Monday, July 10, 2017

Footnotes on Three

You are quite suddenly hilarious sine turning three. Maybe though because you can finally talk in sentences we can all mostly understand.

You are also fairly easy to enrage. Luckily I'm a sucker for three year olds (hopelessly so) so I don't let it phase me much when you tell me moments after reaching tenderly to kiss my face that you don't like or me or that I'm "mean" because I deny you the second or third pack of fruit snacks in the pantry you think you own.

You know your colors which I admire because I never taught them to you.

You call ants "animals" and demand to know the name of every one of them whenever we spot some. I make them up as we go just to see you easily delighted by such things. And, it seems, according to you I have a knack for it.

You love to play hide and seek but always shout out to the one looking for you because of how proud you are of your secret spot. You count and seek too. "one, two, three and ten." No one corrects you.

You love your stuffed animals. Unlike your brothers at your age who were more prone to balls, swords, super heroes, ect - though Rex is working hard to see that admiration for the latter grow in intensity. (Speaking of him, you still worship him the same as the day you were born. Even when he is mean to you (which is so much rarer than he to all the rest) you forgive him instantly. You follow him around and hug him constantly. You see that he is patient with you. Everyone sees it. You appreciate that he teaches you things, explains things to you, laughs, encourages, is proud of you. It's the sweetest bond to see and one I'm guessing will always exist in a similar kind of way forever. But I do hope you talk him out of some of the more daring things he has in mind when you both get older.

You inform me you are "big" constantly until it's time to pick things up, in which you will declare that you are "too little" to lift all these things. But you do it anyway because I press it.

You love cartoons and miss them dearly because the option suddenly disappeared when we moved into the house and never picked up the TV. You remind me of it sometimes and vow to move back in with Grandma because of the simple fact of cable. And basically everything else she has that you miss since the move.

You refer to Arlo and Leon as "Big Leo" and "Little Leo" - Leon being "Little Leo" - which I love.

Yogurt, string cheese, apples and gold fish are your favorite snacks. You pretend that certain foods make you sick but it's really just because you like the sound of yourself coughing.

You are tough and rarely cry when you get hurt. Which Arlo is very proud of.

You play for hours with plastic magnetic tiles and wooden blocks. But are forever happiest at the beach. Diving into the water and chasing the thrill of wild waves that roll and toss you around even with me clinging tight to your hand.

You like being naked. Whenever possible. Which is often now that our patio is secluded and seems to almost invite the habit.

You call Jack your puppy and treat him (rightfully) like another brother.

You love babies. And I love that you love that.

Your brothers are your biggest idols. You seem to believe you are as big as them and try all too often to pull off the same stunts. Arlo is adventurous and you like it, Rex is daring and you mimic it, Leon though is a mystery to you sometimes and you tend to ignore him. Thankfully, he doesn't seem bothered by it. He still compliments you often and thinks you're the cutest "baby" there ever was. Even if three now doesn't technically hold that title anymore.

You are a mama's boy through and through, and it shows. You're also the only one who's lasted this long in our bed because I can't seem to find the right way to get you away from me for too long.

Your flashing eyes and bouncing curls are your saving grace. It's hard to get mad at a face like that, even when you fully warrant it. Still we try.

All in all, three is the best.
Until you turn four.
Then we'll love the next year somehow a little more.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Around Here

In midst of settling in we get lost all too often during a morning trek out for drive through coffee, distracted by the strip of blue that snakes along the coastline all the way downtown, pulling us into curious turns that comes lined with aged Spanish bungalows nestled amongst overgrown succulent landscapes with drive ways manned by teenagers sporting well earned tans, loading surf boards onto their parent's hood racks. 

The five of us weaving aimlessly around the streets while the fog lingers, wandering untouched necklines of a new town we still don't know. Piling clothes into clean and dirty baskets without the help of drawers or dressers to divide them neatly like before. 

Reminding the dog - with a penchant for lounging in the middle of a warm culdesac back at the old place that embraced the habit - that this street is anything but forgiving. Eyeing neighbors curiously who eye us back the same way. Meeting boys down along the block while visiting parks and taking walks. 

Driving a roofless old Land Rover down the hill at sunset with Mexican blankets on our lap to keep us warm, to the beach before dinner to squeeze in a quick surf session before the sun falls away. 

Complaining about the absence of TV. 

Eating tacos for dinner for seven days straight. Feeling like vagabonds on vacations, caught somewhere between being broke and downright blessed. 

Dreaming up renovations that entails walls being trimmed, torn and rearranged. Book shelves carved bedrooms. Bathrooms busted and ceilings exposed. Dry wall dust on our shoes. 

Every corner reminding us of all the time and money we don't have to any of it happen very fast. Big plans tethered to patient budget. 

And of course the laundromat on a humid Friday afternoon where we manage to stuff eight days worth of dirty clothes into four big metal basins and count down the minutes until they dry. Laughing carelessly as we do. Because it's new and unfamiliar. Life between the undetermined and the settled. Whispering of new adventure around every turn. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Right White

At our first house, a cute 1927 Spanish Bungalow, we fought endlessly over colors choices. The fact that Mike is seriously color blind when it come to anything with a touch of green gray, didn't help matters. I think, just based on what I can remember, we must have painted and repainted the inside of that little house more than six times in four years. With quite a few really stupid quarrels in midst of it

Needless to say, the decision to go all white has saved us a lot of bickering, time, and money. I mean, painting is one of my least favorite tasks. And I'm awful at it. So once the entire house was one bright clean color, I felt an inner peace unravel inside of me. Simply retouching the walls every few months when the grime of a four boy household became all too evident.

Yet just as impossible as it was to find the right "grey" that I searched for years before, the right white might be even harder? Our last house was a generic brand of swiss coffee which I liked because it was soothing and warm with a slightly touch of cream to it. But photographed more yellow than I liked so this time around we're on the hunt for one that is a bit brighter and clean but not cool or stark. Just one of countless descriptions I've uttered aloud that make me cringe hearing myself speak to the poor kid at the paint counter. Realizing how ridiculous I sound expressing these variations. Good thing is social media offers up a lot of help in these areas, and as much as I'd like to say we found "The One" based on what provided, I'm actually headed to the local paint shop today to test one more. And then we're tearing a bedroom ceiling out.
Wish us luck.

Top contenders (based on Instagram suggestions) so far being:
Benjamin Moore 
Arcadia White
White Dove
Vanilla Milkshake
Cloud White cc40
Chantilly Lace
Designer White
Super White
Simply White
Heron White

Martha Stewart
Glass of Milk

Ultra White

I let you know what we finally decide on.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Wabi Sabi Welcome

The arrival of Wabi - Sabi Welcome, by Julie Pointer Adams, couldn't have landed on my doorstep at a better time. Just as we are settling into this new space, still getting a feel for the direction we want to go (design & structure wise) while feeling slightly dizzy with indecisiveness, this book serves as a kind of compass for those embracing home decor that leans on casual, imperfectly arranged interiors. Which is exactly what we are seeking this time around. An easy, relaxed, worn beach vibe inspired by our natural surroundings that will hopefully become the basis for a space that feels bright, warm, eclectic, and personal. One that openly welcomes friends and warrants plenty of reasons for entertaining, which is pretty much the basis of wabi-sabi mindset. 

The book is not strictly a visual reference though, rich in text it explores "what wabi-sabi looks and feels like" around the globe. Highlighting specific areas in Japan, Denmark, California, France, and Italy. With Pointer's intentions being to write a book for anyone "hungry to share his or her home and life in a simpler, less perfection -seeking way." With delightful recipes, tips on clearing out clutter from the Danes, how to set a table in Japan, and plenty other resourceful aides aimed at helping create a sparse but homey house disconnected from the want of more and better things. Offering instead - a stripped down alternative to the sleek, perfection seeking images we see in so many home interiors these days while scrolling through social media on the daily. Where the majority of what we come across tends to be more or less a recycled variation of the same thing. Tossing all personal style aside for more trendy safeguards. 

Another perk I really love in the book, and found helpful, is the addition in back where a list of resources are named and arranged in categories such as:

Food Blogs, Cookbooks, and Magazines 
Go-To's for Home Basics
Inspiring Interior Designers
Further Reading on Wabi-Sabi

I found quite a few new sites worth late night delving in this section and have since bookmarked many of them for further reference.

In short, wabi sabi is about clearing out the crap, honing in on the things you truly love, finding beauty in the imperfections, and creating warmth in the house you keep. And JPA does a lovely job at  convincing us to give it a go.  

You can purchase it here on Amazon. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Paring Down

These days I try to pay more attention to the "in between" periods in life. Embracing them because they usually entail major life lessons that come attached to loss, change in general, or unexpected circumstance that arise randomly throughout our life. Be it in the form of death, job loss, money issues, personal conflict, depression, relationship problems, you name it. Whenever circumstances falter, and the frame of routine starts to dissolve, experience tells us the best we can do is learn from it. Surely nothing new in the land of self help philosophies, I know, but worth the reminder from time to time simply because we ( ) need help keeping it in mind.

I'm alluding specifically to the past two months, where we up and sold our home without any clue where exactly it was we were headed next. Because my intuition told me it was time. And promoted a move where even people like us - who cling to the grand notion of spontaneity in just about every aspect of life, couldn't help but stress the impending outcome. Partly for reasons I noted here in previous posts - regarding us being tossed into a seller's market in an endlessly hiking So Cal real estate bubble, combating bidding wars that tend to overshadow what should be a pleasant hunt for a new house. Where it ends up being a very easy place to feel defeated. But I also worried about all the typical things that go along with a big move - finding new (good) schools (the one we pulled them from was amazing, so I knew the replacement one had to compare) a decent neighborhood, a warm, welcoming home, as well as a hundred other things I worried about late night on long nights I couldn't sleep along the way.

What I didn't anticipate though, during the 2 month period in which we were fortunate enough to shack up with the in laws while searching for the "perfect house," was the accidental enlightenment that arose under such circumstances. How I would wake to realize - inside of this strange, fleeting & chaotic period - that we could live, and thrive, and be perfectly content without a huge percentage of the possessions we owned. That a small selection of "stuff" was really all any of us even needed. Without much consideration we left most of what we have in storage and decided to live similar to how we do while camping. For as long as it took. Leaning solely on the bare necessities to get us by: a select & minimal wardrobe for the entire family, a few favorite toys, books, computers, and a couple craft bins to get us through. What became quickly apparent as the weeks passed was just how easily the boys were entertained by what surrounded them. Minimal as the options were. And how much we adapted the same way. Wearing a handful of items over and over again in what ended up becoming a refreshingly basic rotation. Easy and unthought. Me, having but a single pair of shoes I wore for weeks on end without much care. How freeing it proved to have to keep track of and consider so much LESS on a daily basis.

It was the kind of awakening that would coincided perfectly in this next chapter of our lives. Just when we needed it most. Seeing how we were facing fact of a major downsize, square footage wise, in whatever home we could find in our budget, in the cities we were seeking. The thought of which honestly stressed me slightly, imagining such strict storage space, and having to be smarter and more practical about what and how we accumulate things from here on out.

And yet I know now that we can. Because we have to. Because it feels quite liberating to own a lot less. And because it doesn't necessarily entail the sharp sacrifice I envisioned. So we continue to weed though what we have. Eliminating furniture. Donating clothing, editing the array of knick knacks and clinging to a new sense of freedom in the sparseness of new beginnings. Nearly two weeks in and we're still without Internet. Or television. Or clean laundry, or excessive toys. And yet blissfully happy in it regardless. Waking on stiff mattresses plopped on the floor. Seeing dim layers of fog painting our windows white in the morning. Consumed in the endless possibility this new dream house brings. Wearing the same overalls and frayed denim shorts to the beach early morning before the crowds pile in. Boys caught playing with orange peels in the slow roll of a mid week afternoon nap. Building towers out of blocks in the sun spilt corner of the front room, where the blue glint of the harbor boats hang in the corner window, day dreaming about the beauty this new house will eventually encase. New beginnings, paired down. Slowly, steadily, with nothing but our own hands here to shape it. Living simply, minimally, gratefully, here all summer in the meantime.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Cooking Up Trouble / Recipes to Nourish Women

When Anne first told me she was cooking up something special, to benefit Planned Parenthood I never guessed she was speaking literally. Then a couple months later it arrived on my doorstep - a beautiful spiral soft cover cookbook titled "Cooking Up Trouble / Recipes to Nourish Women" a labor of love created by a handful of talented ladies seeking to combine their efforts towards meaningful ways of donation.

The result is perfection. A uniquely styled collection of healthful recipes and delightful cocktails broken up into the following Categories: Drinks, Breakfast Things, Soups & Sides & Snacks, Mains & Stuff in Bowls, and Deserts. The salads are fantastic and the "Bowl of Plenty" is the first dish I plan on attempting.

It's the kind of book you buy for your friend or roommate, teacher, sister, mother, neighbor and kin. And it's only 30 bucks. So it's almost silly to even consider against it. And they're selling like hot cakes so get yours while they last.

Purchase info HERE


When the good folks at The Cambria Beach Lodge invited us to their hotel a couple months ago I worried first (like I do anytime we get an invitation of this nature) they maybe they don't realize how many kids I actually have, but figured eventually - once I realized they were ok with us all, it was the perfect excuse to get out of town just as the school year came to an end and the stresses of escrow appeared to be wrapping up as well. Plus the lodge boasts a low key surf friendly vibe which seems easily suited to our crew. The fact that in all my years road tripping up the coast, I'd never been to Moonstone beach, made me that much more exited to head up there this season especially. Which I adore because the blanket of fog covers the coastline and I can drive all day long in that scenery with a good soundtrack on my side. Which is what I did. Along with my niece who tagged along and always seems to bring a calm balance to the bunch whenever she does. 

A few things I learned about Cambria during the three days we were there is:

- Moonstone feels like a little slice of heaven with all those stunning rocks scattering the beach and staggering wood stairways taking you from the cliffs to shore.

- The driftwood (in addition to the rocks) is prettier than any other beach else I've met (we brought home buckets full of both) and they are currently piled on our mantle in the new house. 

- The town is small but inviting and the sandwich and ice cream shops downtown do not disappoint.

- Lobster bisque, while delicious, is too rich for me. 

- The Nitt Whitt Ridge house back story is worth the read, and visit: "Purchased by Arthur Harold Beal in 1928, this “castle on a hill” was perfected using only a pick and shovel. Beal made good use of his job, as a garbage collector, taking natural minerals that were tossed away and beach debris to accentuate the Ridge.

- Population in town is approximately 6,100

- The seal lions down the road at San Simeon are far stinkier than they are cute. But the picnic benches on site by the beach are an ideal place to park a picnic. 

- The Beach Lodge being across the street from the beach is even more convenient than I expected. Mostly because the air is so cool and brisk up there this time of year it allows you to dart into the lobby for some hot chocolate or to warm our hands by the fire place when you need a break from the cold. 

- The name Cambria, chosen in 1869, is the Latin name for Wales.


In short, it was a lovely trip, briefer of course than I'd prefer, but isn't that always the case when it comes to these gorgeous coastal beach town visits? Good news is we'll be back. And when we do, it'll be at the lodge. Where I know know we can count on good rates, friendly staff, buckets full of moonstones, and hot chocolate at brunch with a hazy, brooding ocean view in June.