Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Along Came Cleo

No one would ever describe me as an animal lover. I like animals in the sense that I don't mind having them around so long as they're not too needy, annoying, loud, or messy. Jack Kraus, the dog we took in because he was pushed on us by a friend, who (despite my solid resistance) decided that we were meant for each other, is none of these. And therefore my ideal as far as the whole pet situation goes. He adores me to the point of obsession, sure. At times, to a creepy and exhausting degree. Pulling my most recently worn clothes from my bedroom to sleep on while I'm away, hiding in my van whenever he senses me heading out, following me wherever I go whenever I go, even during mid night trips to the bathroom where he slumps down on the floor and waits for my return. In fact I'm so use to him being there at my feet that I don't even realize the extent of it until someone brings it to my attention laughing at the absurdity it verges on. And yet who can fault an overly adoring poodle - an orphan with ragged white dreadlocks who was scheduled to be put down two hours before he was rescued at a shelter going out of business, who never begs, is lazy in the best way, and utterly embracing of our whole way of life. He's what made me believe that rescued dogs are the best. There are, aren't they? And made me forever swear off any desire for a purchased pure breed.

And then along came Cleo. Handed to us in an old towel by a Hispanic family on the beach who spoke broken English but kindly obliged when asked if Hayes could pet her. Who would hand her to him and tell us we could keep her asthey had no room for her. That she was four weeks old, and part Chihuahua. In need of a good home. And so it goes. A free puppy on a drizzly beach the day we came to eat burritos on the sand. With the kind of face even I couldn't deny. No matter how much my better judgment said timing wasn't right. And the last thing we needed to add to our lives was another dog. Yet 12 days in, it's hard to imagine it any other way. How she went from a newborn pup on the beach on hunt for a home, to a foster dog we planned to pass on, to a new (permanent) member of our family who sleeps in the nook of my neck every night and is best friend to Jack and cozy late night couch partner to us all.

From what I can tell, she loves it here too. The first girl in the family. One we didn't "need" or plan for, but further proof of one thing I already suspected. That the best pets always end up being the ones that choose us.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Around Here

Bidding farewell to the lax days of a three month long summer break. Spent exploring a new town, uncovering new beaches, coves, caves, and breakfast haunts. Sleeping in, walking around, stretching whatever hours we have left before Fall moves in and routine kicks in.

Hosting dinner on the deck out back for friends. Running aimless in the sun between errands, squeezing in brief surf sessions between weekend renovations. Early morning coffee on the sand. Birthday parties with new friends on the bay at dusk. Freedoms of a season coming to a close.

Chasing that slice of light yesterday in the magic of the eclipse we manage to catch just in time, parked in an alley way using a stranger's wielding mask outside an auto parts store we find on the way to the beach. And again, 30 minutes later, because of another kind man who passes his paper glasses down the line for each of us to see.

Tearing the house to pieces in the evenings, and putting it back together in the mornings. Just the way we want it. The way in which we know it will eventually come to resemble home.

Playing ball, cuddling a puppy handed to us on a misty morning beach without want nearly two weeks ago now we didn't expect to keep.

Painting, singing, napping, loving. Before another school year begins and the untried bliss of another glorious summer slinks away.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Enthralled by these images of Burning Man's most memorable art installations.

Obsessing over just about every item here 

Scouring the internet for simple Buddha Bowl recipes since devouring the most delicious one a friend made for us this past weekend that left me craving more.

Rewatching Eyes Wide Shut after a indulging in a full examination of all the Illuminati themed references. Which, whatever you feel about outlandish conspiracies, does make the movie ten times more intriguing than it was all those years ago when we watched (and argued about it) in a theater on one of our very first dates.

Feeling all five of these

Contemplating this tactic after reading this article

Determined to get inside this house for a tour after a little day trip down PCH exposed it. And I fell in love. Rumors on the web stating it belonged to everyone from the Fitzgeralds to Bette Davis.

Dreading the start of the school year, and days cut short and early bed times and stricter routine. Looking forward to a little time in the afternoon alone though too.

Intrigued by news of this project in the making

Loving this take on Sam Shepard and his connection to Santa Fe, written by my old friend's dear friend in the area.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Home Decor / Design Books

Call me old school but even with an endless array of alluring images to scroll through these days in way of handsome home styling on Pinterest, I still prefer a good ole' hard cover decor book when it comes to gathering design inspo. But then again I suppose I'll always be partial to print. Hard copy material with a little texture, wear and weight that I can hold on my lap at the beach or in bed. Flip though and study like a painting over time. As it seems no matter how many images I pull, or how pretty or inspiring they exist there on my little inter-hub of neatly categorized housing ideals online, my inclination is always page over pins. 

Through the years I've collected a series of beloved home decor books. A good variety that leans heavy on modern, mission /craftsman, beach cottage, and rustic bungalow. All aspects I'm hoping to include in someways in this renovation. Though the idea of coming to the point of actual "decor" seems so far off it hurts. Because I've had a lot of inquiries lately to the bits and pieces of books I've been posting on my Instagram stories, I figured I'd list them here for anyone looking for new reason for a good end of summer book splurge. 

Here's exactly what I have on rotation that I'm referring to currently for design angels and decor

The The Monocle Guide to Cosy Homes
"A survey of everything you need to build the residence you want." Basically how to turn a house into a home in the cozy (est) way possible. The entire Monocle series is a good one to look into. The home one though is a beautifully bound book I bought last year chalk full of some really helpful insight to everything from "clutter free rooms" to "living abroad" to "genuine comfort" - The kind of book you can get visually lost in seeing various residences highlighted from around the world embracing all aspects of design. 

California Beach Houses / Style, Interiors and Architecture
This one I dug up recently upon unpacking and fell in love with all over again. The book was published in '96 but the selected images and quality of the book are timeless. There are a few images here I'm utterly obsessed with. The "Nathanson House" in Malibu for starters. 

Beach Houses by Andrew Geller
"The book is a wistful celebration of a lost era when the world was a much bigger place and oceanfront property a relatively affordable commodity." -Metropolis

A gorgeous hazily photographed collection of Geller's funky mod beach dwellings. Most of which have sadly been leveled or redone. But the beauty he creates inside these often plain spaces is quite mesmerizing. And his wood planked built in seating is the basis of my vision for the boy's room. Sparse but inviting. Mod but relaxed. A lovely book suitable for any coffee table with taste. 

Apartmento Magazine
"An everyday Life Interiors Magazine" that showcases all kinds of colorful home dwellings, artful and unique. A bi-annual publication I live for and ingest entirely upon it's arrival twice a year. I buy used versions on Amazon who's pages also come in handy for aiding art projects and card making. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Oprah, Intuition, Hanging tight to Undying Dreams (or, "a detailed outline of home renovation / checklist")

I was probably 13 years old - and painfully impressed by talk show hosts at the time - when I first heard Oprah unleash a lecture about the power of intuition. It was the first time my interest was peaked by such an idea. The suggestion of an inner voice guiding us towards a more fruitful happiness and overall truer "fulfillment" in life. Or maybe just the first time someone urged me to HEAR it. "It" being what she describes as "more a feeling than a voice—a whispery sensation that pulsates just beneath the surface of your being. All animals have it. We're the only creatures that deny and ignore it."

I agree. I did then, and I do now. In fact the older I get the more tethered I am to the notion of intuition over logic and practicality in life in general. In just about every aspect of our existence really. I write a lot about making decisions based solely on that of my gut feeling, when it comes to parenting, jobs, friendships, you name it. I've even admitted a time or two that I've felt I possess an especially innate sense of "feeling" almost like a sixth sense in that I can usually gage people and their motives in situations around me, without words or actions apparent, but intuitively, based on the readings the core of my inner compass radiate. Whenever I stray too far from that voice I end up hurt or disappointed. Emotionally bruised by let downs that could have been easily avoided had I just listened to that higher sensation "pulsating" inside me. 

This house situation is no different. Thought to be honest,  part of me hesitated to suggest such a dramatic take on a regular life happening. People buy new houses all the time right? But even that - doubting what is an innate interest in a certain topic for this blog for instance, is exactly what I try to avoid. I do my best to trust that if it means something to me, it will to someone else too. Most of the time, I hope anyway, it serves me best. Like I've said a hundred times before, whenever I start dissecting my writing or debating my subject matter I loose interest and pull away. Whereas when I stick simply with what I like, the whole blogging schick remains an enjoyable side gig. 

Anyway, back to the house. Because it was another instance where I had to trust (with a leap of faith of course) that moving would get us to a "better place" or at least what felt more right for us at this point in time which is exactly what happened. But not without an open embrace of plight and struggle. After months of worrying about money and other mundane mishaps, we ended up in a neighborhood we never imagined we could afford, in a town we dreamt about since our early days as a couple. A fact we are still in awe of every time we walk into the living room to see that faded slice of ocean from the corner window (Which Mike still reminds me of every change he gets, every time he spots a surfer catch a wave or a boat sail into the harbor. With binoculars no one is quite sure how we even acquired. But I digress...) Or head down the street at dusk for a bonfire with the boys. Or spend the bulk of an afternoon on the sand where we are always happiest as a family anyway. Everything we pined for that felt like a dream too big or distant to want or or cling to. But that's the thing. We need to remember sometimes to not let it be.

My point being of course not to boast about this particular outcome, but share that it all came about mostly because I trusted the voice inside me that told me one morning a little over a year ago when I decided it was time to up and move - in spite of my tendency to hold tight to what is familiar, inside a comfortable house, inside a lovely neighborhood with a top notch school district, that the risk was worth it even when an array of obstacles arose in the midst of the whole ordeal. In other words I forced myself to trust things would work out in the end. Which I suppose has become the basis of my life philosophy by now. A nod to the basic Buddhist notion that says we are what we create, better off embracing points of uncertainty, disappointment and overall impermanence. But that's fodder for another post.

Bottom line was the home hunt wasn't pleasant for us in the least, escrow was in every single way "trying," our credit wasn't what we thought it was, home prices kept rising, all of our disorganized faults came to light, and it felt at any point, with any one additional factor stacked against us, we could lose it all and wind up blowing it for the whole family. At least this was the pressing worries rattling my brain when I let it. But instead of stressing every step of the way I tried to tap into the peace I felt lingering inside of me - an inner calm telling me to hang in there, and here we are almost a month later in this little dream scenario. Renovating an early 1960's ranch style house with just enough square footage to seem "respectable" (*by modern standards for a family this size anyway) A fixer upper with good bones and endless potential given our shared ability to marry imagination with skill and turn mediocre spaces into something special because determination picks up where budgets run dry. With a lot that forsakes a traditional backyard for a big long patio that offers just enough of a design challenge to still seem "fun." Not to mention a cool breeze and weather that is nearly 25 degrees cooler than what we were accustomed to after all my years living inland, where summer months came attached to boiling temps and power outages unrolled regularly as a result.  

People tell you you'll end up where you're meant to be and for the most part I choose to believe it. But there were a few other factors that played out as well that I only think it's fair to mention in telling the story of how we ended up here. Because obviously isn't ALL luck and good patience. The short story goes like this:

The guy selling this place tried for a solid year to get market value for this house - a rental that he bought years prior from his daughter once she and her husband got caught up in an ugly divorce. But refused an agent so it sat there cooling on the housing market with real estate agents neglecting it due to no revenue there to lure them in. Frustrated, he eventually started slicing the listing price. When we saw it we fell in love - tracked down the owner and learned it had gone into escrow earlier that day. By now we were use to this kind of disappointment but the fact that we were a few hours too late - after it had been sitting there for a year - felt especially stinging. Per polite protocol, he promised we would be next in line should something fall out. Which it did. Two weeks later when these new impending owners discovered there was issues that could hinder them building the second story mansion renovation they had in mind when they made the offer. From there we realized this small window of opportunity, moved fast and locked it in - dismissing any repairs on the seller's end. Buying "as is" after seeing the repairs needed were things we could manage ourselves, but at a selling price much lower price than he wanted. But this time, money and desperation can be great motivators on our end, so we scored it for a pretty decent under market deal. But with limited funds to finish it. Which means it will take longer than we'd like and require more patience than we'd hoped but the location motivates us to take it slow and enjoy the process it entails. Something tells me we'll be here for a good long while. And if that's the case, past experience indicates that the extent of home projects we will delve into might never cease. Luckily I think we're both ok with that.   

And finally, a long list of all the things we have planned / need to rebuild, redesign, construct or repair (Basically the entire house) And with this renovation sucking up most of our spare time, I hope you enjoy watching it unfold in real time via blog form. With plenty of DIY projects using the most cost efficient means of basic redesign. All intended to maximize storage and square footage. 
The long list being:

- new exterior siding for the entire house (we're debating the style of which right now because we don't agree - he leans more towards a sea shack chic vibe, I like more modern) 

- Ugly concrete painted patio resurfaced with natural rock (I wanted wood deck and he refuses due to upkeep) leaving one section open for grass, overgrown with succulents to line a rock pathway leading to a pretty out door shower (built of beach rocks we've already started collecting from local surf spots) 

- NEW FLOORING (I've never been so desperate for a product sponsor in my life) If only I had the time and gull to know where I even begin. . .

- An entire kitchen revamp that will eliminate all granite countertops, half of the existing upper cupboards, add refaced doors and wood planks in ceiling niche above sink, include a new narrow island, open shelving, some kind of designated coffee station, a hanging pot rack, and new lighting. 

- Tear out all interior molding & baseboards because they are hideous. 

- reconstruct boy room 1 to include a built in sleeping bunk nook where closet formally resides. To allow floorspace in the room to be as open as possible with sunk in closet cut into drywall. Plus the addition of two antique portholes in each bunk to offer a fun widow option facing the patio hillside view. 

- Built in window bench seating in boy room 1, 2 and master to serve as additional storage & eliminate the need for multiple dressers. 

- Plaster overcoat of Fireplace with new adobe tile footing & simple wood mantle

- Eliminate second closet in master room to allow room for a clawfoot tub added to second bathroom. 

- Neutral plaster overcoating of bathroom walls with tile option still undecided.

- Simple plaster & wood bathroom consoles with open shelving for towels and baskets

- Move existing wall of closet out a few feet to allow bathroom expansion + built in bookshelves cut in space above desk in master bedroom. 

- Wood caps to replace the iron railing currently standing, with wire instead of metal to open up patio view. 

- Living room window facing backyard replaced with french doors to allow access to the patio 

- Crappy old windows taken out, patched and altogether eliminated in master room to be replaced with vintage wood framed versions that open out.  Scoured on Craigslist

- A 13 ft floating octagon shaped tree house (tri level) in the brush surrounding patio to allow view of the harbor. *which Mike admitted he moved to top of the list more for him than the kids.

- Modest fireplace attached to the backside of the house with surrounding custom concrete seating. 

- A small bar with a single grill top (mainly for tacos)

- A ping pong table on patio (this one is high on my list)

- A wood platform for a succulent garden at the base of the stair case leading to what is currently dead space on the ridge of our slope 

- Wood planked hot tub in left hand corner of the patio (also to be scored on Craigslist)

- Extra storage built into the back of the house during siding construction to store surf boards, wetsuits, beach gear, skateboards, pads & helmets. 

- (Way down the line) - a small roof top deck for enjoying cocktails at sunset*

So there you have it. Five years worth of projects and a whole lot of creative means to get it done. With that little voice here reminding me daily to not let myself be too overwhelmed, to take it slow, enjoy the journey, and trust in my own choices. When it comes to everything from kitchen hardware to major life uprooting.  

On The Books

Please check out the beautiful prose added recently to The Ma Books, by Jessica Collins, Nikaele Marie Peters, Meagan Grant, Louise Lynch, among others.

From the reposted Essay "A Happening of Humans" by Peters:

"When my firstborn was little I remember realizing that he was going to go through a range of emotions any given day with or without my intervention. I might as well provide boundaries for him to thunder against. I came to see this as my job, which might, I thought, protect him from being frightened by his own anger and wildness. His troubles weren’t great: he wasn’t allowed to touch the record player, he couldn’t eat a peach on the couch, he had to be quiet in church. But he railed against these setbacks and was as angry as if his troubles had been great. It helped me realize that my sometimes disproportionate emotional responses to the limitations of my life were normal and even healthy.
I was built to follow my instincts. My life is easier and my burden lighter than a mother octopus’s: she starves herself to death refusing to leave her eggs untended to get food. But our differences are less interesting than what we have in common: we are both bound to our children by instincts so powerful it often feels as if we are left without a will.
The thing I most clearly remember about being in labour with my second son is my husband’s body. I remember its exact smell, size, and proportions. I was floating somewhere, outside of myself, and his body, inhabited by him, was the thing in the room I understood best. Holding on to that body kept me in that room. Otters entangle themselves in seaweed so as not to float away while they sleep in the water. Every once in awhile, he smells exactly like he did that night, or I catch his body at the angle I held onto it then and I am knocked sideways with emotion. I am sure this is actually just a surge in neurochemicals in my brain, dopamine and adrenaline in my blood — but it feels like love."

- Photo by Nikaele Marie Peters

Thursday, August 3, 2017

To The Lake House

Lake Nacimento, Ca

The first time she brought me I was 14. In 8th grade and as awkward as the age allows. In awe of the lush wall of wheat colored landscape that rolled by my window on the long snaking dirt road up, peppered by old oak trees strung with gaping moss, scattered horses roaming in the sun, and run down wood barns rotted with neglect scattered all along the hillsides. "God's Country" he grand father called it. Just as Steinbeck before him had already poetically defined in all those novels decades before.

For us it was an escape. From the slight lull down south just as summer starts to loose some of it's luster and the pains of real boredom started to set in. There were new people up north. Possibilities. A cabin that smelt as musty and water logged as the 1970's gold linoleum kitchen hinted. A place we were free to unhinge ourselves from the normal pressures of our age. Not stuck on impressing other friends, making plans or saving face. Doubting every move we made, or didn't make, or wanted to make. A place we could hang tight to the fading fringes of childhood passing. Unguarded and aloof in the sweltering hours of our all day dock hangs. We played ping pong in the garage, smoked cigarettes at the west ramp, made up songs, kissed unfamiliar boys, walked barefoot to the pool, stole beers from the community fridge, washed dishes, swung golf clubs, dived naked into the pitch black waters of the lake at midnight, and eventually grew home sick in the slow, glorious days away from home.

Going back I'm always reminded of how much time has passed even though so much still feels the same. The wall of framed family photos lining the dinning room now sun drained to the point of housing nearly blank squares. The old honda motorcycles we road so horribly on attempt too many times to count, traded. The wooden dock replaced by plastic. Her aunts, who's infamous blue eyes still shine like that of the ocean waters, grown gray and fragile. The grit of their defining character edged a little sharper too. The same. But older. We are too.

At the White Party, where we celebrate Jess and Rachel's marriage with family, there is a deck filled with people. A few faces I haven't seen in years. And others I keep up with on Facebook and other random run ins. Her cousin, the handsome, albeit reckless boy I use to steal away to make out with every summer until Mike, now a distinguished head chef at the swanky restaurant on the bay front. Her uncle with the life long affinity for Bruce Springsteen, her Nana, 93 - the one who scolded me for finding strands of my impossibly long hair I kept all through my teenage years, on the bathroom floor. Who showed us how to wash dishes in scolding hot water, played scrabble with us in the shade on deck in the afternoons, made polenta stew for a full table every visit and laughed heartily at her own jokes, now cursed with the seeds of senility making her softer, friendly, like a stranger in her own head from time to time. A light that goes in and out. Which I am reminded of whenever she leads me along the wall to show and tell me all about people I've known half my life. She tells me their name, where they are from, who they are related to. I let her. Every time, with every visit, because her brain is fogged but her Swiss pride, unwavering.

Jess's father, the one who drove us up all those years in that big white Expedition along the dull stretch of the 5 highway, pointing out landmarks and indulging in a rare McDonalds drive through along the way, now passed. His absence sitting heavy on our hearts throughout the celebration. Even if silently so. His name is said in a toast, his presence in everything we see and touch. His favorite destination, so long as I ever knew him, still thriving with food and wine family and conversation after he's gone. As he would indefinitely prefer.

Visiting now we arrive with the same excitement we kept at teens on escape. Except we are in charge of so much more. Marveled by the same oak trees on the drive up, carting bags full of groceries like a circus barreling out of that white van wielding balls, and boys and buckets and floats. A road trip that takes all eight of us to the same point to soak up the long weekend in mid July. Just as we've done so many years now.

Four days where my boys get a taste of what we loved so dearly growing up. Beds on deck beneath a scatter of stars, all day in the cool relief of those recently rising lake waters, on the dock, in the pool, out on deck. Trying new food, meeting new friends, playing "house' half naked with old dish ware and wooden cup cakes, popsicles bleeding blue streaks down their tummies, new crushes blooming in the hours they spend together. Footnotes of summer writing themselves in memory as the days unroll.

Where we eat, drink, laugh, and complain. Same as always. Gossip and nap. Snack, swim and wander. Same as always. Cram the van full of as many people as it will hold on a Sunday and drive to the pool late night just before closing with a game of Truth or Dare unfolds quietly in the pool hall corners while we entertained the younger ones. Music blaring, windows down the way there and back, songs from the soundtrack defined by this occasion. Creedence, Dylan, Waits, now Bieber.

The kind of experience they will remember down the line as one of their own. But tied to the ones we made before them. And ours, to those who forged plenty of their own long before we came along too.