ikea," but I liked this kinda reminds me of the Capri pendant from Jonathan Adler.   As for the cheap matchstick blinds...those were supposed to be a temporary solution, but you know how that goes. 
 I love, love, love the backsplash tiles from Susan Jablon Mosaics.  They are definitely the "jewelry" and bling of the kitchen.  I love the shimmer created by just walking across the room.  You can see more of the sample tile colors, and read about me geeking out on them, in this post.  (I still have all those lovely sample tiles...what to do with them?)
Another view...

And another view, of the sink

And one last view. The door leads to my tiny laundry room, and then onto the garage. And no...this long counter is NOT always this clean.  This is where old homework and junk mail goes to die.

A final word:  I know the funny nose-wrinkle that some people get when you say "it's from Ikea."  That's a long debate for another day: custom-built modern design vs. affordability for the great unwashed.   But I will say: we've lived with the kitchen for over three years now; these pictures were taken just a few months ago.  Everything has held up very well...including those awesome drawer-closing dampeners that let the drawers glide silently shut on their own.  So cool. And I haven't mentioned the cost yet -- but this was easily under $15K. 

I have two children, (now ages 6 and 9) who are not careful about anything, least of all how they treat a kitchen.  If I had to do it all again, I'd make some different choices (not all that thrilled with the stainless sink, wish we a double wall oven, etc.).  But this is from a person who rearranges furniture a few times a year, so what do you expect?

In the end, I am still thrilled to look at it here, and know that we made this happen, ourselves.  Yay us!
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