June 28, 2012

The High Cost of Being Cheap

Let me introduce you to our new mattress.  But first, let's say good-bye to the old mattress, which isn't old at all, because it's barely six months old.

The old mattress was something of an impulse buy. We needed a new mattress, because our really old one was close to 15 years old.  Close to 15 years old, but not over.  I know that, because we've haven't been married 15 years quite yet (that's coming next month) and we definitely bought the mattress after we were married.

There's a really long story attached to how we bought ourselves a new mattress sometime after the wedding.  Let me just say it involves an ice cooler worth of loose change, and a trip out to Vegas. Sometimes I'm amused by this story, but more often these days, the story makes me want to punch my husband.

This mattress-via-Vegas story was lurking there in my mind, when we went to purchase a new mattress for Lily's loft bed.  The last few times we've needed a mattress (for kids graduating from crib to bed, and for a guest bed), we've gone to a discount mattress store up the freeway.  It's a little hole in the wall place, and the owner is definitely of the sleazy salesman variety, but there's something sort of harassed-but-charming about him too. 

Long story shorter, the salesman worked us hard to buy not just a full-sized mattress for Lily, but also a new queen for me and the husband.  The husband needed some convincing -- he wanted to wait, research, take it slow. Me, I was in it for revenge.  Let's just buy the damn mattress, I muttered under my breath.  Hokay-fine, he agreed in the end.  We laid on several mattresses, tested them out for a minute or two. We found one that felt pretty good.

And we brought it home that day.
For the first couple of weeks, it was fine.  Better! An improvement! But after a month, we noticed it was sagging. Badly. And that I was sort of...rolling into the pit growing on my husband's side of the bed.  And that it was really hard to get out of the darn thing every morning...but not in a good "can't get out" way.  More like, I was stuck.
  "For the best sleep ever," it says. Um, no.

All this happened back in late November.  It's taken us until now, after putting a couple of wooden boards between the mattress and box spring, after putting a pillow under my husband's side of the mattress, after mornings of his popping Advils for his ribcage/back pain and nights of dreading going to bed, after me waking with a stiff and aching lower back on many mornings -- after all this, we finally broke down and bought a new, quality mattress last week.

We laid down for a long time, testing each possible mattress.  We went to three different stores.  The husband did his due-diligence research.  

Last week, this was delivered:
It's by Sealy Posturepedic. It's nice and firm and tight and comes with a guarantee that we can exchange it after 30 days (for a re-stocking fee) if it proves not to be the right match.  But so far, so good.  Ah, sleep.

This may not have been the most interesting or glamorous home improvement post.  But it was a very necessary purchase.  Because as it turns out, you need your sleep.  I felt bad for twisting my husband's arm and "making" him buy the old mattress.  He says not to feel bad -- that he agreed to it too, in the end.  I also think that if he hadn't been such a cheapskate almost 15 years ago, with his loose sock change in a cooler in the trunk in a variety of Vegas casinos (back when they had penny slots!) we could've avoided this whole mattress drama.  But alas, a woman's memory is long.

On the bright side I think I'm totally over that incident now, some almost-15-years down the road.  And hopefully our new mattress will be around for many years of marital bliss.

Wait. What?  That sounds nasty.  You know what I mean. 
On Thursdays I'm linking up with Jules at Pancakes and French Fries as part of her 2012 William Morris Project.

June 27, 2012

Palm Springs: Girl's Getaway

Yeah, yeah, I know.  I said that my Palm Springs recap would go up on Monday.  Ha.  Good intentions, but there's this thing around here called Summer Break.  And I've found it nigh impossible, or at least extremely irritating, to try to blog during the day with the kids home. And then they're awake for like 14 hours, going to bed around 9, and asleep even later, and that leaves me tired and wanting to lounge around, not pop on the computer and share my scintillating wit.

But enough complaining.  Here's the photo-heavy recap of my 24 hours in Palm Springs with my little sister. We packed a lot in and played tourist, big time.  Kathy hadn't ever done a desert vacation before, so she didn't know what to expect.  And I usually go out  to the desert with my husband (sometimes with kids along)  and the vibe of our P.S. romantic getaways is a lot different. (It usually involves cruising cool neighborhoods and Open Houses for sale, and getting my panties in a twist about when/where/if we should move to the desert.) 

So off we go.  We left Saturday in the early afternoon, and arrived at the station for the Aeriel Tram ride up the mountain.
Here it comes!

The tram climbs 6,000 feet in about 10 minutes.  The elevation at the top is over 8,000 ft.
I needed to chill and relax my white knuckles. (I told ya there'd be beer & Doritos.)
Breathing in the fresh air & the sun-warmed pines
After the Aerial Tramway, we drove into town and checked into our hotel. Which was just as "eh" as I remember it: fair rooms, great location. I'd probably be more enthused if our Premium Pool View wasn't almost entirely blocked by a fat pine tree. Then this went on:
My big curly hair and a big hat

My sister's lucky foot (it's a 4-leaf clover tattoo.)
And then we went back to the room and got dressed for dinner out.  We hit my favorite Mexican restaurant, Las Casuelas (not superior food, but great patio atmosphere and people-watching). 
And good margaritas.  This was my first of two. Well, unless you count the half-bottle of Skinny Girl margarita drink that I had out by the pool.  (I don't.)

Then the night went on to include some Marilyn:
And some Sonny Bono:
I like this photo because my arms look kinda thin. And they are oh so kinda NOT.
And then we were drawn into a bar by some karaoke action on the patio. Inside was a gaggle of young women in pretty dresses, one of whom wore a pink sash and crown. We assumed it was her bachelorette party. She was young, young, young, and blonde and beautiful. (So were her friends.)  Think innocent and Taylor Swift.  I sat in the back nursing a beer and feeling old, old, old.  Was I ever 22? 
I said to myself, "give 'em five years, and they'll be blogging about chic cotton diapers and organic, homemade baby food."  Oh, so cynical.  Maybe it just all the booze. (Or not.)  Around midnight, we packed in our wild night on the town and sat out on our balcony in the hot night, talking and talking for nearly two hours. 

Since it was just an overnighter, we had to check out the next morning and hit the road.  But first we fueled up with some major grub at Pinocchio's, my fave breakfast joint. Bottomless champagne in a bucket for $4 on Sundays!  But sadly none for me, the driver.   
Colorful umbrellas, colorful scene

Only O.J. for me. :-(
Spicy Bloody Mary & the ring I gave her for Mother's Day. I think I want it back. 
Favorite moment: Loud salsa music came blasting from the speakers, and a waiter did an impromptu dance with a customer.  They even took it out to the sidewalk. 
Good times.
After breakfast, we walked it off a little in the heat and did some window shopping. Kathy said she felt sleepy and lazy, and I explained that this is why you really need 2 full days in Palm Springs: another day to lay out, in sun or shade, and chill a little while longer.  (If this was a husband trip, now is the time of day when we'd go hunt down some cool thrift stores and/or ogle the modern houses in town.)

But it was almost time to head out.  But first: just for Kathy, the Elvis fan, a quick drive up the hill to see the Elvis Honeymoon House.
The Love Nest

The gates have treble clef symbols

Cool double door entry
You can take tours for something like $25 a person, but you have to book in advance and let them know you're coming.  (You can also book the whole place for a party.)

All right! Back on the road.  But first another stop -- my sister asked that we make a visit to see the iconic big dinousaurs off the freeway in Cabazon.

And so we did. Such tourists!  But it was fun. I hadn't been up the aerial tram, or stopped to visit the dinosuars, in ages and ages.  And both are things that I've never done with the kids.

Spring break 2013, here we come!  And speaking of my wild monkeys, you can read about my previous trips to Palm Springs with Kids here on this post.

June 22, 2012

Big Summer Plans

Friday, first of the summer, and with this weekend, I'm  kicking off a series of trips.

On Saturday, I'm heading off to a quickie girls-trip to Palm Springs with my sister. (There are only the two of us, and I'm nine years older. Luckily, we're still pretty close.)

We're staying at the same hotel I featured in this post about taking kids to Palm Springs.  Not my first choice for an adult getaway, but it's location is primo, and within walking distance to everything -- which means I won't have to play designated driver, which would be a bummer. And since this overnighter is all about "chillaxin," no bummers are allowed.

Then next month, the whole family is off for a Carnival cruise down to the Mexican Riviera, which means Cabo for two nights, and Puerto Vallarta for one night.  I've been anticipating this trip for months and months, and now that its getting so close, I'm feeling more stressed than excited. The husband and I are celebrating our 15th anniversary, which is the reason we're doin' it up all fancy with a big cruise -- usually, we go on a road trip for our summer vacation. (Last year we visited Grand Canyon/Sedona/Scottsdale, the year before that we visited my in-laws in Oregon.)

Speaking of the in-laws, we'll get to spend a week with them in late August, when we go on yet another trip -- this one up to Morro Bay on the central coast. Our families are renting a couple of houses on the same lot, to celebrate their 50th anniversary. 15 years of marriage, versus 50.  I can't imagine! But then, my in-laws got a much earlier start than we did.   Morro Bay is so scenic and pretty, and I'm looking forward to that week, too.  The lovely Lisa Leonard is lucky enough to live close to that area, and she featured Morro Bay in her post today

So that's the Big Picture for us this summer.   

Up above are some pictures of the agapanthus plants in my backyard.  Every year at this time, they pop and bloom like delicate lavender fireworks.  Agapanthus plants (agapanthi?) are everywhere in Southern California -- almost as common as Bird of Paradise plants, and sturdy iceplant alongside the freeways. 

And below is my big purchase of the week, Mrs. Lilien's Cocktail Swatchbook.
In my ideal world, I'll have all the ingredients and fabulous cute bar supplies to mix up my own cocktails in Palm Springs and swig them down poolside. (Looking fabulous myself, of course.)

In reality, my sis and I will probably stop at the Rite Aid and pick up some beer, margarita coolers  and Doritos.  And I'll be trying for fabulous in my new Target swimsuit.  Ah well. At least the sunshine and blue skies are guaranteed to be part of my reality.  See you back here on Monday with a post-trip recap.

June 18, 2012

Hot Mess

It's the second week of summer vacation, and I'm a hot mess.

Literally. It's hot out, and inside, I'm a big mess.

Since late last week I've been in the midst of what can only be called a blogging existential crisis. Some inner switch flicked on some very glaring, unflattering lighting, and revealed to me the contents of my days for the last six months.

Blogging. Writing. Revealing myself and my home to the world.  Spilling my guts like a guest on Oprah's couch.  Why?

I'm having a hard time remembering. 

It had something to do with community: wanting one, hoping to find one, even though in my secret heart I still believe I'm actually forever excluded from the club, the sorority of close female friendships. Call it karma, call it personality, call it the way I was raised, by a mother with no close friends herself. 

Your thoughts become your reality. More Oprah. 


I made myself a deal, to try this out, to commit to it for the year.  We're halfway through.  It could be the routine that's freaking me out. It could be the cold eye I cast upon all of this blather. It could be that by creating a Facebook page, by pinning images from my home onto Pinterest, by putting myself out there, I'm becoming a lot less anonymous than when I started.

But wasn't that the point?


The goal is to be specific, to have a specific, unique voice and to thereby attract others. The goal is to have a large audience. Large enough, and I could possibly monetize all these hours in this chair. In climbing this learning curve of blogging, I look to others: mentors, peers, who are farther ahead in the game.  The game, the "branding" the "social media," the learning what the hell SEO stands for:  perhaps its merely all this that's got me down.   And mentors and peers are not, alas, a community. Not quite.

Look. I'm not a photographer. I'm not a decorator, or a crafter.  I once fancied myself a baker, but it turns out I'm actually a better cook (less attention to detail, go figure).   I've no product, no services to sell.  I'm a writer, and a mom who lives in a cookie-cutter house in the middle of a rather isolated suburbia, with no local access to good design except for the internet and a few antique stores.  But if you want to talk about Waddy Wachtel or Bob Welch, or about Sunday drives on the back roads of Hemet, you've found the right place.

You, me and my husband.  We'll just hang out here.   See who comes around.

For now, I'll resist downloading the blog into a Blurb book and shuttering the whole thing.  For now I'll try to remember this quote, which is me to a TEE:

Romance. Parenting. Summer vacations, and the Christmas holidays. There's always a picture in my head of how it should be. And now there's one for the blog, too.  My picture doesn't match my reality, not by a long shot. But by showing up here for the last six months, at least I've made my January goal a reality.   That must count for something, somewhere. 

June 16, 2012

This Guy.

 This guy.

Ever sweet, ever smiling.

Almost always, only my cranky makes him cranky, only my sadness makes him frown.


My hero. Their hero. 

Hardest-working guy I've ever known.  (Smartest, too.)

He loves Dr. Who and loud music and any excuse to use a soldering iron and thinks the saddest movie ever was Bicentennial Man (because he sympathizes with our future robot overlords).

Awesome Dad. Awesome-r husband. (No, it's a tie.)  Loves our monkeys to pieces.
And me, too. (That makes me the lucky one.)

Happy Father's Day, honey.  We love you a bushel and a peck.

(*Just realized these pictures are two summers apart, and he's wearing the same shirt!) 

June 14, 2012

Our (Almost) Finished Master Bedroom

Numerous times over the last couple of years, I've referred to my master bedroom re-do and promised to share the results.  Well, much like with my Ikea kitchen re-do, it's taken a couple of years to finally write that post.

On the other hand, except for adding a yellow zebra-print chair and a trio of small mirrors above the bed, the room still looks exactly as it did when we completed it a couple of summers back. For better, and for worse. So off we go.

Looking into the room from the master bath:
Our room faces south/southwest, and being upstairs, is easily the hottest, brightest room in the house, especially with one big, long wall of windows. Seriously, it's an oven in this room from late July through October.  I would've loved to have a beautiful lighting fixture, but sleeping without a ceiling fan just isn't an option. 

And this is looking from the room toward the bathroom.  There's no door separating the two spaces, so the curtains provide some privacy when showering, or for when the husband, an early riser, turns on the lights when its still dark out.  (The curtains are usually open, but I didn't feel like showing the bathroom!)
Ah, look at that angled ceiling slope.  Don't forget, this is my House of Many Angles.

My Nate Berkus headboard, purchased online at HSN a couple of years ago. I'm very happy with the quality. 

This is the same area, with the recent update of a trio of small starburst mirrors.
Yellow pillows are from Target, again a couple years back. 

My version of the Ikea Rast hack that's been all over the interwebs for awhile.  These nightstands started out as unfinished pine. I should probably update the knobs from these Home Depot silver ones to the brass ring pulls shown in the original hack (at least the one I copied), but I was lazy and didn't feel like ordering them online. Not very much in the spirit of the William Morris project, I know. 
In my very first William Morris post, I griped about that stupid, loud-ticking alarm clock.  It's no longer next to my bed, but hasn't been replaced either.  (I use the digital one on the husband's side of the bed. It's cheap, but has withstood my slapping the snooze button every morning for years now.)

The main reason behind my delay in posting about my room is that it's never felt entirely "done" to me, even after two years. I'm the first to say that it's sorely lacking another layer of interest, via more pattern or color or (especially) artwork.

Here is the main problem:
The Big Gray Wall of Nothing.

I've been completely in a twist about what to with that big space. If I was an HGTV Design Star contestant, no doubt I'd have created some awesome installation using molding or stencilling or shiny hubcaps by now. But no. It sits as empty and devoid of interest as ever.

I actually do have an idea, and it's to create some wallpaper panel art.  I've even bought the wallpaper. It's lovely and by Romo, purchased for a great price on eBay a while back. (It's missing about a foot and a half off a full roll, but there's still a lot to work with.)

The paper is gray-blue with metallic chrysanthemums, that read a little gold or a little silver, depending on the angle.
I really do like this wallpaper, but my indecision on how to go about actually putting it up has me flummoxed.  Straight onto the wall?  Onto a piece of lightweight foam core or MDF?  The plan is to put up three panels onto the big wall, and frame them with painted trim. Sort of like this, from my Pinterest bedroom board:

Source: houzz.com via Kelly on Pinterest

I also want some some artwork for this bare wall next to the husband's side of the bed. 

I love the photography of Irene Suchocki, and a couple of her dreamy New York City prints would be so calming to gaze at in the evenings: 

Well. There you have it. Despite being "undone," our master bedroom is still a nice retreat (especially when I put away the laundry and make the bed). It's a little more formal than the rest of the house, with all the symmetry in the lamps, tables and pillows.  Of course, our double doors are usually open, so it's hardly the private, modern hotel room that may have been its inspiration.  But considering that the master bedroom is often the most neglected space for a lot of families, I guess we've done okay.

If only I can get that wallpaper up before the end of the year, I'll be thrilled.
Oh, and a side table beside the chair, so I could actually set a drink or book down someplace other than the floor, would be a good addition, too.

On Thurdays, I'm linking up with Jules as part of her 2012 William Morris Project.
Pancakes and French Fries

June 12, 2012

End-of-School Gifts

The photo above is of the gift bags I prepared for the last day of school.  Somewhere along the line, it's become a tradition for me to give the kids a bag o' goodness to both celebrate and congratulate a year of hard work and good grades. (What will happen if they don't work hard, and/or bring home bad grades? Thankfully, that hasn't been an issue so far.)

It's a tradition, but not one that they've come to expect.  In other words, the kids didn't come home from school and automatically expect to find gifts, didn't mention anything, didn't start dropping hints. It's not like coming downstairs on Christmas morning and knowing that Santa has dropped by.

This year, the main gifts were a little nicer than usual -- Lily got a new camera, which she's needed for a while.  Tucker got a new MP3 player, to replace the one that mysteriously vanished earlier this year. Its loss has been baffling to us all, but heartbreaking to Tucker -- he loves his music, gets emotionally attached to his things, and so there were a few nights in the last months of crying himself to sleep over his lost gadget.  (His tears prompted me to tear apart the house, the toy bins, the cars -- it's just gone, and we're completely stumped as to where it went.)

The bags also contained new, personalized towels from Lands End, Celtic pattern coloring books for boredom, a Nate the Great book for Tucker, and two magazines for Lily -- including her first-ever copy of Mad. She's just discovered the animated television show, and loves the parodies and subversive humor.  Thanks to a good sale on Amazon Prime, they each also got a new DS game.

Yes, it was a lot, and yes, I would even agree that they're spoiled -- to a point.  There weren't other rewards for the first semester's report cards, no cash motivation for the good grades, no treats when Lily landed on the Honor Roll both semesters.   I think of these start-of-summer gifts as a way to get us all ready and excited for the long weeks ahead: new beach towels and sand shovels, sometimes water guns or pool toys, craft supplies, and always, always new books.

Their delight over the new camera and MP3 player was somehow better than Christmas. Both kids were truly surprised, and without a mountain of other gifts to distract them, they focused on and immediately started dug in and started playing. 
And reading. Lily was both thrilled and a little shocked by some of the content in Mad. "That is SO not appropriate!" she shouted, and laughed at the same time. (It's really not that bad, and I'm guessing most of the political and celebrity-based humor is going right over her head.)

Do you have a tradition to celebrate the end of the school year? And what's your stance on summer gifts? I'd love to hear.

June 8, 2012

L.A. Music Friday: Oh, Bob Welch

Well, shit.  Bob Welch, why did you have to go and off yourself yesterday? Because honestly, I wasn't even going to do an L.A. Music post (again) this week. I was going to spend today talking about how it's The Last Day of School, and  It's Officially Summer, and how I'm editing this post to the sounds of the D.J. spinning pop tunes at the 5th graders graduation pool party just down the way from my house.  (True.)  

Bob Welch, I haven't thought of you in ages. I turn up the volume up high whenever I hear "Hynoptized" in the car -- because I only have Sirius/XM in the car, and evidently true deep-cut FM radio is as dead as -- well, you.

I've been saving up for the day when I have the time and energy to write an L.A. Music post on Fleetwood Mac. It will be long and contain lots of personal memories. Like when I was in junior high and home from school for two weeks with the chicken pox, and my dad bought me the Mirage cassette to help pass the time. 

But this isn't the day for Fleetwood Mac, at least the line-up that I loved. You were part of that earlier, bluesy, pre-Rumours, pre-Stevie incarnation.  I was never too familiar with that whole Chicken Shack, Peter Green thing, but I loved the Mac enough that I was at least tangentially familiar it.
Oh, you and your sexy red shirt. Image via here.
Oh, Bob Welch, what do I know of you at all, except for your big radio singles and that you played on "Oh, Well," which maybe was some kind of foreshadowing on your part?  What do I know, except that I love me those cheesy A.M. Gold radio hits, and Ebony Eyes! Sentimental Lady! I stop the dial-spinning and listen every time.

Sentimental Lady: the kind of heavily produced song out of mid-1970s El Lay that made the British punks stab themselves with safety pins and shred their clothes. This is not rock n' roll.

But close your eyes, and listen. It's 1977, and you're on a terrace in Malibu, sitting in a giant wicker papasan chair. The blue Pacific sparkles in every direction. The aroma of pot and orange blossoms is carried on the breeze that sends the ferns in their macramé hangers swinging. Your most excellent sentimental lady wafts in, all chiffon and long, feathered hair and giant hoop earrings, bangled in turquoise and tiny Indian bells. 

That's why I've travelled far,
'Cause I come so together where you are. 
Yes, and all of the things that I said that I wanted
Come rushing by in my head when I'm with you,
Fourteen joys and a will to be married.
All of the things that they say are very sentimental gentle winds
Blowing through my life again.
 Add in Christine McVie's warm and wise backing vocals, and it adds up to one very fine, very mellow, very L.A. moment. I swear, I can hear the ocean in the background.

Oh, Bob Welch.  You made me cry, and rearrange my Friday plans for you.  Still: Walter Egan? Mr. Magnet & Steel? Don't even think about it, dude. 

Enjoy! And have yourself a most excellent and mellow weekend.

June 5, 2012

The Titanic In San Diego

This past Sunday we drove an hour south to San Diego's Balboa Park, specifically to take in the Titanic artifact exhibit at the Natural History museum.  (The show opened in April and closes in September.) 

Lily had already been a minor Titanic history buff prior to all the hoopla commemorating the 100-year anniversary of its sinking.  Her interest reached its peak the anniversary weekend of April 15th, when I took her for a girl's day out viewing of the movie, re-released in 3D.  (It's PG-13 in ways I never noticed back when it came out in 1997, but were very apparent when viewing with an impressionable 10-year-old.)

So needless to say, she was thrilled when she learned of Sunday's plans. 

Unfortunately, there are strict rules about taking any photos inside the special exhibit (much like when we went to the Tim Burton show at LACMA last October). But I can tell you it was pretty cool to see actual items that were onboard the ship, retrieved from the debris field on the ocean floor, and restored and set under glass for all to see.  I think my favorites were the dinner plates, some with the "White Star Line" logo still visible, along with the gold-trimmed china used by the first class passengers.  Lily's favorite was the green champagne bottle that still had half its contents preserved. (Was the cork popped to celebrate the bon voyage, or some other happy milestone for its owner?) We both agreed that looking at these things gave us goosebumps.

When you enter the exhibit, you're given a "boarding pass" with information on the back about an actual Titanic passenger. At the end, you pass by a wall where you can see if your person lived or died.  Myk was Mr. Allison, and I was Mrs. Elizabeth Nye. I'm not going to say which, but only one of us made it out alive. (It's not who you might assume.)

There was also a recreation of the boiler room, and a great big white hunk of frozen ice that you were encouraged to touch, to get a feel of just how cold the water in the north Atlantic was that fateful night. (This helped Tucker, who couldn't understand why the passengers couldn't just swim to safety.)

It was a great afternoon, but especially for this one: 
Some other shots of lovely Balboa Park:

It's a huge, beautiful park, and we usually just stick to exploring the museum areas. (They have a great railroad musuem that's fun for anyone who like trains, history, or just looking at miniature models.) Next time, I want to pack a lunch and explore all the walking/hiking trails on the property.  According to their trail website, there are 65 miles of trails to explore! I'll be thrilled if we can cover just one or two.
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