Monday, March 27, 2017

For Sale By Owner

Four months ago, when we first decided to put our home on the market we settled on the most stress free way we could think to go about it. A decision based mostly on the good luck we had with our first home we sold at the peak of the market, quite easily. Mainly because by the time we were done restoring it it was unique enough to sell itself. The end result of good bones (a 1927 Spanish bungalow with all the great stuff) lots of love, and plenty of dedicated handiwork lent to hours upon hours of building the kind of backyard only Mike can see through. Magazine worthy at minimal cost. A beatufiul adobe fireplace / pizza oven, tropical gazebo and outdoor kitchen that would serve as the template for our next house (this house) in creating basically the same layout but borrowing more from Mediterranean landscape heavy with hand poured concrete caps and rock work.

The second reason we opted to sell on our own is that Mike doesn't believe in paying anyone to do anything he feels even remotely capable of, so if there's a will theres a way, and - he'll argue - the internet does much of the footwork for us these days anyway.

For sale by owner however isn't for anyone. I just want to put that out there because I don't want in anyway to undermine the steadfast work of real estate agents armed with the kind of slick skills it requires to move houses, promote and negotiate for a living. But for anyone in the same boat (or similar) to us, eliminating a listing agent means a lot more money in your pocket at the end of it all when you aren't forced to fork over 3 or 4 percent of your home's equity to the person selling your house. And no, this isn't a sponsored post. Just a helpful tip on the topic because I could have used it myself, when we were first considering a second go at selling on our own but not fully convinced it was a realistic scenario in today's fickle housing market.

Given our situation, we followed a few of the following

Selling With Loose Time Constraints 
We listed our house just before Christmas - casually though on a couple big names sites with the ideal vision being: a home sold by Springtime, a minimal gap in between houses where we could stay with in laws until the boys finish school and we find another home. Then buy before the start of the next school year allowing for a few weeks of major renovation to get under way before moving in. So far, save for a couple bumps along the way, it's all worked out exactly as we hoped. Timing wise, anyway.

Relying on Unique Selling Aspects 
Even though our house is a track home, in which countless others in the area boast the exact same layout, the landscape (and some other unique features we added throughout the years) we figured would already garner some decent traffic without relying on the promotional tactics commonly used by paid agents.

Seeking Alternative Options
The way the internet is evolving has really opened up the door for mass exposure in ways we really use to struggle. In the end, we really didn't want to hassle with all the legal aspects and consuming negations that come with selling a house on your own so we ultimately looked into some new up and coming  companies that provide basic support in agent based areas for a much smaller percentage. Somewhere along the way Mike came across a family new company called Sold Bot who's main MO promises to:
- list your property for sale in MLS, Realtor.Com, and Zillow within 24 hours
- Complete all the purchase contract and paperwork
- Offer unlimited customer support
- And post up to 35 photos of your home, all for free.

The catch being, they do require you use their escrow company which is where their 2,000 dollar profit comes in. What it is then required on your end is hosting and promoting your own open houses (via a for sale sign in the front yard and flyers if you want (we didn't even do the latter) and only held two open houses before we had a buyer come in with full asking price) but ended up selling after another buyer's escrow fell through. All I all, it's been such a positive experience. Enough that I set out mid way through writing this post to help spread the word to anyone else maybe considering a for sale by owner but too afraid to go at it alone. For us it was more of a time issue. And not having enough of it to keep up on editing listings and answering inquiries.

Remaining Patient / Optimistic
One of the big issues for me was maintaining as easy a transition as possible, which meant approaching this sell without any hard lined expectations to plight what can be an already trying endeavor. In other words, yes we wanted a certain amount, but were in the fortunate circumstance of not "having" to be out, as well as knowing we could count on some "in between time" at our in laws while searching for the right home to come along. Certainly this is not the case with everyone, so we are very grateful for the option allowing us to find the "right" one, as opposed to jumping into something else due to being pressed for time and desperate.

Basically my advice here aimed at anyone not in a huge hurry to get out or in another place, to try first without an agent and see how it goes. Best case scenario being, you save a big chunk of your overall profit, like us, and get to then pour a little extra into the home you find and love, in dire need of some serious restorations.

Friday, March 24, 2017


"A collection of conversations overheard"

"Deserts go there, under Jesus. Always under Jesus"
- Scout Leader's wife, in swift response to me questioning placement of desert trays at the last den meeting, which I honestly (silently) resent only because the vision of Christ standing arms wide open appears far too accepting of my second (and sometimes third) brownie bite during den breaks.

"I'm saving all my money for Bruno Mars tickets"
 - Leon, dedicated to the long term goal of seeing his favorite singer play the forum this summer even if it costs $150

"I'm saving all my money for a slurpee"
 - Rex, separately, announcing more meager plans to hold off until he has enough funds to score himself a $1.50 cherry flavored slurpee.

"I don't want to dateIt's just too complicated" 
- Arlo, on why he thinks it's better to remain unattached now feeling newly annoyed by all the newly interested fifth grade girls apparently asking him out.

"I just thought it was ok because you listen to it too."
 - Arlo, calling me out for calling him out for using uncensored rap versions in his skate videos.

"Is this your kid???"
- Concerned mom at park alerting me on the monkey bar antics of my daring two year old as I was sitting content with a new magazine on the bench at the park fully aware. To which I say "yes" it's my kid up there debating a questionable twisty bar getaway. It's always my kid.

"She got suspended for selling "bad slime" and not giving people their money back"
- Arlo, explaining the drama behind a suspension of an upper grader for selling home made low quality slime. A trend that I can't wait to see come to an end, honestly. Considering the state of my kitchen counters after all my own kids attempts to compete in the market have failed them.

"Is this your dog?"
- Concerned mom's friend at the same park, in reference to Jack. Who refuses a leash. The same way my toddler does. And lies peacefully at my feet only to wander around occasionally to sniff flowers, and delight every kid around him, all while looking like a breathing stuffed animal - but still, apparently, cause for immediate concern.

"Well, theres no cell service, so we were more focused on learning how to survive in the wilderness."
 - Arlo, on the hard core (stripped down) circumstances involved in scout camp outs.

"It's no fun, Iris. All they do is sit and look on their phones."
- My friend Kate relaying the explanation her older daughter Evie gave to her sister when she asked what happens during "girls night."

"I wake up thinking about her, so worried because we all know she needs to get out and she need to do it before it gets too bad, you know?"
 - Me, talking to a friend about Nicole Kidman (or, "Celeste" who you've been fretting over all week because of the crazy volatile marriage she's in) again with my tendency to actualize beloved TV characters and speak about them in phone conversations like they're actually real life people we can help. For the record though, I feel like Reese (Madeline) is going to "handle" things very soon.

"I made him this turtle. He's going to hate it."
 - Rex, on the latest pop up art piece he made especially for his long time frenemy "Josh" who is apparently irked by such displays of affection and therefore a lasting inspiration to a determined first grade artist.

"What the heck? Now all the big skate brands are following Rex. Not me. He's not even that good and he's always posting photos of weird colored slime"
 - Arlo, jealous of Rex's smaller but better quality "following" on IG - who must appreciate captionless photos of slime, and skate parks. 

"The boy scouts are good for him, offers him a certain level of nerd chic that he desperately needs right now."
- Me to Mike on why we need to fully support boy scouts as remedy to the slightly inflated ego of our tween boy who is commonly introduced to other mothers as "the cool kid I was telling you about" in order of keeping wholesome interest in knot tying, hiking, arrow shooting and cooking clean up help as a humble balance to the "cool" skater boy skills he's most proud of.

"I mean, I could get cancer and die in three months" 
- Kate, proving Evie wrong in ensuring that girl's night actually consists of quality tequila, fancy cheese, and depressing death talk."

"Mean mama. Mean mama."
 - Hayes, when I refuse a second Juice box.

She just wants to make us step in itchy buses and take photos of dumb flowers, right? 
- Rex, in protest of me wanting to take him and his brothers to see all the pretty flowers everyone else is happily visiting.

"Me ok, Mama!!!" 
- Hayes, happily reassuring me every time he stumbles or falls that he is in fact ok, even though, on many occasions, I fail to ask.

- Photo by Yan Palmer

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Art of Personal Style | Series Part 1

I was telling a friend recently, who suggested I start compiling "mood boards" on Pinterest to prepare for the decor of another house (a home we've yet to even find) that these days I'm feeling slightly burnt out on such things. Not to undermine the handiness of Pinterest - surely there are great things to be said for a site dedicated solely to fluttering the wings of inspiration, but with that I also feel the threat of overdoing it. In part because I think we are currently so inundated with a scripted array of polished homes, staging, and on trend (hip) decor, that the uniform settings of such stylish homes has almost, dare I say, become boring to me.

It's not that these interiors aren't alluring to the eye - they are - utterly, but because so much of the same is what I see commonly praised and adored on social media, it feels generally void of any real or defining character from what I can tell. Rarely do I run across a home that speaks boldly for the person who inhabits it. For instance I think I'm currently following 15 ladies on Instagram with the exact same white country kitchen, bedroom, loft and mud room with the same peg hook littered with the same exact utensils! Where, on the other end, the much expected white walled / Vintage Kilim (insert overt green plants and macrame) makes up the other percentage, fostering it's own wild grasping 70's themed decor cult outside of the quieter, "cuter" country dream house.

All of it has me wondering if we've somehow lost the unique ability to personalize our home spaces with things we actually like, things that make us happy, in exchange for things we know fit a certain aesthetic we're trying so desperately to secure.

I'm victim of it myself. Absolutely. Realizing at certain points of indecisive rearranging / decorating (which I know we are all prone to whenever areas of the house fall in dire need of a little sprucing up) that some of the things I'm going for aren't even really my taste. For instance, the whole wicker and macrame 70's trend that set the Instagram home porn hub ablaze a few years ago - and swept me up for a hot minute too - wasn't something I might have been actually all that fond of had it not been for the million of photos I scrolled through daily telling me I should be. Like so many things, it's something I appreciate in other's homes but it only occurred to recently how much I was fighting my innate love of more plainly handsome, wood pieces with a sleek modern edge that I really crave, because I was trying to lean on trends the majority of people I saw on social media embracing in. So much so that I had a startling epiphany a few months back, struggling to hang a long vined plant from a uncooperative ceiling beam, when the realization hit me. "Do I even like hanging plants in my house?!" What I concluded, in a short sweaty afterthought, was, not really.

The naked hook hanging above the window stands as small evidence of my disgruntled awakening.

In that realization I began to consider more about what it was I like, instead of the onslaught of what social media tell breeds and clings to. I would argue that before, it was almost easier to settle on what we loved before the influx of Pinterest inspired house hunts overshadowed our inner adoration for things based on personal style. For instance, I has always been fond of a few things, no matter the trends of the moment: cozy clutter over sparse corners, natural jute rugs, worn leather seating, old Danish side chairs, eclectic photo wall galleries and scattered (off beat) art, shaker tables, and arts and craft style lighting. With a healthy dose of books piled wherever they seem best suited. Linen bedding, white quilted covets.

Through the years, whenever I've strayed too far from these tried and true basics I find myself caught in a constant state of cycling items in and out of our home space because at some point, they start to irk me. I've learned this lesson too many times with loudly pattered throw pillows the same as I did with my love hate relationship with bold Kilim and Moroccan rugs. Really, I prefer more neutral textiles and had I just accepted that in the beginning, I would have saved myself a whole lot of time and money devoted to pulling them in and out of my house. And as much as I'd love to incorporate that adorable farmhouse trend, I'd never be content if what surrounds me doesn't feel like an authentic extension of who I am. Messy bookshelves, muted bed tones, linen drapes, rugged antique side tables and swanky sixties side chairs. Classic lighting, shaker cabinets. All the same things I was drawn to with out first home. Nearly 12 years ago now.

In juxtaposition to what the most celebrated homes on the web seem to cling to (especially here on the West Coast) spending some time in New York this Fall was a serious eye opener. The lofts and homes I was exposed to felt exceptionally unique and far more daring in their embrace of off kilter decor entirely outside of what I'm use to here in So Cal which has basically become a stunted formula we're all recycling to a certain degree. The fig leaf instead of the ficus. The Turkish pillows instead of the neon stripes. The wool fiber hangings instead of the wild abstract art print. The white subway tile as opposed to the something (anything!) else. So much on repeat that at some point it starts to erode whatever sense of taste we might carry innately ourselves. And is why I feel so oddly attached to certain homes I go into, that convey a deep sense of individualism as opposed to anything else.

Certainly there are people out there who have a real knack for styling and making things they love work out beautifully, easily even, but more than that I think it takes a little gut. To follow your inner decor interests. And while I'm not claiming to hold any special powers in that particular skill, I just hope in my next home, given the chance at another major renovation, I'll be a little better about tuning our the endless means of "inspiration" being tossed in front of me constantly and put more time and money more where my heart is. Both with, and without the polished Gods of Pinterest there to guide me.

* photo of Dian Keaton's spectacular home, a favorite of mine since it landed on my mother's doorstep via an Architectural Digest subscription a decade ago, now routinely cycled on the home decor sites but clearly, refreshingly all "Keaton" felt and styled.

Design Sponge on The White Wall Controversy  for more on the topic.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sunset Magazine

A couple months ago we spent an entire day (and part of the evening) with the Sunset crew holed up in our backyard. Complete with a team of photographers, editors and two stylists. Where, amidst all the typical issues they tend to iron out to on these kinds of shoots (lighting, angles, ect) they encountered some of the mayhem inherent in tight knit suburbia settings. The neighbor kid casually wandering over in his underwear to sneak a peek at all the hoopla going on out back. Other kids cycling in and out of our door to grab snacks from my fridge and return Lego parts while my own toddler - who in addition to biting his brother out of spite mid shoot - also vomited in the house when he suddenly decided the juice he was drinking was "yucky" which the dog happily licked up in front of the camera guy during lunch. 

All this, which should have left me feeling rightfully humiliated in the company of such a publication but proved instead a silly side note because one: they all have kids, and two: are also just as cool as the magazine they foster, frame and curate. 

Needless to say we are both honored by our feature in the April issue out now, as well as some more fleshed out details regarding the building, materials, and design you can find online HERE

In regards to the emails flooding our inboxes inquiring about design - yes, we are currently putting together a simple instructional kit to help anyone else out there wanting something similar, for low cost, just in time for some DIY home inspo the Spring season always seems to bring. Kits will be offered in shop at the start of April. 

Thank you Sunset, for including us.
It's not everyday we find ourselves in one of our favorite magazines.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Spring Forward

We wait all season long for the summer light to return to us, right our lagging clocks (for some reason we never adjust ours so only half of the year they feed truth) and stretch our days a little longer but ever since the time change last weekend I feel like I'm stumbling two steps behind on just about everything in my life. No matter how hard I try our nights keep going too late and I'm stuck dragging the boys in the morning, to wake and feed them in time for school. Not usually a feat I'm faced with. We've been late twice this week and in the midst of this scattered schedule, I just can't seem to find a groove.

What I do know is there is a new, powerful piece by Ina Shry on The Ma Books this morning that I wish everyone would read. And that the warm weather is soothing in spite of the chaos I'm weighed by. Our beach days are closer now than last month and as much heart ache that came attached to hearing we didn't get the house we fell so hard for a couple weeks ago, the idea of spending part of a stressless summer lounging seaside in our old RV is keeping my sights up. It's what I was looking forward most about selling our house in Spring. So as much as I want to believe that the "right" house is in our near future, the idea of letting go and trusting fate will prevail means we can soak up the fleeting time we have parked on the sands we love most. As it's proved for over a decade now the very best remedy for want.

Tomorrow, I have a fun, light hearted post to share here recounting a piece of our treasured past that many of you will (most likely) relate to. Until then, two of my favorite shots from the photo shoot in Palm Springs with the irresistible Yan Palmer a few weeks back. Planning on sharing more from that later but signing off to catch my breath and find my footing here in the meantime.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

25 Confessions

1. I bear a slight aversion to "cutsie talk" in conversation. And while I don't mind it at all coming from others - I swear I don't - Not even a little bit -  I myself have never been known to utter the phrase "littles" (for kids) or "Hubby" (for husband) or "pressie" for presents. I just can't. My overall avoidance of popular slang is kind of life long affliction of mine. As a teen I tried hard to get in good with the ever changing trends that define jr high lingo but always felt like a complete sham when I did so I ended up sticking to my signature phrases which included a whole lot of "neats" where "cool" or "rad" should have been.

2. My most cherished (and self centered trait) is fact of my astrological sign. Basically I think Scorpios are the coolest ladies - the best ladies - and I can't deny how proud it makes me that I was born one. I know everyone is biased when it comes to their signs, but really, Scorpios, they're kind of in a category all their own I think . . .

3. I don't commonly refer to my husband as my "husband" but usually by his name "Mike" (assuming anyone I'm talking to assumes him to be my husband) or occasionally my "partner" which always has new acquaintances thinking I'm obviously a lesbian, and are therefore noticeably taken aback when Mike walks into the scene instead. Not sure where that hesitance on the term stems but I try not to make much of it because I think "Mike" (or **Chris to those who know him by his legal name) and "Partner" are kind of cuter anyway?

4. I am forever setting myself up with big expectations of cooking these amazing soups I save as bookmarks on my laptop and am being constantly let down by my inability to actually make any of them. But behold, 2017, I'm still working on it.

5. I almost got out of my car and cursed a lady in the rain yesterday who cut in front of me in a stand still drive through line. Apparently the incessant honking and crazed hand gestures reflected in her rearview mirror (in the company of a van full of children) didn't phase her much though because she stood her ground and refused to back out even when I gave her PLENTY of room to do so. To which all I can say is: #KARMAWILLFINDYOU

6. I wash a lot of my laundry twice because I fail to move it one foot over into the cozy confines of the ever failing dryer. But I tell myself people are guilty of so much worse. . .

7. I'm a sucker for any movie or series that has an edge of post modern depression. Or takes place in L.A -  involves a downward spiral due to a steamy affair, has a quirky aunt from out of town wearing a worn denim jacket, set by the ocean anywhere on the East Coast, stars Frances McDormand, or Michelle Williams, or Daniel Day Lewis.

8. I don't read as many books as I pretend to.

9. I also don't watch as much T.V as I want to.

10. My interior monologues for blog posts are always much funnier (and more entertaining) in my head driving to the beach than they usually wind up here in Internet form. But I'm guessing that's the case for lots of mid grade writers manning personal blogs?

11.  I cry almost every time I hear "Imagine" because it's pretty much the song with the biggest message pop culture can possibly translate.

12. Oddly enough, I've never wanted a white piano.

13. My real hair, air dried, is literally frightful. The scariest sight. And I'm about as low maintenance as they come. So the fact that I feel the need to tend to it at ALL, says volumes about it's natural state. I blame giving birth and all of those crazy hormone shifts as the driving force behind it.

14. I spent 15 frantic minutes at the park last weekend freaking out because I couldn't find my car anywhere and feared it stolen (again!) Until it occurred to finally, in the peak of my boiling panic attack, that we actually walked there.

15. I use to run 3 miles every day for 10 years. Rain or shine. Everyday.
I still miss that girl . . .

16. I am great at multi tasking so long as none of it involves actually finishing anything.

17. My middle name is Lee. Same as my moms.

18. I loath shopping malls. And Costco. Always have. Probably always will. But Costco I should really get use to. . .

19. I was fired from multiple chain restaurants all through my 20s. Before I realized I was a miserable waitress. And it showed.

20. I still can't spell "restaurant" without the assistance of spellcheck.

21. I only slightly regret the phrase "The Future is Female" because I live with six males (counting the dog)

22. I am a frightfully intuitive person and am drawn to women who are blessed with the same gift. The ones you hardly have to get to "know" because you already know what one another is thinking and feeling. And silence in conversation with these types is allowed (even sometimes soothing)

23. Sometimes I make up the most annoying songs I possibly can just to annoy my kids which brings me so much strange joy that I should be ashamed. And yet I can't stop.

24. I held out on the emoji game for a good long while because it seemed downright juvenile and lame as a real means of communication. Like when I tried to imagine Joan Didion or Virginia Woolf using them in correspondence it literally pained me. They would never! When I first flirted with the use of them I felt a little less a women with every kissy face I sent. But now I'm as bad as a 13 year old Asian girl with a glitter cased phone engaged in daily school girl banter. A fact I've just come to accept because all of society has too.

25. I'll probably regret this silly post four hours after it's up. Because I do with nearly everything I've ever shared here. But I also needed reason to use this: my all time favorite old school shruggy emoji friend  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Tuesday, March 7, 2017


Recovering from this afternoon's facial peel (my first) which I'm finding leaves your skin tight and tingling six hours after the fact - I'll let you know in five days, once the shedding of my face subsides, if it's worth the money or not.

Dreading (and therefore neglecting) the bulk of this house that needs to be packed and cleared out.

Feeling pains of nostalgia reading the backstory behind the Calvin Klein / Mario Sorrenti Obsession campaign, told form Kate's point of view which I've never heard before.

Loving the Green Toy brand that's quickly becoming it's own collection in our house because of how much Hayes loves those little cars made of recycled milk cartons. Best bath toy around.

Looking forward to some approaching travel dates as a family in the weeks ahead. First up: Tomales Bay, New York (with the ladies) & Santa Fe with the family.

Eyeing a new pair of clogs to replace the ones I lost.

Intending on these two books to dive into during our Spring Break getaway at the end of this month

Enjoying the return of The Ma Books after an unintentional hiatus last month left it stagnant for weeks. Life lately, getting the better end of my spare time. #movingisatimesuck

Learning about these women photographers around the world that Time is highlighting as talents to watch.

Reading about the carefully curated image created to empower the lasting legacy of Georgia O'Keefe.

Wishing this sharp jumper could be part of my life come July's brutal heatwaves.

Stuck ON

Girls At Library 

"An online journal that features engaging literary interviews with and book recommendations from remarkable, diverse women who share a passion for reading. A Unique online resource for literature lovers, GAL invites the exchange of ideas, perspectives, and emotions that underscore what makes reading such a universal pursuit. The books one reads both shape and mind the reflect the soul: literature empowers, transports, and inspires. To this end, GAL promotes reading as a constructive and enriching act for everyone."

Photos via GAL taken by Andrew Gallo

Scenes From a Weekend

A couple hours outdoors Sunday afternoon in search of some sunlight and wild flowers springing locally. Between all the packing, purging, raging allergy induced migraines, storm clouds, and regular meltdowns rotating this household throughout the weekend.

Thankfully we were lucky enough to find a little of both.

Friday, March 3, 2017

35 Things Our Kids Will Miss Out On

I came across another version of this list on Facebook last week and had to tweak it just a bit to add my own take on it because it's just too much fun to sit and consider all the extinct aspects of growing pains that are now long forgotten.

Feel free to add more in comment section below.

1. The thrill of Blockbuster on Friday night (and the heat ache of intended flicks being sold out) and forever big eyes for the ever changing row of "NEW RELEASES"

2. Call waiting. And, "waiting" In general . . .

3. The blood sweat and tears that go into mixed tapes for the loved ones you hope will cherish it.

4. TV Guide

5. A ninth planet

6. The high that comes with seeing your note makes it ALL the way across the classroom without being confiscated.

7. The cow themed box of a new gateway computer

8. The God awful sound of a busy signal bleating a phone line

9. Finding friends in the phone book

10. The art of the encyclopedia

11. The stress in trying to save yourself (and a wagon full of kids you acquired) along the Oregon Trail.

12. Prank calls with no strings (or tracking) attached

13 Taking your film to be developed and finding that 90 percent of your photos are blurry are just no good.

14. Waiting an hour to download one song (illegally) on your parents computer

15. Videos on MTV

16. Scrounging spare change for pay phones at the movie theater to assure your parents you lived through Pee Wee's Big Adventure.

17. Camping out for concerts that sell out regardless

18. The horror of an Unrewond VHS

19. Getting lost with printed directions from Map Quest

20. Getting the last number wrong on a landline phone

21. The fickle fact of TV antennas

22. Missing your favorite show

23. Talking to the hand

24. Pepsi Clear


26. The unmatched thrill of discovering hidden tracks on CDS

27. 911 Alerts on your beeper

28. Muppets

29. Glamour Shots

30.  Not knowing the lyrics to a song

31. Ronald McDonald and Michael Jackson

32. One shoulder overalls

33. Schunchies

34. Family Ties, Gem, Kids Incorporated, Punky, Charles in Charge, Different Strokes, Webster,  (ect, ect)

35. Not having your entire childhood documented online