Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Art Studio

When P was around two years old I wanted to get her a canvas to paint.  The work of small children is so ....real? I can't think of an all encompassing word to describe it.  I had the luxury of focusing on just P when it was just us two. I loved going to Create Studio and watch her paint. I could study the thoughts behind her process. Then P turned 3, then 4, then I had G.  My focus became divided. They are growing fast. They're now 6 and 2! That was it! I couldn't let another day go by and not capture their art properly.  It was time to Carpe Diem!

Summer arrived. Goal #1: buy a large canvas and let the girls "Jackson Pollock" it.  June came and went. Other goals got done. July came and went. We were crazy sick for three weeks. It's now August and the girls go back to school in two weeks. Carpe Diem! 

Two days ago I finally bought a 36x48" canvas. Yesterday I bought acrylics and supplies at Dick Blick in Pasadena while Dave and I were on a date night. This morning I tarped up part of the garage to protect the walls and create an "art studio" where the girls could freely paint.  The process was pretty spectacular but exhausting.  It was controlled chaos to let a 6 and 2 year old go to town with paint. 

We will definitely have more "studio days" ahead of us. It was a blast. However, I will never forget that the day I "Carpe Diem" was the very same day we lost "O Captain My Captain".  The day will always be marked in my heart. The final product is pretty impressive, if I do say so myself. It will remind me to always Carpe Diem with my girls and our dreams. 

The process went like this:
It took me a good chunk of the morning to clean up, clear out and tarp a space in the garage. By the time I was done the girls were hungry so we ate before painting. 

Mixing. I bought primary colors with black and white so they could create even more colors. The mixing began but it took a lot of explaining and me constantly say "Wait! Wait! Not yet!" But color creation is part of the education.

P got the first brush stroke.

G joined in pretty quickly.  My biggest challenge was keeping my mouth shut and letting them do what they thought looked best.  I wanted to art direct BADLY.  On the flip side, allowing them to create but also keep in check that there are limits to what we can paint was a challenge. Or, to be more exact, there's a limit to how much paint a canvas can take. 

It was special watching them be "in it", focused, driven, creative. 

Then P got her Jackson Pollock on!

It got kind of aggressive and fun. We had music playing. Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers were setting the tone at this point. 

The canvas was moved to the floor. Big drips were ON! Without supervision, all of the containers would have been completely used up!  Walking that fine line of freedom with supervision is hard and exhausting.  

The Jackson Pollock technique didn't go too far because P would drip and splatter and G would brush it together.  Then P gave up and joined in the smearing. At this point I'm thinking, this is not going up on our walls. I had to step in finally and art direct...a little.  I took a very wide brush and brushed in one direction over the canvas. P took over from there. She continued brushing top to bottom. Then she took a wooden dowel and pushed all the paint to the middle of the canvas, creating a mound while uncovering some of the colors beneath. Next she ran the brush horizontal through the mound of paint and the project was finished. I did have to say "You're done! Don't touch it anymore!" I knew from the beginning I'd have to use my editorial eye to know when to walk away.  

The painting has great texture.   It's going to go up in our bedroom. I also have plans to glam up our boudoir!  G is now big enough to raise the bed back up off the ground. 

Later, P was staring up at the sky. I asked her what she was looking at as I looked up myself and saw Altocumulus clouds, the kind that have a repetitive pattern across the sky. P said "I"m looking at brush strokes". She is seeing the world in a different way. My project was a success. That's all I ask for; opening up the mind and changing a perspective. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Feeling very South Beachy

Our back patio faces west.  In other words, we get beamed every afternoon by the very hot sun.  Plant some trees and give yourself some shade you say?  I wish...

The layout going east to west goes like this:
Sliding glass door, covered patio, open patio, pool, fence.  There is no space between the house and the fence to plant a tree without cutting into the concrete.  I worry...about roots invading our pool and cracking it.  I worry...about dropping leaves that cause havoc on the ph balance of the pool.  I hear pine needles are deadly with all their oils.  And we're already having ph balance issues after the pool man kindly obliged to my request of lowering the chlorine.  I making the pool green!

For almost seven years I've schemed on how to give us shade without having to do a complete overhaul of the back yard. There is no way to shade the house without completely shading the pool.  Finding a solution while taking into consideration shaded areas, cost, impact on the pool and style has been daunting.  

Meanwhile, inside in our living, dining and kitchen areas we feel the heat through the windows. We sweat and bake, specially in summer, where it honestly feels as if the sun has her face smooched up against our back sliding glass door! Even after adding insulation to the house we continued to feel the heat a great deal. It was miserable....until I had an idea!  

A very long time ago I remember being in South Beach for a business meeting.  We met at a bar (because that is where business takes place in cities with the word "beach" in their name). We sat in low, white sofa like lounge chairs and the entire outside patio had long, flowing, white curtains. They were useful to block the sun, add privacy and looked romantic yet regal. That was the solution!  Long, flowing, white curtains hung on the outside of our covered patio! And to Ikea we ran! 

We bought 5 Merete curtain sets. I used 3 panels per patio section. So in between each post I used 3 panels. I wanted a very industrial looking set of hardware to hang the curtains. I was thinking pipe and cool looking yacht hooks. However, the rings on the curtains didn't slide smoothly on the test pipe.  The cost was a bit daunting to.  Those cool looking yacht hooks can run $20-50 each.  I kept it simple and used the Hugad rods, the thicker of their rods, in silver and the Betydlig brackets in silver as well. The rods are $4 a piece and the brackets $1.50.  You just can't beat that!  We'll see how they hold up to exterior weather conditions but at these prices I don't mind having to replace them every 2-3 years.  

The idea has been a success!  In the mornings the curtains are pulled apart and we get our view of the pool.  As soon as the sun makes it over the house and starts peeking in which happens around 2pm we draw all the curtains.  The sun is completely blocked.  It's still very bright.  The drop in temperature inside the house is amazing!  Instead of hiding away from the outdoors in the afternoon we now use the patio.  The temperature is tolerable now and we've gained not just our living and dining areas back but our patio as well!  

I think the house has a resort feel to it now.  I feel like I'm back in South Beach.  Dave predicts we'll take the curtains down in the winter but I feel we'll use them during the cold months as well.  I think they will make the patio warm enough for us to want to spend more time out there.  Rain is the only kicker.  They get pretty dirty from the water on the ground. But it's nothing a run through the washing machine won't get rid of. 

We've really loved our new curtains outside.  They even make a pretty cool back drop for pictures as you can see in the top picture!

Friday, August 8, 2014


Blueberries. The girls eat them by the fistfuls. Organic blueberries are not cheap. I'm going broke!  I decided it was time to invest in blueberry bushes. I bought two. I had no idea you could grow blueberries in Southern California. I thought they needed cool places like Oregon and Washington.  But a friend of ours has blueberries. She told me there are varieties that require less "chill period".  And her's were in wine barrels to supply the bushes with the right soil. And so I did the same. 

As I mentioned before, the area surrounding our pool has no shade.  It's an ideal spot for growing lots of edibles that require lots of sun.  The bushes are now hanging at the end of the pool.  My plan is to do a vertical, edible garden on the west wall of our property. That pallet in the corner of the picture is the beginning of hopefully something wonderful.  

Food prices are climbing. I'm focused on eating clean, without pesticides or GMOs.  That gets pricey. I'm also tired of wondering if the label on my food is real.  And, I also want to teach the girls about gardening and plants and where our food comes from.  Growing our own food seems like a good next step.  We'll see how it goes. 

When I bought the berries and barrels and a few other seeds and stuff a man was behind me in the check out line. He says to me "you must have a really green thumb".  I cringed. I don't....really.  I told him so and I said I hoped my $300 investment was't going to turn out to be a waste.  I've feared doing an edible garden for years. All the gardening I've done on our house has been a "learn as I go" method. I finally decided it's time to try this.  I got the courage. 

I bought a little organic basil plant back in March. That little baby has grown and supplied us with all the basil I need to make our pesto sauce every other week.  I use to buy so much basil and waste so much basil. No more!  It's always fresh and delicious. I've saved at least $50 since I haven't bought a bunch of basil since March!  

Here's an interesting article from the LA Times about blueberries for Southern California. 

Compost Bin

My compost bin has been one of the summer's best acquisitions... in my opinion anyway. I love this thing!  I got it used from someone we knew here in the valley.  It needed some adjustments and our friend Juan, helped me by adding missing boards and chicken wire to keep it rodent free.  

We juice regularly and the pulp that comes out is ideal for a compost bin.  The girls half eat bananas and leave other fruit laying around.  Before I felt guilty for throwing it all away but now I feel that it's going into the compost bin and serving a purpose.  

My mom added to my fun by getting me this super glam pitch fork from Crate & Barrel.  It's the perfect height and weight to move the compost around.  I feel so city slicker/farm girl when I use it!  

Composting has it's science. I knew some of the rules from growing up with my mom semi-composting. She didn't exactly use a bin.  To this day she digs holes next to her plants and buries her kitchen scraps.  She has always had some pretty healthy and delicious fruit bearing plants.  Gotta love her unconventional methods. Anyway, I know the no dairy, no meat rules.  I also know the layers need to alternate between wet and dry. When I dump in the wet kitchen scraps I know I have to dump in some dry leaves to balance it out.  I am mostly learning as I go. I'd love to know more about the worms you can add to brew a worm poop tea or something! Google and YouTube have been very educational.

I must say though, when I churn the piles it smells delicious.  It smells like a good, deep, oaky/earthy red wine.  It smells so good I crave a glass when I'm done.  I was warned that moving the bins around was going to be hard work.  I admit, it is a bit tough.  However, I'll take churning my yummy smelling earth to doing a bunch of bicep curls at the gym any day.  My guns are getting back in shape just with my decomposing banana peels and snazzy pitch fork!

I love looking out the window and seeing my bin out there.  It could use some sprucing but I know I can't paint or stain it. I plan on using this future soil in our edible garden so it has to have natural organic materials.  Dave suggest I coffee stain the boards. Not a bad idea! I have big plans for an edible garden on our property.  Due to lack of space in the sunny areas the garden will go vertical!  I have plans, we'll see how they go!  Until then I'm making some yummy soil for my future tomatoes from my old bananas. From earth you come and to earth you shall return.....

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Nelson Clock

A year ago we bough a Nelson Clock from here.  For $80 + shipping I thought it was a steal.  It's not an original but for right now I'll take what I can get.  This one piece, coupled with our Eames dining table, has really changed the feel of the living/dining space.  It's taken me a year to share it because I have not been able to get a good picture. I haven't been able to showcase it's detail and beauty while showing it's significance in our space. I recently found this picture of P moping and I don't know but I love it.  I love how she looks and I love how the clock looks in our space even when were in the middle of cleaning.  

PS. Apparently the clock isn't selling for $80 anymore, but $110 is still awesome!  

Friday, August 1, 2014

Finishing the Fence

This past November we had to rebuild part of the fence.  In February I finally got to staining the remainder.  However, there was a last bit that wasn't complete on our side. One could say it was the hardest part, the part behind the pool pump. 

When my mom came to visit in March she stained the remaining planks. She came again in June and I knew I needed to finish or else she'd ask what the big hurry was to get it all stained.  So here it is. I thought it would take me 1.5 hours to complete. It took me 3!  

Now, I need to get this entire pool pump hidden behind something pretty.  And that project is now in the works. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Farnsworth House

Last month we took a trip to Chicago to visit our dear friend Anthony.  He planned the most amazing trip!  We saw so much from the perspective of not just a local but an architect.  The best part was we never felt rushed.  In fact, it was so mellow (albeit in the end exhausting for everyone) that we did a last minute trip out to Plano (an hour outside of Chicago) to see the Farnsworth House.  

We happened to be there on Mother's Day and it was really special to see this great work of architecture with my family.  I knew of the house but have often confused it with the Phillip Johnson Glass House. I didn't know much of it's history or about Dr. Edith Farnsworth, who commissioned the house.  

In a nutshell, what started out as a modest, weekend get away turned into a total nightmare for Dr. Farnsworth.  By the end of the construction the cost had more than doubled and her friendship with Mies van der Rohe was ruined.  So, that's pretty standard in the world of construction;  costs balloon and relationships end.  However, as we were told more and more of the history and I walked through the house and I put myself back in time to the 1950's the more I felt I could "read" between the lines. 

Dr. EDITH Farnsworth.  A female doctor.  A highly successful female doctor in the 1950s. That alone speaks volumes. I can't imagine her success came easy or without a heap  of condescending, sexually infused comments on a daily basis.  She was looking for a tranquil, secluded weekend home to retreat to. She intended to go there often which is why it's relatively close to downtown Chicago. That again speaks volumes. When you see the place you feel it's isolation.  Her work must have been tough and to survive it she needed to get away from people. 

So, she hires Mies van der Rohe, a brilliant well-known architect. The story of how they came to work together is recorded from each of their perspective.  Her's in her diary and his in a court transcript.  They met at a dinner party, that's about the only thing their stories have in common.  It may as well have been two different events.  

There are details in the house that would have angered me terribly if I was the owner.  They almost seem like passive aggressive stabs at Farnsworth, specially for being a woman. Of course this is solely MY opinion and not based on anything said by the docent. Mies didn't set aside an area for Farnsworth to put her clothes. There was no wardrobe space or furniture.  He said she should store them in the kitchen. Can you imagine the kind of wardrobe a successful female doctor has?  Put your Chanel in the kitchen! I can certainly imagine the reaction that would elicit today! 

The longest room or area is the kitchen. And it's so obvious that we had a discussion amongst ourselves about it.  It was as if Mies was saying that's where she belonged. I don't know, it was just odd. Keep in mind the house was never meant for more than one person.  It was never an "entertainers" home.  Why such a large kitchen? 

Mies chose all the furnishing for the house  and only included one lamp.  When she asked how she was suppose to see throughout the house he said she should carry the lamp with her and plug it in wherever she needed. I guess he figured she had nothing better to do that to carry around a lamp.  

Farnsworth took Mies to court. The write ups and gossip surrounding the event are all about her being in love with him and that she was angry the friendship didn't turn into anything more. Or the other option, that she was a scorned lover.   No one thought it was about a house that started out costing $45,000 and ended up costing $90,000.  

I have no personal knowledge of either side's personality.  However, knowing the era and knowing what creatives with egos are like, its as if the house spills its secrets when you walk through it.  

Ok, enough about the drama of the house.  The house is beautiful. The details are exquisite.  The landscape is serene.  The lines of the house flow with the river that runs along side it.  It's pretty cool.  If you are a lover of architecture this has to be on your top 10 list of homes to visit. And here are some pictures!

It's almost a mile walk to get into see the property.  So, if you go wear appropriate footwear. 

Mies took into consideration that the area gets flooded by the river but even so it got flooded just 2 years after completion and several times since. 

Details.  Look at the centering of the beam to the tiles.  

This is the porch. You have to take off your shoes and wear socks to go inside. 

You can't photograph the interiors but you can photograph them from the outside.  I want every single piece of furniture in there! 

Anthony with our wonderful docent.  You can see the kitchen to the left.  

Dave and little G. Cooler dad picture?  I don't think so!

Oh how I love this picture.  My girls and I and amazing architecture. 

How Memento are the next two pictures?  This happened by accident btw.  Dave taking a picture of Anthony's feet going up the stairs while I took a picture of Dave taking a picture. And we took them as they are, one in black and white and the other in color!  Just like Memento!  Ok, I'm geeking out!  

Children were welcomed on the tour.  They were very kind. I think it helps to have a stroller that blends in with the good design.  Hee hee!

One of my favorite photos of the entire trip to Chicago.  Anthony, is an architect.  We've been friends since high school and he's known he's wanted to be an architect since then.  Mies van der Rohe is his favorite but this was his first time at the Farnsworth House.  Very special day for all!

Mies did end up building a wardrobe and entertainment piece for the house.  However, he delivered the piece to Farnsworth under a different name. At that point they were no longer speaking to one another. Mies didn't want another person designing the furniture for the interiors but he knew if he delivered it as his own design Farnsworth wouldn't want it. I only got a picture of the wardrobe side but the other side has a sound system.  The whole things is brilliant.  The sound comes out to you when the doors are open and when they are shut the sound goes up creating a surround sound effect in the entire house.  

This piece is now in a separate building on the property because it's received too much water damage from the numerous floods.  It's here for it's own safety.   

Thursday, June 5, 2014

6235 Lubao: Entrance

I've been looking at Zillow lately.  It's depressing. Not that we're moving but I'm always curious. Most houses in the Los Angeles area, priced in the $500 -900,000 range are very...well, I have to say it: ugly.  It's a clash of architecture styles with no eye for design. I usually have to go on a design blog afterwards to get the taste of ugly out of my mouth!

This house is unique. It already sold and I hope the people who own it now bought it for how amazing it is. It was sold under asking price which is amazing because the owners got a house with the kind of attention to detail only found in homes in the $3-4 million mark.....or in homes designed by their inhabitants who happen to be architects or designers. 

This is the entry.  Same tile from outside to inside really gives it continuity and flow.  Seamless! 

As you walk in, the courtyard is on the right. The frosted glass is completely opaque. You can't see in at all. But if you were sitting on the inside you know someone is there.  Smart detail. 

This is the only house in our three block neighborhood that has a second floor.  The stairs are right in the entry way.  In the rest of our homes with this layout, we have a bathroom where that closet door is now.  

Beautiful floating steps. 

The garage is very smart.  The window in the corner gives it both light and ventilation, both of which are always welcomed in a garage space. The far west wall has tons of storage. I love that there is again both light and air coming in over that wall with the way the beams descend. Without those two details for added light and air the garage would feel very enclosed.  Smart details when you consider how many chemicals we store in garages with warnings like "open in a well ventilated area". 

 This is what the above wall looks like from the outside. 

 Another smart detail, the ramp to take the garbage cans in and out.  On the other side of the gate in front of P is where the cans stay during the week. There is easy access to them from the kitchen...the one place where you are constantly taking garbage out of!  Smart placement. And then on garbage day it's an easy roll to the street. This kind of detail, so stylishly done is only found in expensive homes!