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Friday, December 31, 2010

Final Call (Dec. 31, 2010)

Okay, okay. This is it. I'm quitting cold turkey with the decorations obsession, as of right now. We are mere hours away from the first day of 2011 and tomorrow all my decoration references will be so last year. But it was good while it lasted. Decorations made me smile and decompress just a degree or two when all the Christmas to-doing reached new levels of stressfulness. Maybe decoration therapy could be 2011's hot new catch-all remedy for stress. We need focus groups, of course. We need at least 1,000 people trying to kick dependencies on nicotine or even more addictive products (I-Phones and the like). We sit them in front of colorful, twirling decorations and see whether their need for de-stressing abates due to cheerful, song-singing snowmen. I really think there might be something to this! Hey, it's cheaper than the patch...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Got Lights? (Dec. 30, 2010)

Okay, I'm getting dangerously close to overdoing the decoration blogs. (And given that January is less than 48 hours away, I should wrap up my holiday fever chapter this minute.) But, bear with me. There are just so many cool photos to share. As you know, I love the very, VERY decorated houses, and these 3 photos show how much gusto a certain neighborhood has. Most of the houses in a 3-block area really decorate, and the cheer is contagious.

Later I need to ask Hubby where the photos are for my very favorite house of decorations. That will be my final blog about decorations, I promise. At least for this year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hard-Working Dude (Dec. 21, 2010)

Is Santa really as busy as he claims? There have been sightings all over town, and not the “hard at work” kind of sightings, either. Is this jolly red guy all play and no work? On Monday he took a “me” day, on Tuesday he called in sick, Wednesday he came in for the company Christmas lunch, and Thursday he was in the field, researching toys for grown-up kids. The paparazzi managed to get these photos of his “research.” I’d watch it, Santa. Even elves have their limits…

Feathered and Festive (Dec. 21, 2010)

You may know about my obsession with flamingos. Holiday time is no exception. The only thing more fun than a a flamingo decked out in holiday decorations. Flamingos love to celebrate. After all, they are festive 365 days a year. They wear flamboyant pink feathered costumes every day. If that doesn't scream "party animal," I don't know what does.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Rah Rah Rah (Dec. 7, 2010)

So I had this fun idea about blogging on each of the 25 days of December, leading up to (and including) Christmas. I'd share photos of houses decorated for the holidays, and it would be ultra-cheerful and fun and festive.

Um, since this is my first one on the subject and it's the 7th, I guess I'm off to a late start. Fashionably late? My revised goal is to post at least 3 entries of fun decoration displays. 3 is manageable, I think. (Of course, this is THE busiest time of the year and I'm up to my roots in things to do. Note: roots on people are up high, not like on trees, which reminds me that I should add to my To Do list throwing some red dye at my no-longer-brown roots. So you see, keeping it at a modest 3 entries is far more realistic than 10 or 15. Keep goal low and exceed goal! Maybe.)

Back to the decorations. If you saw my blog piece about Halloween decorations, you know that my favorite houses are not the elegantly-decorated ones all in white lights. No, I’m of the school of using as many colors and as many decorations as possible. A kaleidoscopic collage of color and cheer. (Not at my own house, where we have some decorations, but not covering every inch of front yard and roof. No storage space here for that! But at other people’s houses I love it!)

This morning after school drop-off I took a different route home and had to stop at a house with 7 inflatable decorations. See photos above. These are the ones that can be 5 or 6 feet tall, with moving parts. The blades on Santa’s helicopter spun. The wheels on his train moved. A few houses down he was riding an inflatable Harley. I love this stuff! I just dig the gusto. These people are fun, and they want to share the fun with others. The Harbingers of Happiness?

Stay tuned for more photos from highly-decorated places. I am scouting the county for spirit!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Jack's Wagon (Dec. 6, 2010)

Don’t you love when serendipity brings about a happy surprise?

Today in a parking lot I happened upon a very cool car. It was a coincidence that I was in that parking lot, one I find myself in only a few times a year. Further coincidence that this groovy car’s owner was returning to his car within the same minute I was looking for mine. Meant to be??!!!

It was a 1957 Chevrolet 210 Station Wagon. While I was taking a few photos of it, a man walked toward the car and I asked if he was the owner and did he mind that I was taking photos. Yes, and he had no problem with the photos, especially since I was already gushing over how cool it was. I noticed the white wall tires, the shiny chrome, the original yellow license plates. I liked how the rear side window curved a bit as it met the back windshield. I LOVED the pointy fins. Had I seen this very car in my neighborhood, a few miles away? I thought so and he confirmed it. It turns out I’d taken photos of this very car at a local fair, held in nearby park a year ago. We talked for a few minutes about the car and about my grandparents’ 1961 Rambler Cross Country Wagon, which shared a few design similarities. He introduced himself as Jack and he seemed happy to share his enthusiasm for his car with me. He told me that before he owned it, the car had spent twenty years in someone’s garage, and another ten in someone else’s. I appreciated the mini-lesson and the shared passion for this vintage car. He’s worked on it himself. The neighborhood where we both live is one where people cut their own grass and work on their own cars. I think this makes someone a lot more emotionally invested in a car, and maybe he was glad to talk with someone who shared some of his excitement over it.

(Let me stop a minute and ponder whether this is my first car-related blog piece. I think so. Next month marks 2 years since I created this blog, and I’ve been planning on telling you about the Rambler as well as the Isetta, one of the coolest cars EVER. Of course, life has been insanely Go-Go-Go lately so car blogging has been on the “To Do Later” list. Thoughts on cool older cars may warrant more than one blog piece so this is probably Part 1 of ?).

My interest in cars developed so slowly I can’t even pinpoint when it happened. I’m talking about older cars. New cars are fine. Reliable. Gas-efficient. But I don’t get excited about how they look. Older cars just look cool! I think my interest in cars of this era started as an extension of my excitement over 1950s and 60s design in general. Since I was a teen-ager I’ve loved mid-century signs and buildings. (More on this in future blogs.) I love these signs and buildings for how imaginative they were, far less influenced by function than by fun! Car culture was hot and cars of this era had a lot of style. In turn, businesses started using exaggerated architectural elements and huge neon signs to attract cars cruising the boulevards.

My favorite car is a 1957 Chevy Bel Air Convertible with major fins in back (painted turquoise, if possible).A year ago I didn’t have a favorite car, model or year, so it amuses me that I have developed such a specific favorite, almost overnight. I’ve never been one to rattle off specifics about engine size, 0-60 speed or engine oil preferences. Cars are so complex and I’m still under the impression that mine runs due to the efforts of a very tired hamster running in a wheel beneath the hood. So for me to become a bit of a car junkie surprised even me! But somehow, slowly, I became aware of older cars in my neighborhood. I liked how their body styles differed so much from newer cars. Occasionally I’d take photos of them, now and then looking on the Internet to guestimate their birth years.

When I was in preschool we drove my grandparents’ 1961 Rambler wagon for a while. I remember how it looked and smelled inside. The steering wheel size, slant and design seemed so different from cars in the 80s. The dashboard was different. So were the seats, tires and windows. Everything was different. I noticed all this as a child, so maybe my interest in older cars was born decades ago and lay dormant until recently. A few years ago my mom was finding a new home for the Rambler, and I took some photos of the car so I could remember it. Studying its details brought back my nostalgia for that car. In my neighborhood I started noticing more cars of that era. There were old cars in driveways, covered with plastic tarps. A neighbor has a beautifully-restored Chevy, with “Fiddie 5” on its license plate. I happened upon old car shows. I saw restored convertibles, cruising the freeways on Sunday afternoons. Suddenly, old cars were everywhere.

To meet Jack and his wagon today was a terrific surprise. I love it when people come together over a common interest. It sometimes feels like there is a lot that divides us, that self-identifying by political or other affiliations serves only to alienate people. Friendship over a car may seem silly, but the point is to connect as humans.

Oh, and did I mention that he had fuzzy dice hanging from the rear-view mirror?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Stupid or Brave? (Nov. 13, 2010)

There's really no need for words to accompany this photo.

But you know me: I don't give up an opportunity to provide humorous commentary.

You could not have staged this photo, which makes it all the more amusing. My daughter said "Lizard, Mama!" I looked and yes, there was a lizard. I wasn't the only one who had noticed. Either the lizard was brave to wiggle his tail in such a provocative manner near a cat, or he was stupid to do so. Or somehow, his lizard GPS system was malfunctioning and he didn't detect a quiet but hungry predator nearby. Very nearby. The last I saw of the lizard, he was being escorted by the cat to the exit. His exit. I suppose that's what you get for catching some sun in a neighborhood known for cat activity.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Anyone need a Quote? (Oct. 31, 2010)

Already it’s been a fun Halloween for me, and it’s barely 7am. I know my kids will have a terrific time, and they look so adorable in their outfits, but today, in this blog, this Halloween tale is about me!

In truth, this Halloween started about a year ago. I’ve been planning my costume for that long. Last Halloween I was 7 months pregnant and just getting together costumes for my two kids was enough of a challenge. (Picture a very pregnant me, stuffed into the costume section of Party City two days before Halloween, with my son and thirty or forty other costume-seekers. Hot, crowded, competitive vibe. This hadn’t been my plan but the costume we ordered online never showed up.)

Last year I thought briefly of being Pregnant and Progressive, but my To Do list was very long and I opted for a big orange t-shirt (I’d glued eyes, nose and mouth on it) and rather than trying to disguise my round shape, I used it to be become a true jack-o-lantern. Fun, but I knew I had big plans for the following Halloween: I would be Flo, the Progressive Girl, whose commercials I see almost daily. If you haven't seen her commercials, here is a link:

I’ve never attempted to dress like a specific public figure for Halloween, and while I like it when others dress as current politicians or celebrities, it hadn’t occurred to me to do so. But I’d noticed that with her dark hair, blue eyes and light skin, Flo looked like me! (Or that I look like her. Whatever.) Plus, she’s fun and spunky. Like me!

Over the summer my preparations began. At a thrift store I found white pants and shirt (doing this the thrifty way seemed in line with representing someone who offers low cost for insurance!). I bought a white apron from Michael’s and a navy headband. I made the name tags and painted “Progressive” on the apron, after Googling the logo so I could print it up and paint it just right. It’s hard to tease my fine hair into the 60s bouffant that Flo has, but I did my best. Black eyeliner? Check. Red lips? Double check.

Two days ago there was a Halloween carnival at my son’s school. Last year some of the parents were in costume so I decided to arrive in disguise this year. The little kids stared blankly at me (probably thinking, “Why is this woman wearing an all-white outfit? This is a costume? Poor lady, she forgets that you’re supposed to be scary for Halloween. Maybe we shouldn’t tease her. It’s not her fault.”).

HOWEVER, the parents loved it! The bigger kids got it, too, and called out to me, “Flo! Hey, Flo!” I winked or waved in response, happy with my friendly insurance ambassador role. I posed for photos. I offered insurance quotes. People laughed. I laughed.

What made the day so cool was two things: having my costume turn out just right was great. But there was also the symbolism of deciding to dress up. As mom of three, I often don’t prioritize doing something extra, just for me. Just getting the kids into costumes is a victory. So to take the time to make a costume that would give me a laugh is a gift. It also brought me back to my high school years, when I dressed very creatively and did crazy things at school, just to be fun and free and make people laugh. Bringing a little joy to the every day. Being Flo was like that. Flo, thanks for being my muse. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

And the Prize Goes To... (Oct. 30, 2010)

...the most Halloweeny house I've seen!

This may not surprise you, but when it comes to holiday decorating I'm of the More is More school! Not so much at my house (due to sheer lack of time and lack of storage space). But when it comes to my favorite neighborhood houses, the more decorations, the better. It never reads as too much to me. I love the gusto behind it! When you see a house this decorated, you can't help but be swept up into the fun of whatever holiday is coming.

Oh, one last thing:


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's Finished!!! (Oct. 6, 2010)

Announcement! Announcement!

This fabulous flamingo is finished, finally!

Well, 99% finished.

This is a victory, actually.

I started this project at least 3 months ago and in the beginning I had a lot of momentum, as I always do with creative things. But when I got to the tedious part (grouting), I put it aside for a while. Weeks and weeks, if you must know. But a few days ago I gave myself a mental slap across the face and decided I had to finish this ASAP. Finishing something provides a satisfaction, especially when you feel like your life has a lot of loose ends, as mine does.

In case you're wondering, the first photo shows a sketch I did in crayon over the summer before busting out my hammer and a mountain of tile and plates. (Side note: crayons are awesome. There's something very grounding about using them. Is it the waxy scent or how they instantly take you back to childhood, when life was simpler?)

I'm a multi-tasker so it's normal for me to have several projects going all at once. I'm the same with books--I often read more than one at a time. I like the variety and the excitement of starting something. Of course, having an unfinished project can weigh on me, so reaching completion today feels terrific.

However, don't ask me anytime soon if I'm doing another mosaic of this size (32" high x 18" wide) and detail (hundreds of pieces). This one took a lot of time (I didn't record how long it took, as I sometimes do, but I'm guessing between 35 and 50 hours. This is stretched over 3 months, mind you!).

Now I’m off to start one of the half-dozen projects I’ve had on my mind. Cycle? Repeating!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Full Moon Fever (Sept. 23, 2010)

Let me present Crime Scene Evidence, Exhibit A.

Blame it on the moon, which will be full tonight.

The mess that my day became started in the middle of the night with choppy sleep. Hubby woke in the dark for his business trip, our middle child came into the room and I had weird dreams. I got up before six, when my youngest woke up. The morning was harder than most, since Hubby wasn’t there to help get everyone dressed. With him gone, I’d be bringing all three as I took my oldest to school by eight. Not impossible but not easy. We got through the morning scramble.

But then things unraveled. We walked to preschool and the baby’s blanket kept slipping off the stroller, getting caught in the wheels, which annoyed me to no end. I was mid-rant about it when a neighbor and her daughter caught up to us, on their way to school. She must have thought I was nuts but sometimes you just can’t put on a happy face. She asked if I was okay and I told her the truth, a vehement “No!” I told her I’d already had quite a day—nothing catastrophic but as my friend Sandy says, death by 1000 paper cuts. Finally we made it to school. Two kids taken care of, only one left.

In the parking lot, I reached under the stroller to get something to quiet the baby. Everything was covered in red goo. It looked like blood. What had my kids put under the stroller? I moved to the edge of the parking lot and began tossing items out of the stroller onto the parking lot. Everything seemed to have at least some red goo on it. With each messy item my frustration rose, especially since I couldn’t even figure out what the goo was. My kids’ hats had goo on them. A diaper with goo. Random stuff had goo. I managed to empty my full purse into the stroller’s lower storage area. Of course. Literally a hundred items now into the mysterious red goo. Began crying. Just so frustrated. (Some people would rather die than cry in public but sometimes, you just can't take it any more and you have to let it out. It was theraputic!) My friend arrived like a fairy godmother, to help. A teacher brought plastic bags so I could get the clean(ish) stuff away from the goo, which was pooled at the bottom of the under-stroller storage area. Finally figured out the source of the mess: a Tupperware container I’d put into the stroller this morning and forgotten. It had some frozen raspberries in it, and as they thawed they oozed some juice, which oozed out of the container too, EVEN THOUGH THE LID WAS ON AS TIGHTLY AS POSSIBLE. My friend and the teacher helped, and eventually I began laughing a little. I dried my eyes on the juice-spattered diaper, and turned down the offer for a tissue (after all, diapers are much more absorbent). What was it about today? It was only 9:10am and I’d already had a tough day. If, as the saying goes, tragedy plus time equals comedy—well, I’d need a few weeks before I could laugh about today.

Later, as I took the stroller out of my car, I managed to spill the remaining contents (all juice-saturated) out of the bottom of it onto the ground. My baby bit me on the same nipple twice within ten minutes. Serious pain. Today just seemed to be a tough one: spills in the car, fights between the kids, random small frustrations clustered into a day. On a happier note, my sweet friend Roxie left me a potted plant outside my door, with a note of encouragement attached. She’d been the one to scrape me up off the parking lot earlier, and I’m so grateful for her support. (Thanks, Rox.)

It’s been eight hours since the red goo began oozing, and I’m less annoyed. Even laughed a little as I described it to a friend. But I tell you, maybe next month I’ll block off on my calendar the day of the full moon, and as a public service to my city, maybe I won’t even try to leave the house that day!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cecil and the Yuccas (Sept. 17, 2010)

Yucca blossoms remind me of my next-door neighbor Cecil, because there are several Yucca trees on his property. I'd noticed Yuccas a little bit in the past, but really came to appreciate them once I moved next door to Cecil and his Yuccas, seven years ago. I love how they suddenly sprout a luminous white flower in August and February. Since it's September, the blossoms are starting to go. But they'll be back.

Cecil died 12 days ago. It seems so fitting to me that he died during Yucca blossom season. I think he was 85, which is pretty impressive. I saw him for the last time a few weeks ago, and he laughed a little at my jokes. Despite his declining health, he still had his humor. The symbolism feels so right-on: Cecil's soul left his broken body to soar, just as the gorgeous Yucca flower rises from a dull, grayish tree. This sturdy flower is proof of life.

Monday, September 13, 2010

All Hail the Mighty Dot (Sept. 13, 2010)

Ok, are you feeling happier now? I am! Do not tell me that polka dots are not cheerful. I won’t have it. I love this pattern! As always, I must pinpoint why I love something. It’s not that I have to be scientific about my preferences, but haven’t you noticed that things you like make you FEEL a certain way? So it’s no coincidence. We like what we like, yes, but WHY?

Polka dots are simply fun. This idea floated to the surface for me relatively recently. I’ve been attracted to polka dots for a while, but lately I’ve been thinking about them more. Here are some thoughts:

· This pattern is playful. Occasionally you see them in a more formal context but for the most part, they have a whimsical vibe. For me, fashion should be fun, not serious.

· Usually either the dot or the background is a happy color. You haven’t seen a lot of gray dots, right? And I love happy colors: red, pink, yellow, etc. Bright colors cheer us up.

· I recently noticed that polka dots are often used in little girls’ clothing, which is inherently much more fun than grown-up clothing (which generally believes it needs to be serious). Why do kids get all the fun? Maybe grown-ups would be happier if they had more FUN clothing!

· Perhaps I associate dots with fun because of memories from my childhood, when I wasn’t consciously studying things. Perhaps it is the images from those years that make associations so strong. For instance, Minnie Mouse wears a red dress with polka dots, and her character brings up happy thoughts. She’s cheerful. Disneyland is a happy place. And I know that some people hate clowns, but clowns have fun outfits, often polka-dotted. You get the picture.

· Could my appreciation involve associations with 1950s and 60s design? Polka dots were big then, and I do like midcentury design for its playfulness.

I did a little research on why we call this pattern the Polka Dot. Some sources claim that the name comes from the mid to late-1800s, when Polka music and dancing were invented. Polka dancers sometimes wore clothing that had dots on it, and the name stuck. Another site says that there was no connection between Polka music and dotted fabric. It may not matter, really, because the dot is here to stay. So thank you, whoever you are, for giving us dots!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sept. 11, 2010

I wasn’t planning to blog about 9-11 today. Seems too predictable. Also, the 9-11 footage I saw on tv last week disturbed me so much, and it’s hard to find words to fit it. But I read someone’s blog today and it inspired me to write. I’ll keep it brief. Long-winded isn’t always better, I’m finally discovering.

All I could do on 9-11 was get through the day. It was so shocking, and so horrifying. I had a part-time job working with young kids, and they talked about it at school. I remember feeling compelled to watch the coverage, but at the same time, feeling like it was too much to see.

One year later we’d moved back to Southern California and I participated in a remembrance at the stadium, organized by a radio show. Each of us was given a name to read into a microphone, and it was broadcast all over the city. A bell rang after each name was read. The names were in plastic-sleeved name tags. This presentation felt meaningful: with someone else’s name pinned to your shirt, there was a deeper connection to the person who had died.

I still have the name tag. It reads Paul R. Salvio, World Trade Center. He was 27 when he was killed. I felt a connection to him not only as an American, but also because I was 27 when 9-11 happened. Coincidence, yes, but whatever. We find significance where we find it.

Amid all the heartache surrounding 9-11, it was beautiful how people reached out to others, and how people all over the world mourned with America. That date changed the world. But the world isn’t broken, and neither is America.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Name That Plant (August 26, 2010)

It's not a tall weed, despite what you're thinking. You see, if you give it a name, it can't be considered a weed. It's a plant you've nurtured and grown on purpose. And yes, it's more than six feet tall.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sunset for Roxie (Aug. 25, 2010)

I took this photo tonight, since the sunset was so intensely colored. Some people might not like that the wires from telephone poles are in the photo but I actually think it makes it prettier. Telephone wires are everyday stuff, and intense sunsets are amazing. I like the contrast between the mundane and the extraordinary.

This sunset is for Roxanne. Happy Birthday to my most frequent blog-reader. Thanks, RoxStar!

The Elephant Tree (August 25, 2010)

One day, as a boy was getting into the car with his mom, he spotted a wild animal exploring his suburban neighborhood. "Mom, there's an elephant behind our neighbor's house," he shouted with a mix of excitement and disbelief.

His mom looked in the direction he pointed and sure enough, there did appear to be an elephant behind the house across the street. "Let's go check it out," his mom said, and they got into the car, feeling very much like they were on a real safari.

A block away the boy and his mom found the elephant in front of someone's house. It was taller than a house, and it held its head toward the sun. It was actually a tree, growing in a way they had never seen before. Why was it not growing straight up, as many trees do? Why did it have one rebellious branch, growing diagonally in the exact shape of an elephant's trunk? Why did the part leading up to the trunk look exactly like an elephant's head? Neither the boy nor his mom had answers to their questions, and they were just a little bit disappointed that it wasn't a real elephant. But they gazed at the tree with wonder and felt glad that such a magical tree lived in their neighborhood.

Sometimes the boy and his mom imagine that the elephant tree has a secret life after dark. All day long he stays still while others look at him, but night time is his chance to look around. When the neighborhood shuts its eyes and goes to sleep, under the light of the stars the elephant tree stretches his trunk, shakes his ears, and slowly lifts his legs, eager to explore. Through the silent streets he tiptoes (as much as an elephant can tiptoe). Nighttime is his favorite time because he talks to the moon and smells the jasmine growing at his neighbors' houses. Only the moon knows the elephant's secret, because no one ever has ever seen him during his discoveries in the dark. At least not yet...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cement Block Party (August 16, 2010)

Recently I became hyper-aware of a cool design element. I’d noticed it before, but suddenly I saw more of it and was fascinated. Isn’t it funny when you suddenly become attuned to something you know was there before, and you wonder why you hadn’t become interested in it much sooner? Do you know Decorative Cement Block? I LOVE it! A little background on what I dig. I’m an artist and an architecture enthusiast, so I tend to notice architectural elements. The neighborhood where I live is a 1950s and 60s development of Ranch-style houses. Ours was built in 1958 but has no cement block. However, there are two houses a few blocks away with decorative cement block. In my immediate neighborhood of several hundred houses, why are there only two with this decorative element? I want more back story!

Today my newfound infatuation with the decorative block led me to drive through a neighborhood a few miles away, where I’d seen decorative block. I slowed down to take photos, wondering if the owners were inside, thinking that my camera and I looked suspicious. Of course, with my ponytail and red Mickey Mouse shirt, I probably looked unlikely as a spy but maybe that’s what real spies do—they try to look unthreatening! Upon returning home I raced to the computer and (with anticipation mounting) Googled “decorative cement block.” My heart raced with excitement at the images. Google is a treasure trove of info about these blocks, and it connected me to sites created by others who are as excited as I am about vintage architecture and design. I had a memory of seeing a Frank Lloyd Wright design as a child, and decided to research Frank Lloyd Wright’s use of cement block. Here is his quote:

“What about the concrete block? It was the cheapest (and ugliest) thing in the building world. It lived mostly in the architectural gutter as an imitation of rock-faced stone. Why not see what could be done with that gutter rat? Steel rods cast inside the joints of the blocks themselves and… why would it not be fit for a new phase of our modern architecture? It might be permanent, noble, beautiful."

As ideas and images of the blocks swirled through my head, I recalled the first two times I was aware of them. It was when I was a kid. I remember seeing decorative blocks used as a room divider in someone’s house. I’m not sure whose house it was, but there were some 1960s houses not far from where we lived. I must have been less than ten years old, but I remember it. I was intrigued by this divider—the materials were not what I associated with the inside of a house. It divided the space, but let in light. As a child I drew daily and as a teen discovered architecture, but at eight or ten years old I didn’t have the vocabulary yet to identify what I saw and liked. And yet 25 years later I remember this room divider. It made quite an impression.

My other memory about cement blocks involves my Aunt Betty. She is an artist and teacher and when I was about ten, she took me to an art exhibit where she had a piece of art. I remember the experience, and her telling me how I could apply to enter exhibits, too. For that particular show you had to be at least eighteen, which seemed light years off. But I remember that day! I recall the bright lights from the ceiling, the white walls, the art displayed, and all the people milling about. We must have gone to Hollyhock House that day, too, as it was in Barnsdall Park, where the exhibit was. At ten I’d never heard of Frank Lloyd Wright, but seeing Hollyhock House was my introduction to the legendary architect. (Thank you, Aunt Betty! I’ll always appreciate that you wanted to nurture my creative spark, showing me art beyond my own collection of crayons.).

The block is interesting to me in its geometry. When made into a wall it has vertical and horizontal lines but also has creative shapes within it. It is structural and functional but also decorative. I like that it is humble, too. Cement can hardly be called pretentious, but it still has such a cool look. I read today that decorative block was a staple in midcentury modern design, a style I like for its geometry and innovative use of space. A trip to Palm Springs to ogle the 1950s architecture is in the works. I drove by another house today, a mile from mine. Just a few days ago I'd noticed its wall of decorative cement block, which is painted a Notice Me shade of turquoise (bravo to them for appreciating their block, as well as color!). Why had I not noticed the house before? I started to really look for more block and discovered three more houses on the next street, houses I’d driven by hundreds of (or a thousand) times. How could I have missed it? Now I’m on a hunt for block. Some people might not understand my appreciation of this material, but if it’s a block party just for one, that’s ok by me!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Perfect Combination (August 11, 2010)

Some matches seem to be made in Heaven. This happy couple met the day that each finished a contract in the Food Service department. Although it was their final day at work, once they met neither felt empty, instead filled with joy. They say that while their origins are different, they have a lot in common and feel like yin and yang, the perfect complement to each other.

They celebrated their union on Saturday, surrounded by many friends. The bride was resplendent in white and the groom cut a dashing figure in black. The bride's attendants were Rosemary and Ginger, long-time friends she had grown up with in The Cabinet, a neighborhood marked by diversity and flavor.

The couple is honeymooning in the Spice Islands and is excited to start their new life together. As Pepper said when he toasted his bride, "From now on, wherever you find one of us, you'll find the other."

Friday, August 6, 2010

You're Fired! (Aug. 6, 2010)

Firing changes everything. Just ask Donald Trump.

On second thought, let's leave him out of this. His gigantic ego is too big to fit in this blog!

Back to firing. The ceramic variety, that is. Here are two photos of a tile I painted. The top photo shows the tile before being fired in a kiln, and the lower photo is what the tile looked like after firing. Isn't it cool to see the ways in which the colors have changed due to firing? What I loved about my time at the ceramics studio was the freedom I felt. I kept layering color, with no fixed expectations about which would dominate after the tile was fired. So it's a fun surprise to see how it turned out. The yellow and orange parts are now brighter. The red surprised me by really coming through, even though there were all kinds of colors layered over it. The purple, blue and green became darker.

This serendipity is one reason I love tie-dye, too. With certain art forms, the artist creates but there is also an element of surprise in the result. Embracing life's unpredictability is probably key to survival (physical as well as emotional). We often cannot control the result.

Nobody wants to be fired. But if it happens, maybe it can be the catalyst to something even better: like the kiln, it might bring about change that is even brighter than you imagined...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Work in Progress (Aug. 5, 2010)

Here are two photos of a mosaic piece I'm working on. I designed it myself, and it features my favorite animal: the flamingo. I love this creature for several reasons. They are pink (a happy, beautiful color). They are so different from many other birds with their curvy, long necks. I love their one-legged stance. If you hadn't seen them with your own eyes, you'd think they were the creation of a cartoonist because their anatomy is so exaggerated--almost comical!

Usually I don't show a piece of my art until it's finished. I'm sure it has a lot to do with wanting to show something at its best. But I'm challenging myself to be less concerned with peoples' reactions/approval. Showing something in progress is a baby step.

I also wanted to see if I could post 2 photos in the same posting. I'm in the Fred Flintstone-era when it comes to technology. In case you haven't watched an episode of the Flintstones lately, at Fred's work there is a brachiosaurus who lifts things up on his head. Isn't that how you "upload?" Yeah, my reference point is not exactly cutting-edge. But ALL BY MYSELF I figured out how to upload more than one photo per post. Yippee! Progress, baby!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Soul Spa Day (July 23, 2010)

Color and more color!

If you’ve spent at least one minute around me (and seen my clothes, my house, my walls and my art) you know I love color. Sometimes color is a reflection of my cheerful personality. Other times it’s medicinal: a way to get back to a happier mood.

A few days ago I painted ceramics at a place in OB, a funky neighborhood in San Diego. I’m an artist, so painting and creating is part of who I am. But it had been nearly a decade since I’d painted ceramics. Recently I started work on a mosaic piece of art and it rekindled my appreciation for tile, which is partly why I found myself at the ceramics studio. The owner and her young son welcomed me. I told her how much l liked the floor, which was splotchy with the remnants of turquoise tiles that had been sanded away. The irregularity of it was just right for a place where imagination can’t be confined by pattern. Brazilian instrumental music played and there were potted and fresh flowers on the tables. Everything about the place was cool: it’s in an older building with high ceilings and lots of light coming in through the clerestory windows. The owner’s desk was a huge antique piece with a creative jumble on top resembling my art studio at home. The piles made the place seem more authentic to me, less corporate, a place motivated by creativity rather than by profits alone. I used to feel frustrated that my studio seemed so impossible to organize. But now I embrace it. Creativity needs freedom, not hospital corners. I’ll take a happy mess over a miserable tidiness, as the quote goes.

I chose a chair—all are mismatched, which I love—and about eight glaze colors and began. No plan. No design. Just experimentation, freedom, playfulness. I layered colors, making lines, swirls, blobs and dots. Needed more color, being me. Had so much fun I helped myself to another tile. My body relaxed and I was in the moment. It was an hour devoted to the senses: I was vaguely aware of background noise from the foot traffic outside and smells from the taqueria nearby, but mostly I was caught up in the movement of the brush and peace inside me.

One thing I like about ceramic glazes is that I don’t know exactly how the piece will look after being fired in the kiln. I like that there is an element of unpredictability and uncontrollability. The layers may be translucent or more opaque and may be darker or lighter than I thought. The surprise effect adds to the serendipity of it and it’s a great antidote to the rest of my life, where I have expectations about the results.

These tiles may meet my hammer and become part of my mosaic work. Or I may keep them intact, as a reminder of my hour in the ceramics studio, my mini-vacation for the soul.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Blogger Math (June 21, 2010)

I’m laughing about my blogging pattern. In the last few days I’ve become a blogging fool: this is my 4th blog in 4 days. As of four days ago, I’d blogged exactly 5 times in the last 6 months: once a month, except for February, when there were zero blogs. I’m guessing that my infrequency in blogging has a lot to do with the fact that 6 months ago I had my third child. Something about the numbers does support my theory: 3 kids, 1 million diapers changed, 782 messes cleaned, 418 crises managed, 53 trips to the supermarket, 1100 miles carpooled, 6 months, 5 blogs. I call it Blogging Math. This combination of factors will produce a number of blogs per month equal to or smaller than the number of full moons per month. (Still following me? I may be mixing metaphors but I think it works…) I just love my wacky pattern of few blogs, then tons. Must ask mathematician Dad for his thoughts on these clusters…

Farm Sweet Home (June 21, 2010)

We love our farm. Our farm is in the suburbs, beside the driveway, between our house and the neighbor’s fence, and next to the garage. So maybe it’s not how most farms are laid-out. And maybe it’s not really a farm! But I’m feeling all gung-ho because today the first two peaches of the season fell off one of our trees. They’re both ripe and so our peach season officially has begun.

In 21st-centry America, most people get their produce from a grocery store. We’re no exception. When you choose fruit at the store, you know it was grown somewhere, but you don’t see it happen. So it’s exciting to bear witness to the process. Each spring we see our trees put forth their first tiny green leaves and in the summer we watch as doll-sized fruit becomes bigger, more colorful and eventually, ready for picking. It’s easy to get fruit from the store, but it’s gratifying to pick it yourself, at home. The first two peaches to jump off the tree are yellowish-orange-colored, between a golf ball and tennis ball in size, and they smell sweet. Is it a coincidence that they ripened and left the tree on the first official day of summer? Who knows? But it sure feels like summer is here….

Friday, June 18, 2010

Isn't That Where Everyone Keeps it? (June 18, 2010)

It seems I was a little distracted recently (for about the last six years, if you want to be technical). In cleaning up one morning, I may have put things into cabinets (okay, ROOMS) where they don't usually reside...

Hey, life is going to be full of wacky moments. I might as well laugh about it!

Ahh, the Simple Pleasures (June 18, 2010)

Today I cut into a perfectly ripe, gorgeous pineapple. It was just the right combination of sweet and tart, and I was inspired to blog about it. Not all blog pieces need to be about the milestones in life. It's about whatever inspires you at the time....

When I picked out the pineapple at Costco I thought it had potential because I sniffed it and didn't smell much. In the past I've picked ones that smelled great. But I've learned the hard way that if your pineapple smells really ripe in the store, it's already starting to rot.

Eating a piece of beautifully ripe pineapple is one of life's simple joys. A blog piece in its honor seemed appropriate. After all, life is about the small moments that make you happy....

Monday, May 31, 2010

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning (May 31, 2010)

Two days ago the hubby and I hiked to the top of Cowles Mountain. It’s not very far from where we live, but far enough away that you only find yourself there with some planning. We hadn’t been up there together in at least five years. Something to do with the three-kid juggle. But our babysitter was available, and we realized it we didn’t do it then, it might be another year before it occurred to us!

There were plenty of other people who had the same idea. Hikers and trail runners scurried up and down the mountain as we arrived and I took the opportunity to people-watch. There were hikers of all ages and nationalities: preschool-aged kids on up to a grandma or two motoring down the trail. We passed college students, families, and solo hikers. Some had tattoos, some Ipods, and one man even wore flip-flops. Sometimes we exchanged hellos. A place like Cowles gives you the opportunity to share the land with others but also a chance to experience it at your own pace and through your own eyes. Everyone takes something different away from the experience.

We reached the top and took a few minutes to absorb the 360-degree view. The mountain’s peak is 1,592 feet above sea level, making it the city’s highest point. To the west I saw Point Loma, downtown and Mt. Soledad. To the south was bright blue Lake Murray and out east Mt. Helix stood tall. Filling in the gaps were what make up a city: roads, cars, trees, parks, schools and residential neighborhoods, all the pieces fitting together like a mosaic. The tidy rows of homes below in Del Cerro looked like Monopoly houses with their identical pitched roofs. Somehow it always gives me a sense of peace, looking down on the city. I notice how small the houses are in the grand scheme of things, and I’m reminded that my life (worries, frustrations and all) is just a teeny piece of something much larger than I am. The view from up high literally gives me a different perspective, and that’s a good thing.

When we weren’t gazing into the distance, we studied the wild flowers blooming just off the trail. We smelled wild sage, and touched flowers with petals the size of a pin head. There were car-sized boulders dotting the reddish-brown dirt and not one piece of litter. It seems Cowles’ hikers respect her.

We hiked on the Saturday before Memorial Day. Although our decision to hike at Cowles had nothing to do with the holiday weekend itself, it seems fitting for this reason: Memorial Day is a day that unites all Americans. We collectively appreciate those who have fought for our country’s safety and freedoms. Like the hikers atop Cowles Mountain, Americans are a diverse group. Each of us approaches life differently: some race up and down the trail, pushing themselves to the limit. Others go slowly, stopping to smell flowers and watch lizards. Some listen to music on their journey, some talk and others go to hear the wind in the scrub brush. Same trail, different motivations. But those who seek out Cowles share an appreciation for the mountain, just as all Americans—diverse as we are—can unite in our love of America. I gazed out over my county, and felt grateful for the strength and spirit of America. A beautiful morning indeed…

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Joy of Repurposing (April 15, 2010)

If you don’t browse thrift stores, you don’t know the fun of discovering a treasure hidden among the coffee mugs, sweaters and love-worn toys. The only rule of thumb for thrift stores is not to expect to find a specific item. Thrift stores, after all, are the gathering place of all things random. But stumbling upon something intriguing is what makes it cool.

A few days ago I treated myself to a thrift store gem. In the household goods section of the store I happened upon a ceramic candle holder, hand-made and glazed with various colors. At 99 cents, I couldn’t argue, and I knew immediately what my plans for it were.

Inside the candle holder there was a wad of wax gripping one wall of the cone-shaped interior. Perhaps the original owner didn’t know how to remove the melted candle and instead opted to give the holder away. I couldn’t believe someone would want to part with a one-of-a-kind piece of art, but I was glad to adopt it on the spot.

At home I turned on my hair dryer and aimed it at the candle holder. A few minutes later the wax was pliable enough to remove. I stuffed some dirt into the cavity and chose a few succulents from my collection outside. Being a plant junkie, I know that I can repot succulents with roots (and even those without roots). I tucked a few pieces into the dirt, ensuring that the plant was peeking out the cut-outs in the pottery. There were six tiny almond-shaped windows on each side of the opening of this piece, and I thought it would look great to see the plants growing out of the peek-holes. The fact that the piece is slightly asymmetrical just added to its charm. The irregularity it what makes hand-made art unique.

The hodge-podge nature of thrift stores makes them great places to go to exercise your creative muscle. Take something that calls to you and turn it into something else. Voila!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bring on Spring! (March 19, 2010)

Every February I notice with glee that something has arrived, changing everything overnight. Even if the skies are gloomy over gray miles of concrete connecting San Diego, when the freeway flowers bloom overnight, my whole world looks bright. The highlighter-orange flowers pop up from the ice plant bordering the freeways, their blossoms like spiky heads of hair, poking in all directions. There are also yellow ones, fuchsia flowers and this year, even some purple blooms. Our rainy winter is paying dividends.

Some people might find the brightness of these flowers to be too much. Others may prefer exotic flowers that must be carefully tended in a greenhouse. Not me. I love that these bright spots of color thrive with no planned watering. Their brightness is exactly why I dig them so much. They aren’t pale pastels, timid and unobtrusive. NO! They are bold and vibrant, the equivalent of a cheer, when other flowers are whispering.

Even in San Diego where sunshine, not snow, marks our winter, spring makes a grand entrance. I started noticing the freeway flowers about a month ago, but now they are heralding Spring in full force, parading down the freeways’ edges in random bunches. Tomorrow is the first day of spring, according to my calendar, but for several weeks flowers have started to bloom everywhere. Tiny fruits, the size of green peas, have crept out of the branches of our peach tree. Brand-new green leaves dot trees that were bare a few weeks ago. It’s a coordinated explosion of life, and I am thrilled each year when it starts. I wonder if we’ll have a newborn batch of hummingbirds in the nest hidden in our Jasmine vine, as we did last April. Suddenly, everything seems different. Daylight Savings started six nights ago and the days already feel warmer. The growth and warmth and colors all bring such optimism. It’s hard not to feel happy as this season arrives.

Spring? Yes, please!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Football Fever (Jan. 17,2010)

My first mistake was assuming that there wouldn’t be many people there on a Sunday morning. Of course, things are different on a Sunday when there’s a big game. The grocery store was busy. Usually I don’t pay much attention to sports but I do know that the Super Bowl is 3 weeks from now so today’s game was a big one. I started counting Chargers shirts and jerseys in the parking lot. There were dozens. I saw them in the produce department, on check-out clerks and in the snack aisle, where one lady was loading her cart with bags of chips the size of bed pillows, for a super-sized football party, no doubt.

My second mistake was assuming that I could hold and breastfeed my newborn with one hand while pushing the shopping cart with the other. It was do-able for a long time, but the cart finally became heavy and harder to steer in the last two aisles, where I bought 2 gallons of milk and 3 liters of diet soda. No, I told the clerk, I didn’t need help out. Eleven bags of groceries plus the milk, but I’m a first-born, determined to do things myself.

On the drive home a vintage car bounced happily ahead of me, the huge thunderbolt flag above it doing the hula in the breeze. Another car had small flags sticking up from each passenger door. My son’s school allowed the kids to wear Chargers shirts or colors on Friday. Did San Diego have football fever? It felt like it. And it felt contagious. I’ve never been a sports fan but even I felt the excitement building in the city.

I wanted to blog about it, but by the time I got back from a birthday party and onto the computer I’d learned that the Chargers lost today’s game. But I’m writing nonetheless because what although their season is over, something else is still there. When your city is part of the playoffs, maybe it’s not really about the game, the team or the Super Bowl itself. What moved me wasn’t the chance to be swept up in the tidal wave of victory. No, to me the sudden sea f blue shirts represented something much bigger, much more important: a sense of unity. I liked seeing kids, grandmas, bankers and bikers all unified. In a city as big as San Diego people race around, leading their lives, rushing to or from work, living near other people but without interacting. People may not know their neighbors or spend the time to find common ground with those around them. The number of blue shirts was a physical sign that we as people have a lot in common. Sports doesn’t need to be the catalyst for coming together, but if it is, so be it. Whatever inspires us to search for what we have in common with others is valid. Although today’s game ended poorly for San Diego, it heartened me to see people united. Maybe it will inspire us to find other ways to come together with those around us…