November 28, 2012

Pasadena House Lust

Lust and envy are ugly, bottom-feeder emotions, but on a beautiful Sunday morning walk through tony South Pasadena I was wallowing in them both.

Oh, pretty Pasadena. Oh, pretty pretty million-dollar houses. (Two million, five, ten million, easy.)

It reminded me of a funny, quick memoir I read a couple years back: Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House, by Meghan Daum.
 As someone who grew up in rental houses and apartments, who moved several times before the age of 12 (and some of those moves meant crashing in my grandparents' spare bedrooms), I understand house lust very well. It's a primal thing with me.  The white picket fence goes way beyond metaphor.

Anyway. Let's take a stroll, shall we? As I wrote yesterday, we stayed at the Bissel House, and the homes here are north and west of that location near Orange Grove Blvd. in South Pasadena -- an area appropriately nicknamed "Millionaire's Row." Go figure.

Loved this low slung modern house -- with great succulent landscaping.

I suppose one must give the gate code to the staff, too?
We actually got to tour through this home, which was open for an estate sale. It was old, old, old and falling apart, but lord it was cool to walk through. There were elaborate fireplaces in almost every room:

One of my favorites, I think because of that big wide porch:
I would totally "settle" for this more modest ranch, too:

My favorite older-house style is Monterey Colonial, and here's an example. I can totally picture myself up there with a coffee and good book on the upper balcony, smelling the orange blossoms....
We agreed this would make for an awesome Halloween house:
Sigh. So there you have it. Since we live in a cookie cutter housing development, with an HOA ensuring that all the homes stay within the same tones of beige, I think what I lust after most, even more than the awesome house, is simply a charming, walkable neighborhood.
(And the awesome old house.)  Oh, life would be perfect.  I understand that my house lust is a spiralling sinkhole, and it's the same as my favorite bumper sticker quote: "No Matter Where You Go, There You Are." Yeah, I get that. Still.

Oh, Pasadena!

November 27, 2012

The Bissell House

Over Veteran's Day weekend, the husband and I were lucky to get away to lovely Pasadena for two nights by ourselves.  Even though we've had our fair share of road trips and travel this year, this was actually the first time in 2012 that we enjoyed an overnighter without the children in tow.

Because our plans didn't firm up until about a week prior, I hesitated to book a room too early. We've stayed at a couple of nice places in Pasadena before, once at the Westin, and once, for my birthday, at the wonderful, posh Langham. But I couldn't find a good last-minute rate for the Westin (Priceline kicked back all my bids) and frankly couldn't afford 2 nights at the Langham (especially since this wasn't an "event" trip, just a little getaway).

On the other hand, I wasn't enthused about staying someplace blah & corporate for our sole getaway of the year.

Enter the Bissell House:
First off, if you haven't figured it out yet, let me say that we're really not the typical B&B types, despite preferring small hotels in general.  The only other time we've stayed at a B&B was for our first wedding anniversary, way up north at the Gingerbread Mansion in Ferndale.

Still, I love old houses and quirky lodging, and the Bissell House was definitely a different experience for us.  The stairs were creaky, the shower was in a claw-foot tub and the bed was draped and comfortable. The communal breakfast was a little awkward (after the first morning, we felt like edgy young whippersnappers compared to the general age of the other patrons). Still, we're grown-ups and able to make civilized chit-chat.  On the second morning, there was a much younger newlywed couple at breakfast, and so we got kicked up into the older demographic again.

Yes, there was a lot of chintz and a stuffed animal waiting on our bed. If it were my own residence, I wouldn't feel compelled to decorate an old house to such rigidly 1980s ideas of a "Victorian B&B." Still, I think that type of decor is what many patrons (read: older women) expect of their bed-and-breakfast experience.

Some shots of the interior. Somehow I neglected to take any photos of our room, but it was wallpapered in burgundy stripes and stayed dim throughout the day.
Fixture in the foyer
On the staircase landing
Living room at night. Classical music played low on the stereo.
A small sofa and table sits before the fire.
I would stay here again, if only because I love overnighters with my husband, and old houses, and the general South Pasadena/Pasadena area. 
Speaking of loving old houses, in my next post I'll share some of the drool-inducing homes that we saw on a morning stroll through the neighborhood. 

I'm not really in the market to sell my soul, but those  You'll see.

November 21, 2012

Here's to You

Cheers on this hectic pre-feast Wednesday. I raise my glass of virtual Chardonnay to those of you out there who, like me, don't hold Thanksgiving as one of your very favorite holidays. Instead, since late childhood I've thought of the day as an overflowing cornocopia of barely suppressed dysfunction, passive-aggression and tears. 

It's mostly the same now that I'm an adult, except that since I play the eldest child/good girl role, I'll also be cooking the turkey and baking the pies and cleaning the house.

Here's a picture of my Lily on her first Thanksgiving. We were at my parents house.  As a new mom and dutiful daughter, I'm sure I was stressed and anxious, but frankly it all blurs together. My choice of bib speaks volumes: "Are These People Really My Relatives?"
Also, this may be the only documented occasion of my daughter eating sweet potatoes. She certainly won't do that now. 

But I am thankful that my historically finicky eater will allow turkey, cranberries (canned) and mashed potatoes onto her plate and into her mouth. And thankful that she's still my little big sweet potato of a girl.

And I am thankful for my funny, sensitive son, who is not living out my same childhood dramas, forcing his natural empathy and kind heart into overdrive. Instead, he'll play with his cousin and love on his family members, even those he only sees once or twice a year.

And so thankful for my awesome, patient husband, who is as much my partner on Turkey Day in the kitchen as he is every other day of the year. And who will bend an ear or two or three when I vent about it all, the day after.

Really, I just want to get to the part with the pecan pie. 

November 16, 2012

The Raising vs. Gone Girl

I meant to write about Laura Kasischke's The Raising right after I read it, but then didn't. I was probably busy working on my 31 21 Trips in California series

Then, for the recent "Phenomenally Indecisive Book Club" pick over at Jules' blog, I rushed out and bought a copy of Gone Girl, the hot, bestselling "It" thriller of this year.  Like many of the books that have been chosen in that online book club, it wasn't at all the sort of material I'd usually choose. (And that's a good thing; good to be lured out of  my little box.) Reading Gone Girl made me feel sort of hip and even self-consciously on-trend.  Like when I'm out in public, wearing a scarf, sipping a Starbucks, and tapping out a text message on my phone: In the back of my head, I'm thinking, "holy shit, look at me! I am SO MODERN." (Not.)

Anyway. I thought Gone Girl was a fun, fast-paced read. Fun if you like spending your time with a couple of narcissistic sociopaths, and trying to puzzle out the who/what/how of their crimes against one another.  And the movie version will probably make a lot of money at the box office in a year or two. 
It also reminded me of how much I liked The Raising, and how the The Raising is so much the better book. Not least because of Kasischke's talent as a writer.  I've read most, not all, of Kasischke's books, the first being her terrific debut novel, Suspicious River, about a young wife from an abusive childhood who becomes a prostitute while working as a receptionist at a motel. Heavy, violent stuff, but I loved it and loved the writing.

Kasischke is also an award-winning poet, and that shows in her prose, with its crystalline metaphors and evocative descriptions. (Sometimes the poetry is to the works detriment and becomes too heavy-handed and symbolic, as in her good but flawed second novel, White Bird in a Blizzard.)

The Raising also features at its center a "gone girl," a beautiful young college student and sorority sister who's been killed in violent accident, in a car driven by her boyfriend. Or is she really dead? Her grief-stricken boyfriend and others on campus seem to believe otherwise.  In fact, they're pretty adamant that they've seen her ghost.
From the back cover:
Last year Godwin Honors Hall was draped in black. The university was mourning the loss of one of its own: Nicole Werner, a blond, beautiful, straight-A sorority sister tragically killed in a car accident that left her boyfriend, who was driving, remarkably—some say suspiciously—unscathed.
Although a year has passed, as winter begins and the nights darken, obsession with Nicole and her death reignites: She was so pretty. So sweet-tempered. So innocent. Too young to die.
Unless she didn’t.
Because rumor has it that she’s back.
For me, The Raising was way, way more of an intense page-turner. It kept me up late, reading well past midnight. And something about the tension and paranoia of its ghost story actually made me feel a little spooked when I walked around my darkened house, while everyone else was asleep.

I know that a lot of readers were disappointed, even angered, by the way everything wrapped up at the end of Gone Girl.  And that's another valid comparison to make with The Raising...the end is something of a let-down, in the way that everything is suddenly tied together. It makes sense, but as with Gone Girl, if you're hoping for concrete punishments and karma being doled out, it ain't gonna happen.  (And hopefully that's not too much of a spoiler for either book.)

Finally --I thought it weird, if not fortuitous, that I found The Raising in the teen/young adult section of my local library.  The book was not marketed as such, I see no reference to that in any reviews, but for some reason (I suppose the college campus setting) my library stuck it over there. Luckily, I stumbled upon it. If you're looking for something a little spooky, that will have you puzzling and trying to guess just what happened, I recommend it highly. And with it's chilly setting on a snowy, picturesque college campus in Michigan, it's perfect for curling up with on these long nights as we head toward winter.

November 15, 2012

Updated Entryway

 I would say that I'm in complete denial of the fact that, this time next week, I'll be basting the bird and munching on pre-feast appetizers, except that I've been buzzing around in pre-holiday home project mode.  Pre-holiday = pre-company coming over.  "Company" being my mom, sister, nephew, and a couple aunts and uncles. We're a small family.

Anyway. I've been feeling all Pinterest-y and awesome, shakin' and sprayin' my cans of metallic gold spray paint onto a frame and an Ikea shelving unit. I've bought some new Etsy art, and a colorful print from Cozamia.  Oh, and there's a brand new rug in my family room.  I'm in "get it done now or wait until 2013" mode.

However, none of these projects are actually completed and ready for photographing and sharing yet.  So today I'm sharing my entry way, which sat pretty empty for a couple of months after I removed my shelving.  I specifically purchased a white Malm because I plan to add some fun Overlay detailing on the front drawers. I haven't been able to commit yet to one of their patterns, so that'll have to remain a project for next year.

Here's a little timeline of how my entry has evolved. I went from my pesky shelves (pesky because they required constant dusting and tweaking). You can read more about me complaining about my entryway and the other odd angles of my house in this post.
 To taking them down and living with nothing there at all:
And have now evolved to this:
I think it'll look much more finished and less "Malm-y" with the Overlays. I already owned the mirror; perhaps at some point I'll switch it out with something new and less white. (Another update that can wait until next year.)

The surface of my Malm is currently all autumned-up.  Enjoy it now; two or three weeks from now, the same space will be all glittery & decked out for Christmas.

View from the front door:  
Everything in the space I owned before, the only new items are the woodpecker candleholder from Target, and the little mercury light-up owl (also from Target, marked down on clearance after Halloween.)  I guess technically the large white owl is fairly new; purchased late summer at Kirklands, also on clearance.

Apologies for the hazy, grainy quality of the photos; I just whipped out my camera phone so I could upload these quickly and get to blogging. It's been a while since I joined up with Jules and her Thursday William Morris posts, and wanted to get in on the fun again. 

In the coming weeks (but not next Thursday!) I hope to share some of those other projects and purchases that I've been working on to spruce this place up. You know, just in time for the holidays to hit and make my place a glittery wreck until after January.  

November 9, 2012

Waving Hello

Hello there!  It's Friday and yet it's my first hello this week.  I just needed to walk away & take a breather from my desk and feeling a little bad/guilty about stopping my 31-trips series at 21 trips.  Oh well.

And I'm gonna be honest and admit that one of the reasons I feel bad about the whole thing is that, for as much behind-the-scenes thinking and effort I put into those 21 posts, it actually garnered very, very little in terms of attracting and winning any new readers to the blog.  Perhaps it's crass to discuss, but I don't believe for a moment that the series participants (and there were close to 2,000 this year) go to the considerable effort of creating 31 days of fresh content about 1 subject, just for fun. For the challenge, maybe. For the large amount of Christian-based blogs who joined up, perhaps it was 31 days to testify and spread the word.  But I do think that, like me, the majority of bloggers signed on to the project in hopes of getting their names out there and growing their audience. 

SO. Not to whine, but yeah, it was disheartening. The most page views I've got so far from any of those posts have been Google search images for maps of Baja. 

Moving on.  Feeling disheartened about the blog was really a very, very minor part of the week.  Because overall, things have been good.

The husband took Tuesday off, and as I posted on my "real" Facebook account, it was a romantic day of getting the car smogged, making a return at Lowes, and getting flu shots together.  But first, we voted. And then we went out for breakfast.
I slipped the "flu shot" part in like it was no biggie, but really I'm quite phobic about doctors and shots and anything medical. So even though we just got our shots at the local supermarket pharmacy, I got all tense and weird beforehand. And of course, in the end it was no biggie at all. A tiny little poke. (This is my first flu shot, ever. The husband has gotten them for the last several years.)

And THEN I had an awful, grueling time in the dentist's chair yesterday. And if you think I got tense about my little flu shot, you can imagine how wigged I was about the dentist. So wigged, in fact, that I got sent away last week by the dentist with a prescription to take some Valium before they could proceed with cleaning my teeth. Because, yes, it had been literally years since I'd been to a dentist.
Just keepin' it real here, folks.  So...several shots of Novocaine and a flu jab notwithstanding, it's been a good week.  Crazy busy, with Lily having 2 post-season soccer playoff games (they came in 3rd) and trying to clean the house and decorate for autumn and keep my head above piles of laundry and oh yeah, feeling very very grateful and relieved that our candidate won the election. 

And now we have a 3-day weekend and SOCCER SEASON WILL BE OVER AT 10AM SATURDAY and we've all got some fun and relaxing plans in store.

See you next Tuesday. Until then: speaking of decorating to look like fall here in my crib, I present you with this gem, that literally made me LOL.  (Don't read if you're offended by frequent F-bombs.) 

November 2, 2012

Day of the Dead, Again

In honor of today being Dia de Los Muertos, may I direct you to this post that I wrote exactly a year ago.  It's all about how I'm both a white girl and a Mexican girl and how that plays out in my head. 
I bought the painted skull in Los Cabos this summer. You can buy those skulls all over in SoCal. A vendor at a little regional fair we went to last month had a booth full of them.  Still. My souvenir feels slightly more authentic, having been purchased in Mexico proper. 

Also? As a little half-breed girl who grew up in L.A. in the '70s, I was stoked to find that a local acquaintance had pinned this. (And I straight away re-pinned it myself.)
Source: via Kelly on Pinterest

I can't look at that without the theme song getting stuck in my head, which went, "La la la la la la la la la la la la la....Villa Alegre!"  (And yes, I counted to make sure I have the proper amount of "la's".)  Villa Alegre was a show that came on in the afternoon, after Sesame Street on KCET, our PBS station.  I just remember that it was all in English, with a fair amount of educational Spanish/Spanglish thrown in.  Good times!

Anyway. I hope you hop over to read my Dia de Los Muertos post

Have a grand weekend, and see you back here next week. 

November 1, 2012

31 Trips In Cali: The End of the Road, & Where Next?

So. It's November 1, and the Nester's 31-day link-up party is officially over.  And so is my series! I wrote 21 posts about 21 of our family roadtrips, and decided that I don't wish to kick off a new month, and the burgeoning holiday season, with the burden of another 10 posts still resting on my shoulders. Besides, there are other things I want to talk about. 
Image via
I don't feel like I failed (much). Considering that a year ago, I wrote maybe 2 or 3 posts a month, and this year manage 2 or 3 posts a week, I think I did okay for myself.  And I have a new appreciation for those bloggers who can bring it, and do it well, on a daily basis. 

Will I do a 31-day series again? Hmm. Only if my next topic doesn't require me to comb through our family's digital photo archives on a daily basis to find, choose, and edit down all those pictures again. That turned out to be a huge time suck.

I know that I shared my very best & favorite road trips in those 21 posts.The remaining trips that I didn't get to were mostly theme parks: Sea World, Disneyland, the San Diego Wild Animal Park (recently renamed the "Safari Park.")  I was going to re-visit some of  the same info that I've previously covered about going to Palm Springs with kids. (A companion to my Palm Springs Couples Escape trip.) 

I was also planning a post about where I live now, since Temecula is something of a tourist destination in its own right.

Writing all those October posts and browsing our photos reminded me of how much we like to get out of the house and explore both new and familiar places. I think it's one of the things our family does best. So, where are we going next? What places in California (and beyond) beckon on the horizon?

With the holidays breathing down our necks (and really, now that Halloween is behind us, isn't it like we're all riding the Christmas Semi, going downhill fast with no brakes?), I really hope that this year we can attend the December Nights event at Balboa Park in San Diego.  It takes place over just 2 nights & I hoped to go last year, but we got too busy.
Sometime early in the new year, I'm hoping we can visit the new Cars Land at California Adventure. At the end of January, the Husband is celebrating a Big Birthday, and we're hoping to celebrate with a trip to Las Vegas.  We haven't done Vegas without kids since...well, since his other Big Birthday, a decade earlier.  Yikes. We've stayed a couple of times at the Mandalay Bay hotel, but so many new hotels have opened in Vegas in recent years, I hope to try something new & sexy.

The pictures of my kids playing in the snow on our Yosemite Winter trip have me inspired to seek out some more of the white stuff in the new year.  Judging from years past, there should still be plenty to find when the kids go on Spring Break in early April. 

Call me crazy, but I'm already looking into destination and lodging options for Summer Vacation 2013. This year, I think it's time we explored the area around Lake Tahoe.  I've been to Tahoe as part of a larger group in my single days, and stayed in nearby Squaw Valley years ago at a writing conference.  But I don't know the area well, and it seems like there's a whole lot of fun ways for our family to explore that corner of the state. I've spent quite a few nights scouring VRBO and Home Away, looking for that just-perfect cabin rental. 

One of my must-do activities while in Tahoe is rafting on the Truckee River.  It's supposedly a lazy drift and you're encouraged to take your time and picnic and stop at swimmin' holes. Doesn't this look perfect?

That's from my Vacation Ideas board on Pinterest.  I plan on Pinning lots more of that kind of thing over there, including some of the cabins I have my eye on. (If you'd like to take a peek, you're welcome to check it out here.)

So now, it's back to my regularly scheduled blog. I'm looking forward to getting back to reading and nesting and all the other things I love to talk about. And who knows, there might even be a day trip or two in my near future.

Thanks for coming along on this ramble of a month-long roadtrip.
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