October 21, 2013

Never Have I Been A Blue Calm Sea

I've always wanted this blog to be a place where I share my loves, my secret self, the things I hold most dear. Instead, too often I treat it like my Facebook page, the one where I share pics of the kids and say pithy things about nothing much at all and smile and put only the "best stuff" out there. (Because if I've learned anything this last decade in Far Suburbia, it's that one must put her Best Face Forward everyday, lest one be sent to the ranks of the Weird. Much like high school, come to think of it...)

Anyway. Here's something I love. A lot. I grew up pretty obsessed with Stevie Nicks. I mean, I looooved her. I wanted to be her.  Earlier, there had been Judy Garland and Julie Andrews and then Linda Ronstadt, but by the time I was in eighth grade, it was Stevie all the way.

In my wild and dysfunctional childhood, I sought out the occult and Ouija boards and all the paranormal stuff that made up the weekly segments of "In Search Of..." Gypsies and palm readers and crystal balls, oh my.  I wanted answers. I wanted reasons. I wanted to feel in control of days and decisions that were anything but under my control.
Some days, I feel I haven't changed much at all in thirty years. I haven't listened to Stevie much in the last twenty years. But every once in a while, I'll watch something of hers, or catch something on the radio, and it will trigger those days, when she represented all I wished to be: a twirling white witch, mystical and beautiful and blonde and able to rise, rise, above them all.  Wouldn't you love to love her?
I spent untold hours staring at the photos from her Belladonna album. 

This week, I remembered this obscure Stevie song, "Storms," from the Fleetwood Mac album Tusk.  It's slow and quiet and a bit passive about a whole lot of buried emotions.  Maybe that's why it speaks to me again, in this odd and empty and changing season. The video doesn't feature Nicks, but a changing montage of nature and mountain scenes that complement the mood.

I'd like to leave you with something warm
But never have I been a blue calm sea
I have always been a storm.

This is my Jam for the week. 

October 10, 2013

The Playroom Must Go!: Week 2

Welcome back to Week 2 of the One Room Challenge, hosted by the Calling It Home blog. Quick recap from Week 1: I'm re-imagining our small downstairs playroom/sometime guest room  into primarily a guestroom, while still keeping the kid's computer area and games in the space. Here's a Before:
Confession: I haven't done much at all with the playroom in the last week. Not unless you count my little internal shudder that happens each time I glance inside.  But I do have a tiny bit of progress to show you from the previous week.

I'm at the not-fun stage, where I'm organizing and de-cluttering and making messy piles of "stay," "donate," and "figure out WTH to do with this thing." And piles don't look very pretty or glamourous, either in person or on my blog.

Well.  Part of this mess you see on the floor here:
 is due to the fact that I've successfully purged out the pressboard "rustic" wardrobe from Ikea. This piece is leaving, and it's just about ready for me to create a listing on Craigslist and bid it farewell.
Empty wardrobe:
I haven't been as productive in purging out the desk sitting beside the wardrobe. The desk drawers are chock full of both my things and kids' stuff. It's actually my own stuff that's harder to figure out (most of the kid's stuff can be chucked).

So that's where things stand as of this week.  But enough of ugly Before.  Let's see the vibe and direction I have planned for the room.

I like this small room below, especially because the lay-out mimics that of my own space. (Except it's still bigger than my tiny room.)
Design by Erika Ward, via My Colortopia

I plan on painting the large wall where the wardrobe/desk area is now a similar dark color. I'm picturing a nice true navy blue though, not the blue above that tilts a good bit toward violet.

And I also plan on placing the bed in the same location as above. (I don't know yet whether I'll try for some kind of faux-headboard, or just use some art above the bed.)

In this little recessed nook where the bed is now:
I plan on putting a console desk for the computer monitor. It's not very wide though (just as wide as a queen bed, in fact) but I hope to find something white and clean-lined, similar to this one from Ikea:
This is the Besta Burs desk, which is 70" wide and therefore won't fit in the nook. But you get the idea of what I'm after here.  (I could also put the desk on the wall where the Expedite system is now, swap that into the nook area, and flip it up to use vertically.)

Here are a few other shots of a room that I really love. It's a lounging area for a teen girl, but mostly I just love the clean white with pops of intense color, and the fun vibe:
Photo of K. Mathiesen Brown's design via House of Turquoise
 Photo of K. Mathiesen Brown's design via House of Turquoise
 Photo of K. Mathiesen Brown's design via House of Turquoise

(All of the above 4 inspiration rooms can be found on my Pinterest board, "Tween Room Ideas." )

Obviously, with a navy blue wall, my guestroom isn't going to be as white and bright. It's the overall playful vibe that's my inspiration.  (And the other walls are going to be re-painted in a brighter, semi-gloss white, to replace both the flat white paint & the pastel green walls.)  In keeping with the inspiration rooms, here are a couple of fun pillows that I've already purchased for the bed:
 The sequins on the "Famous" pillow are just printed on, which I love: no picking off sequins by bored little hands.  And the shiny patent-orange pillow is just fun, and I think it'll  pop like crazy against the navy wall. (And both were bought at HomeGoods.)

So that's my vision, and you've seen the reality...now it's my job to make it all come together.  Back next week to hopefully show some further progress! Thanks for coming by.

October 3, 2013

The Play Room Must Go!

And so we find ourselves yet again in my guest room-slash-playroom. That room that rarely houses guests, and rarely gets "played" in by my kids (unless you count Minecraft, on the computer).

I first wrote about cleaning it up, here in this post.
Above is what it looked like all freshly purged of (that round) of kids toys, back when we still used the small orange Ikea futon for guests.

And then I showed you how we removed the aging futon and put our too-soft for the master bedroom, but fine-for-guests mattress into the room, earlier this year in this post.
Which as you can see, hogs up most of the space in this small room. (Although we did finally get the box springs up off the floor with some bed rails.)

We have 4 bedrooms upstairs in our house, which works perfectly for us: the master, one for the girl, one for the boy, and an office for the Husband, who works from home and is a bit of a mad-scientist/techie geek (i.e., his office is a mess of computers and parts and wires and mother boards and isn't fit for guest traffic).

And then we have this funny little angled room downstairs, right by the front door, and one of the first things you see when you come into our home.
I've been to other houses in our neighborhood with our same floor plan, and the builder had intended for this to be an open "den" small office area.  The wall that you see below, with the map, is usually opened up as a great big open window, often with plantation shutters.
But the family who lived here before us had more kids, and so they closed up the open window (in a rather rough job) to use this as their eldest girl's bedroom. They also framed out the doorway and installed double-doors, as again the original intent was for this "den" area to be open. 

People!! I am so OVER this room, and the way is does, or does NOT function in my house. 

I am taking on the challenge of emptying out most of the toys and furniture, and restoring it to function primarily as a guest room. I'll continue to store some games and books in the Expedit system, but I no longer see it as a "play room." I'm keeping the kids computer in here, too, as this is where they play Minecraft and noodle on the shared computer -- but its not where they do homework.

And I wanna get all this  done by the end of the month, which is why I'm joining up with the blog "Calling It Home's"  One Room Challenge Linking Party during the month of October.

Here's what I'm getting rid of:
 Both of these big pieces, the Ikea "rustic" wardrobe, and the Ikea "secretary" type desk, are going.  The wardrobe is full of games and craft supplies, with a rail to hang guest's clothes.  The desk drawers (there are 4) are full of memories and journals and innumerable broken pens, receipts and ticket stubs.

This wall o' fun also needs to get dealt with: 
Lily has agreed to sell her Fisher Price dollhouse, so that's going, too. 

I'm also changing out the pale green paint and most of the artwork. I would LOVE to explore the idea of bashing out that faux-window seat. It has a bullnose lip, is too narrow to actually serve as a window seat, and is totally useless, except to look "decorative." And eat up precious space.

In the meantime, if you're new here from the link party, I'd hate for you to think my whole house is also just as cluttered and awkward and uninspired. So here's a recent DIY project I completed with the Malm dresser in our entryway:
 Yay for Overlays! Yay for gold spray paint!
Come back week, and I'll share my inspiration photos of what I'd like the new guest room to feel like, plus a couple of fun pillows that I've already bought for the bed.  
 In the meantime, it's cleaning and purging over here (oh, and Halloween decor for the rest of the house.)

The fun never ends.

October 2, 2013

Bucket Listing in L.A.

 I don't really have a bucket list. I have some hazy, intangible ideas of things I'd like to do and see, things that might be really cool or wonderful or just personally meaningful.

I'd love to get to Europe someday, something that nobody in my immediate family has ever done.  (Wait, whoops --  my aunt went to Spain in the early '70s.)  Someday I'd like to get up in front of a crowd and sing some great karaoke. (I belted out some epic Dio a few years ago, but only to a tiny group of sympathetic ears.) 

Late last year, I realized that someday, I'd really love to participate in a sing-a-long showing of The Sound of Music which is tied with The Wizard of Oz as my favorite childhood movie. ("Sound of Music" clearly has a better soundtrack, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" notwithstanding.)

So when my sister texted me back in August if I'd like to go to the Hollywood Bowl with her and a friend to the Bowl's annual Sound of Music sing-a-long, I immediately texted back my reply: "Oh holy fuck, yes!!" 

And so it was that on a Saturday evening last month, I joined dozens of other fools participants in donning a costume and walking across the stage at the Hollywood Bowl as part of the pre-show costume parade.  (By the way, Hollywood Bowl organizers: that  parade  would've been a lot shorter and more interesting if you enforced the rule that people should actually be in costumes, not just wanting to walk up onstage and wave to their friends.)

Behold me in my Maria-esque finery, and looking pretty thrilled to be there:
Note the faux-Edelweiss tucked behind my ear, provided in the fun prop bag:

It was a great, fun evening. I loved singing along with the crowd, and especially everyone hissing whenever the catty, nasty Baroness was onscreen. (And catcalling to hunky Captain Von Trapp was funny, too.)  My only regret is that I didn't belt the hell out of "I Have Confidence," which may be my favorite song in the film, but it was early on in the evening. And I wasn't feeling quite that confident yet.
Another thing I'd love to do is hear the mighty voice of Linda Ronstadt singing one of her great love songs in person. Sadly, as you may have heard, Ronstadt can no longer sing, as she recently revealed that she suffers from Parkinson's and the disease has stripped her of the power to even sing in the shower.  But last Tuesday evening, she appeared in public at an event sponsored by Writers Bloc to talk about her new memoir and be interviewed by famed L.A. journalist Patt Morrison.

I bought my ticket practically the moment they went on sale, and it's a good thing I did: evidently the event sold out in record time, and it took place in a fairly small venue. But after I bought the ticket, I realized the venue was in Santa Monica, not downtown L.A., as I'd assumed. 

Because it's such a far drive for me (just about exactly 100 miles, one-way), I almost talked myself out of going. The Westside in rush-hour traffic is just hard to get to, and I did sit in my car forever as I crawled through the last 10 miles of the trip.  But I'm glad I went, and not just because I spotted legendary rock photographer Henry Diltz in the row in front of mine...and then later recognized an attractive woman in the aisle as Rita Wilson...followed closely behind by her husband, Tom Hanks. (He's tall. And he looks just like Tom Hanks!)

Linda talked a lot about her childhood in Arizona, of being influenced by her very musical family. She talked a bit about dating Jerry Brown back in the day, and told a funny anecdote about his famed cheapness.  She talked a lot about music, and how she came to sing the songs she chose. She had lots of opinions about politics and music education and the current sorry state of audio technology (she really hates MP3s and digital sound quality).

The crowd was allowed to use their phones & cameras to quickly snap some shots at the very beginning of the program. My sucky phone-camera just didn't manage much, so here's what I got:
Here's a photo from the L.A. Times of Linda at the event:
And here's my copy of her memoir, Simple Dreams.  It has her signature inside, pre-signed before the event. Due to her Parkinson's, she didn't have the physical stamina to sign books in person afterwards:
I spent the night at my mom's house after the event was over. Even living in L.A. county, it still took me nearly an hour just to get to her place with the traffic. I'm very glad that I soldiered through and saw one of my idols in person -- but I'm not signing myself up to drive out to Santa Monica alone again anytime soon.

So that's where I've been and been up to lately. Another bucket list item? Publishing a book. I've been forcing myself to sit down and write in the morning, but it's been slooooow going. But that's better than not sitting down to write at all.

Tomorrow, I plan to be back with an actual nesting post about the house, and a one-room challenge link-up that I'm going to participate in this month. See you then.

September 24, 2013

Halloween Time at Disneyland

 Last Friday the kids had the day off of school (for "staff development" in the district), so the husband took the day off from work and we spent it at Disneyland.

The park was all decked out for "Halloween Time," with lots of candy-corn colored bunting up and down Main Street, carved pumpkins on ledges and balconies, and a general "Harvest Festival" feel to the air.  The fact that the weather had cooled off from the 90s and it was overcast all day helped make it feel a little (teeny tiny bit) like Fall. (Or at least Fall in SoCal.)

 The next set of pictures were all taken at the "Woody's Round Up" ranch and barbeque area near Frontierland:
 Even the little goats in the petting zoo sported seasonal bandanas.
I love this picture on a whole lot of levels. It just makes me smile:
The lollipops, Donald Duck in costume, the harvest decor, the smiles on my kids...this is  just a lot o' cheesy Disney goodness all in one place.

And these shots were taken near or at the Haunted Mansion, which is all decked out again in a "Nightmare Before Christmas" theme until the entire holiday season ends in January.
It was a great day, capped off by our family's first viewing of the Fantasmic! water show. The only disappointment was that a large portion of the seasonal "harvest carnival" area at Woody's Ranch was closed that day. (I really wanted to check out the new "Conjure a Villain" tent.)

On the other hand, for the first time ever, we've bought tickets to attend a night of "Mickey's Halloween Party" in late October. This is special event (that requires an additional ticket), where everyone gets to dress up in costume, kids can trick or treat in different areas, lots of fun mini-events and character stuff, and a themed fireworks show. I'm pretty sure all the specific seasonal displays will be open and running that evening.

In the meantime, go get yourself a pumpkin latte. Or a handful of candy corn. Being at Disney, and looking at these photos again, makes me feel all harvest-y. It may be close to 90 degrees here again today, but it's time to burn that pumpkin candle! 

September 17, 2013

The Last Bookstore

 Way back in another lifetime, I taught a couple of English & writing classes to college students. I was freshly out of grad school myself, and though I was near 30, the fact that I was newly married, immersed in college life, and without any kids made me feel like I was still fairly close in age to the incoming generation of students.

That all abruptly changed when one of my students, a confident young guy, asked as I stood in front of the class what I liked to do in my free time. Or maybe he asked what my husband and I liked to do together. So I told him, and the class, about our favorite kind of date night. (But since we didn't have kids back then, it wasn't "date night." It was just "Friday night.")  I told him that we liked to first go out to dinner, and then while away several hours at our local Borders bookstore, often hanging out until closing time. (Remember Borders?)

The student, and the class in general, was horrified at our idea of "fun." (Although I recall a couple of females defending me, saying that it was "cute.")

Anyway. Maybe you'll think the same about our sole family outing over the 3-day Labor Day weekend. It was crazy-hot out, and humid, and I could not think of anything to do. The beach sounded good, but too adventurous. Our local pool was just too damn hot.  I had a craving to look at some books.  We don't have an independent bookstore here, which is unfortunate, and a true lack. We do have a Barnes & Noble, but I wasn't in the mood to browse in that sort of corporate, pre-selected atmosphere. I could already guess what they would and wouldn't have.

I remembered seeing some photos of The Last Bookstore, and got it in my head to check it out. The Last Bookstore is in downtown Los Angeles, located in an old bank.  It's also about 80 miles from my front door, which is a long way to drive to casually browse through the stacks.   On the other hand, downtown L.A. is only about 20 minutes east of my mom's house, so I was able to bundle in a "trip to grandma's" at the end of our bookstore jaunt.

It was worth the drive. There were books everywhere. Used and new books live happily together on the sorted shelves downstairs.
Books are art, and decoration, and functional: the front cash register is housed behind a counter area made of stacked books. 
As you head upstairs, you pass through a tunnel of books:
Upstairs are used books, and most are only $1.  They're sorted loosely by genre, and also by color:
The old bank vault houses true crime & horror:
The only negative is that it was still crazy-hot and humid in L.A., and the store didn't have air-conditioning. Yikes. Most any other day, that wouldn't be such an issue, but on one of the hottest weekends of the year, it was awfully stuffy and close, and I felt pretty uh, "glowing" by the time we were done. But it was still fun, and we still stayed for a couple of hours, checking everything out, including the artist studios and shops, also on the 2nd floor.

In the end, I bought an armful of books: four for me, three for the kids, and one for the husband, an oldie but goodie from his childhood:
My grand total was less than $25.00. 

I wish that we lived closer, so that The Last Bookstore could be a frequent stop for us, and not a special event.  In any case, I know I'll be back someday, hopefully on a cooler day when I can wear boots and a sweater and feel all cozy surrounded by books and other kindred souls like me, who think whiling away a few hours in a bookstore is a perfect way to spend their day (or date night). 
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