Thursday, April 20, 2017

Speaking of Small Spaces

My girl Latonya (who I used as prime example in the defense for small living post last week) has a great guide to sprucing up a small apartment for Spring.

I love her place and can't wait to be back to visit next month. This time, hopefully minus low temps & rainstorms.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Watching 13 Reasons Why. Netflix's new series based on the best selling book detailing 13 reasons behind a high school girl's suicide. I caught wind of it during Leon's field trip this week when the teachers were discussing it's affects and explaining why they felt it was something they needed to watch with their older children. I'm 5 episodes in and although it has it's flaws it's an engrossing commentary on what it's like to be a teen in modern times. Each next chapter leaves me feeling a big mix of emotions but something I think we as parents should all be watching and discussing.

Reading Joan Didion's latest South and West. Which I hope to discuss more in full book review length here once I finish.

Fantasizing about a piece of this exhibit.

Wanting This One Bowl Recipe Cookbook because I'm a sucker for anything that claims one bowl anything.

Continuing the great feat of purging. Everything from clothing to home goods. All in the good name of downsizing. A challenge I'm taking in stride thanks to all the lovely feedback and support the post last week garnered. Thanks all you tiny house dwellers that read here!

Listening  (on repeat) to Kendrick Lamar's "Sit Down Be Humble" - his latest single that is singlehandedly restoring my faith in rap, AND rekindling vintage Hype Williams style in video form, which I love even more.

Contemplating this list of "37 things you'll regret when you're old" found via facebook here and likely worth five minutes of your time / regrets.

Wearing  (over and over again) the new second hand dress I scored via my friend Rose's vintage shop the Bull and the Rose that I adore.

Loving all the sweet summer basics for my babe courtesy of Chaboukie who hold stock in the cutest cotton muscle tees, leggings, tanks and rompers. Also conveniently with lots of stuff on sale right now.

Image via The Bull and The Rose

Monday, April 17, 2017

Home Inspo / Concrete Interiors

Some of my favorite things to watch Mike build over the years have usually been anything that include his concrete work, typically in landscape settings. Something about pulling the wood frames off and seeing the sleek lines carved by the bracing that is more satisfying than all the rest. And as much as I love the accents of hard concrete mingled with lush backyard landscape I've always hoped we could incorporate it into the interiors of a home one day because I love how it sets off an otherwise wood heavy, warm home. Noting, of course, that it does take a certain style home to pull it off, and hopefully at some point, we'll be lucky enough to find that.

In any case, I'm entirely obsessed. With concrete kitchens and other accent points in interior spaces that include bathrooms too for that matter. 

Here, a few images I pulled off line which I'm keeping as inspiration should the right house come along and call for it, but I'm also wondering, from a practical stand point, what the end result of having this material as daily use would be. Obviously I've done more eyeing that research. 

Another bonus in our case is how much cheaper a version like this could be considering we could design it and construct it ourselves as opposed to sourcing custom cabinetry which we all know can get pricey even in a small space. Plus how great would it be to include a few custom cubbies and shelving to accommodate kitchen utensils? Love the idea of open space inside the kitchen to showcase favorite and most used pieces in dish ware. 

Styles below ranging from rustic adobe to sleek Spanish mod and all of them straight out of my interior dreams. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Avocado & Lime Tuna Salad

A current staple at our park picnics these days due to how simple and delicious it is. Plus I love any excuse for more cilantro in my life.

Diced Avocado and Tuna mixed with:

Olive Oil
Red Onion
Sea Salt
Fresh Squeezed lemon (or Lime)

Friday, April 14, 2017

In Defense of Small Homes

One of my favorite Dylan lines comes from the song The Ballad of Frankie Lee, in which Bob claims "It's not a house it's a home." A statement I've been chewing on since I was probably 17, when I first heard it. Serving forever as a reminder to me about what differentiates between the two, which I'm know varies from person to person depending on what it is we believe makes a House a "Home."

For me, it's a space that reflects something about who we are as a family, what we enjoy, believe, support and respect. This can be evident in the books and art we keep. And the overall vibe a home secures. In my opinion, size has very little to do with any of it. Our old house measured just under 2,700 square feet which by contemporary track home standards is not at all massive. But certainly not cramped either. A standard layout boasting three bedrooms (a casita detached outback we used only when we had renters) two and a half bathrooms, upstairs loft, dining room, and one roomy common area which included the kitchen. What we were using daily however, was much less. Basically two bedrooms. Three boys in one and one boy in two (depending on the night and his mood / preference) and rarely ever the dining room. Whereas the loft and kitchen were most "commonly inhabited." In hindsight, I'd say that the decade we lived in the house half of our square footage existed as positively beneficial. While the other half, more or less "bonus space" convenient upon occasion.

Small housing was a topic I started considering, more in depth, a few months ago once we decided to move and began looking into the reality of the real estate hikes that come attached to the beach towns we were seeking to settle in. We understood the next house had to be considerably smaller in order for it to suit our budget. But was that necessarily a bad thing? Fact is plenty of people we know are quick to deem this as a major sacrifice. Which I had to wonder if living in larger spaces somehow accounts for more well adjusted children? When really I almost think it's the opposite?

Usually upon my bated prompting - when I ask others to truly think about what areas of their house they use daily, I am always stunned to hear the majority of them admit to so many unused areas of their house. And kids, like mine, who go into their bedrooms mostly only to sleep. A habit that is surely subject to change during the teen years I realize. But I'd argue that the first half of childhood - as far as I can tell - doesn't seem very concerned with hunkering down in the bedroom for play. No matter how much we tell them we'd appreciate it if they would. I am an big advocate for shared bedrooms. And shared space in general. I've written in support of it here before and believe in the strengths and bonds it instills when you are forced to bunk with family no matter how big or small the home space is. Obviously for me, having same sex siblings close in age makes it an easy option. As long as there's been three they've never expressed an interest in being apart from each other or requested their own room. Even when another basically vacant room was there for the taking. I hear people say that as they get older they'll need their space. And I can respect that point of view. But I also think about how many of our parents grew up in houses half the size of these track homes and shared bedrooms up until college. A perfect example being every year when I head up north to Greenfield Ca with my best friend to visit her grandmother I'm inspired by the meager layout of her 60s style ranch house she raised seven children in, with shared bedrooms for most all of them. Seven kids who grew into seven well mannered adults that exist now as a close knit family. She says it worked out because it had to. Period.

I mention this because one of the places we are seriously considering at the moment is a two bedroom. Of which we would ultimately add onto but are still ok with the decent square footage as is. My ideal space being anywhere from 1,300 - 1,600 sqft) Which is cringeworthy to some considering the size of our family. Fun part though about working with smaller spaces is that it calls for more creative, intentional design where you can't just throw things out and hope it works because the value of your surrounding space is amplified when it's scarce. Forcing you almost to part with anything that you don't absolutely love or feel attached to. And isn't there some liberation in ridding your home of the senseless clutter we're all prone to and living instead with less but that which gives us pleasure? As of now, I have to hope so.

As for creative renovations, they certainly aren't to be overlooked while downsizing. Typically within minutes of touring a few of these houses Mike was already knocking around walls and climbing up into attics to get an estimate of what beams could be exposed to lift the ceilings, what walls could come down to open up areas or added to create or divide new ones. In one scenario he was able to envision the elimination of a laundry room and closet to be reconstructed as a small room with one pretty window where the only thing that would work would be a bed and dresser might fit but still provide a warm boon for one or two of the boys to call their own. This of course being one of the main perks of being married to a handy man. They see things you would never. And then manage to actually make them happen.

Practicality aside, I think I've always preferred good light / bones in a house as opposed to square footage. Some of my favorite homes are quaint but alluring, where square footage doesn't seem somehow definable. I know I always tend towards tighter, cozier spaces when I search ideally because I'm keeping my sights set on a mid century (or Spanish) single story fixer upper with good flow that entails at least one roomy common living area, where corners can be carved out by building custom nooks and comfy (creative) seating. Hygge inspired. And less to clean. I for one, don't want 3 bathrooms ever again. Unless one is a urinal - I'll take that. Because realistically two is perfect and yet still more than I care to tackle on deep cleaning rotations but obviously vital with a household this big (and reckless) when it comes bathroom manners.

What's even more intriguing to me too is how much different space is viewed on alternative coastlines. For instance the ladies I know in Brooklynn have far much more practical views of what amounts to ample living space in the city they inhabit. Where even the wealthiest people tend to live in close quarters where closets become sleeping spaces, and tiny nooks are made delightfully inviting because of the expectations being skewed based on the confines of urban living. Like when I visited my friend Latonya, and she gave me a tour of her stunning brownstone, proudly showing off her lovely bedroom that was tucked tight into room small enough that she had to climb into it via the bed. And yet it appeared smart and stylish, inviting, and not in the least way any kind of inconvenience. Just like the rest of her home where every basket had it's place and nothing was overstuffed or crowded. In other words, New Yorkers make it work. Because it has to. Same thing goes for other countries right? Where living with combined families is the norm and personal space shrinks as a result. A fact not to be scoffed at or resented either. Yet here - especially in California - we seem to think the more we expand, the bigger our house, the happier we'll be. I don't buy it.

My personal small home defenses being:
If we are close to areas we want to be outdoors (ideally, the beach) our home base becomes a haven for rest and nurture. Which can exist in any form. As a family, we don't spend all that much time holed up at home because we're out and about as much as possible, especially when the weather is nice. I know some people define themselves as "home bodies" but that isn't us.

Also, the idea of incorporating indoor / outdoor living is always an option to help open up a house and can instantly change the feeling of a space because it adds air to the interior and breathes new life to the overall flow of it. This is where replacing windows with french doors and front yards made into courtyards become game changers in our hunt. Two options we're always considering while looking at smaller homes. What are the possibilities, how can this be improved? Where can we expand with as little devastation as possible? And essentially: Decor > space. Because if a home feels altogether inviting because of the way it's laid out and arranged, size doesn't matter.

As of now we're still looking, debating and deciding, but I am always interested to know what others have to say on the topic, in relation to downsizing and altogether smaller living spaces. Some of my favorite people in life grew up in small homes themselves so maybe the proof is in the pudding. But I'd love to know: do you find yourself more attracted to big homes? If so, why? Are there benefits to living with less? And do you feel most of your house is used regularly?

- Photo from one of our recent small house contenders with plenty of room for creative interpretation. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Zen of Attraction

By Thomas J. Leonard 

In regard to marketing but some of which I'm feeling hard, and entirely for life in general. A few others, more in circumstance. Either way, thank you, Pinterest.

1. Promise nothing 
Just do what you most enjoy.

2. Sign nothing
Just dow what doesn't require a signature of any kind.

3. Offer nothing
Just share what you have to those who express an interest.

4. Expect nothing
Just enjoy what you already have, it's plenty.

5. Need nothing
Just build up your reserves and your needs will disappear

6. Create nothing
Just respond well to what comes to you.

7. Seduce no one
Just enjoy them.

8. Andrenalize nothing
Just add value and get excited about that

9. Hype nothing
Just let quality sell by itself

10. Fix nothing
Just heal yourself

11. Plan nothing
Just take the path of least resistance

12. Learn nothing
Just let your body absorb it all on your behalf

13. Become no one
Just be more yourself

14. Change nothing
Just tell the truth and things will change themselves

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Scenes From a Weekend

Cabrillo Isle Marina, San Diego 

"And Jesus was a sailor 
When he walked upon the water 
And he spent a long time watching 
From his lonely wooden tower 
And when he knew for certain 
Only drowning men could see him 
He said "All men will be sailors then 
Until the sea shall free them" 
But he himself was broken 
Long before the sky would open 
Forsaken, almost human 
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone"

- Leonard Cohen Suzanne 

Saturday morning whereupon we take the early initiative to head out towards the bay on a nearly vacant 15 freeway, after drive through coffee, gas station fill ups, and two glazed doughnuts spilt between four kids causing uproars from the two claiming unfair halves were divided as a result. 

Whereupon we miss our exit because we are caught up casually entertaining the prospect of actually owning a sail boat (in spite of not actually knowing how to sail) inside of this sweetly kept harbor that glistens from the parking lot as I scour the van for matching shoes and a leash to secure a dog who doesn't need one. 

A deck scattered with friendly old men in button downs and ray bans glinting kindly at us as we pass. Even though (in the company of said children we come slapping happily around the deck with eager feet and a matted poodle) to make clear case for our status here as an outsiders. Visitors at a place we don't belong. But adore all the same. 

The names on the boats are not nearly as impressive or inspiring as I hoped. Some worn, some polished. All typically named (as is good tradition to warrant good luck of any boat at sea) the likes of which - from what I can gather - lacking any sense of poetry or wit. Leaning instead on plain humor built of corny reference. I decide there on the edge of the dock as the boys dip inside the cabin and the seller explains the ropes of the endeavor, that if it were ours she would be called "Suzanne." Immediately I start thumbing my mind for proper fonts I know off hand that might suit it best. Debating over a few before I'm called to the boat to tour it myself. 

This boat which we've come to see in hopes of securing the trade that will take the red 60's Land Rover from the drive way at his parents house, and hand us this faded yellow beauty in place, is smaller than we picture. Rougher than we hoped, and altogether unpractical when we stop to truly consider it. Especially knowing the amount of free time we have in the near future is soon to be sucked way entirely should we find the right house and begin (as any we've seen, imagined and intended) a full blown interior renovation that our current budget promises to entail. All done ourselves, without the handy time frames and peace of mind that paid contractors grant you when you afford it. 

Still, the fantasy of being half drunk on that little yellow boat in the orange glow of a late July evening sinks deep inside of me and I can't seem to talk myself away from it. Even knowing full and well that my fear of such things is destined to outweigh the romance of it all, because on the drive home I'm scrolling through endless images of a tanned, painfully handsome young JFK on various sailboats during the peak of the Hyannis Port era, and find myself easily accepting of all the superficial reasons to make this trade for a boat we can't yet direct, work out. The careless linen wardrobes, the obvious appeal of a man sailing at boat sea, the quaint bars lining the harbor attached to visions of platters stacked with cheese and salami that belong atop that small table under deck, and the boys in their cute red life vests and navy striped shirts.

Ultimately we leave it undecided. A dream to dangle until we come to our senses and manage to move past it. A name boat without a name. But "Suzanne" indefinitely, should she ever be ours. . .

Monday, April 10, 2017

Stuck ON

Hillery Sproatt

Who's bold, folkish paintings are translated in knit blanket form so sweet I had to talk myself out of a cart full of them last week. Deciding finally on one, for Hayes to tuck inside of his Easter Basket.

Find all options HERE

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Back Yard Farewell

I've been meaning for months now to photograph the backyard in it's completion. As it finally came together (like things do) at the tail end of closing escrow. Every detail and neglected corner - which we had to come to accept as glaring interruption to an otherwise perfectly constructed out door space - fixed or finished. The corner rock sealed at the fountain, the raw beams painted in the island kitchen, the weeds stripped, the beer tap adjusted. 

A yard we inherited as it's first time owner, looking just as bare and soulless as the rest of the house, with a dirt lot and a massive slope and not a single tree in sight. 

It took him nearly a decade - in spite of me always in protest of a downscaled vision. Like I've mentioned here before, I don't mind a simple, overgrown yard with some character, especially when it means a completed result. Whereas Mike is fine with a never ending evolution and is fond of more sophisticated concrete layouts and multi layered landscape. He cut into half the slope the first year we were there and built a second level poured with concrete, where you could climb a few stairs and sit by the fire place or atop the table for lunch. 

The playhouse, the zip line, the hand built furniture, it all came later. 

His beloved Olive tree - a handsome anchor to the center of the space, looking proud and flawless that morning in spite of all the inflictions it suffered throughout the years because of the regular rotation of reckless children wielding bee bee guns, rope, and arrows. Breaking branches and disrupting planters. As pretty as he made it, it was never a practical space for kids but he dismissed the fact of it entirely because he's never been interested in catering landscape choices to meet the likes of anyone other than him. I realized that many years ago and gave up on the battles it could ignite. The treehouse was a gift to me that way. 

The morning, just before I left I slipped out back to catch a last few shots of a space we loved so much. Host to countless birthday parties and summer BBQ's, taco feasts, slumber parties, camp outs one wedding, and plenty of quiet nights by the fire with wine and friends where I can still vividly recall watching through the windows upstairs as those first few summers as he wheeled Arlo around in that red barrel, stacked atop of all the rocks he had scored up the street from the hillsides when they were bare, before the housing tracks expanded, and the rock piles rich with options. Piece by piece, with the kind of patience I'll never relate to, building the yard he wanted. Sometimes with and sometimes without a clear deadline in mind.

The beauty of a space like this knowing all the love and attention that went into creating it. I've considered before what it must be like to hire contractors who show up and make things happen. Who source the materials and design the layout. And part of me thinks how great that must be, to pay someone to materialize what you keep as loosely drawn in your mind. But then again, I don't know that the same sentiment is built that way. One of the most appealing qualities for me about Mike is and always has been his dedication to building things with his own two hands. Even when it's something he isn't all that experienced in. 

And sight of their three tiny hand prints, pushed with happy palms into the freshly poured concrete that July morning so many years ago being the only point of real pause for me as we were loading up. As if evidence of them being so small, and time passing so quickly, was the only thing on the property that pained me to have to leave behind. Even knowing there is so much more ahead of us. 
Starting from scratch and breathing new life into whatever space we find next. This time with those same palms now big and strong enough to lend him some help.