Monday, February 29, 2016

Oscar Bits

Those who grew up with me can attest to my general infatuation will all things pop culture starting sometime before I could even read. A product of 80s television. And Reagan economics (who's visage I use to cut out of magazines for my own collage purposes, just for fun, as a Kindergartener)

I also collected an obscene amount of British magazines about the Royal family and kept close tabs on any word about Gary Shandling's love life* (my first crush) in tabloids all through second grade. I was a weird kid. But my teachers seemed to get a kick out of me.

I hosted my first Oscar party in 4th grade only to be entirely irratated after realizing my friends came simply to devour pizza. Not that it came to hinder my love for it in any way, in fact I think I held sporadic parties in honor of the night all the way up until the end of high school. When I got smart and began banning my brother's friends from joining when they couldn't actually name a single flick nominated. Sometimes I dressed up and held out close to mid night after the rest of the house had gone to sleep, watching footage of the after parties that trailed the late night news channels after the awards. Where I spent a good many a'years swooning over the swag oozing from Jack Nicholson, the songs pouring out of Bette Middler, the wardrobe smarts of Diane Keaton, the sex appeal of Jessica Lange, the showmanship of Billy Crystal, the edge on Frances McDormand, and the strange new beauty that came to be known as Angelia Jolie - among a hundred others I'm clearly leaving out.

These days however I'm not nearly as enthused over the event when it comes up. I watch, because of old tradition but seem to have a harder time every year making it to the end. I spent last night curled up on the couch with a small plate of cheese and a tall glass of wine, talking myself out of exhaustion to keep up with my regular culture themed texting companion** and see Leo win that damn award he should have snagged over a decade ago and I'm happy I did. He was fabulous. And while I didn't catch the after parties - because I settled straight to bed after his speech - I did find the fact of his mother on his arm as his date quite darling. I know he takes her often and has talked a lot about all the sacrifices she made while he was growing up to see to it that he was given a fair shot at a tough industry and for some reason it stuck a chord and got me feeling all kinds of emotional. To the point that on a Monday without much motivation I went looking for trite distractions to feed procrastinating tendencies, and got caught up looking through his childhood. Fawning over the sweet bohemian tone of his family's young start.

And while I can't help but find myself resenting an Oscar night without the bite of Joan Rivers on E or and the kinetic thrill only Robin Williams could offer, I can surely get behind the skinny kid we watched grow into something spectacular. Wielding that long overdue gold statue, and his pretty mama on his arm.

Baby Leo, '75

* for those not familiar with G.S
** Anne Parker. My pop cultural twin sister.

Words of Wisdom

“You did then what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better.” 
– Maya Angelou

Photo by Tara Firma 

Friday, February 26, 2016

A House Hunt, Part 1: Ode to Suburban Sprawl

"Whatever things look like in ten years—or twenty, or fifty, or more—there’s one thing everyone agrees on: there will be more options. The government in the past created one American Dream at the expense of almost all others: the dream of a house, a lawn, a picket fence, two or more children, and a car. But there is no single American Dream anymore; there are multiple American Dreams, and multiple American Dreamers. The good news is that the entrepreneurs, academics, planners, home builders and thinkers who plan and build the places we live in are hard at work trying to find space for all of them." 
 - Time Magazine's The End of The Suburbs

On a recent "area tour" with a refreshingly earthy real estate agent I stumbled across online we spent a full afternoon scouring some of the off beaten paths of the city we're looking to move to in the next year or so. Old wood shingled houses with decaying decks, scattered streams and wild cacti growing rampant. Tucked far enough away from the city to lend a false air of country life - where word on the street is, the locals gather quite regularly to play bluegrass and drink wine together on rooftops in the summer evenings. A place she would tell us, marked with genuine emotion - based on the slim knowledge of our interests we offer up - that we were most defiantly destined to live here. As we drove past the area's only mechanic - a man in blue coveralls without shoes deemed "barefoot Ralph" I started to think she might be right. Even in spite of it lacking one of the major things we had originally decided was most important in choosing our next move: a bustling downtown to cater to four growing boys.  

See, we do not by any means live in what anyone who deem a hip neighborhood. There are no fancy restaurants within walking distance, no museums to boast of, or quaint coffee shops to drop into on Sunday mornings seeking gormet lattes. The local shopping is approximately 6 miles down the highway and offers up the bare basics of generic (mostly corporate) consumeristic ideals. A big name movie theater, a Chilis, an Old Navy, Ross, Target, so on. The only water features nearby that I can count are man made and serve as trite landscape accents to local strip malls. The little taste of country we do have resides in the from of a barren hillside behind our community, untouched by home builders manning  ruthless bulldozers breaking land everywhere else. Rich with wild flowers and dirt roads that don't go anywhere but provide us just enough rural lot to satisfy our quench for some mid day off roading, stick hunting, and all kinds of other general little boy dirt dwellings whenever the urge strikes. In way of city, the closest we have to a downtown vibe is the sad remnants of an unfortunate main street revival that happened about 15 years ago which knocked down the old brick buildings and replaced them with awkward architecture and artless remodels I still find enraging every time I pass them by.  The shops in the strip aren't even worth mentioning.  

Yet with all there is to complain about or undermine regarding life here in the suburbs, in a small, uneventful town like this where I was born and raised, and settled with my own children on the outskirts of it's continually stretching border, there are also many ways it which it can't be matched. For instance, the track home community we live in was built in the early 2000's to cater specially to younger, growing families. Offering up a multitude of neighborhood parks, big yards, and a fancy clubhouse that hosts annual holiday events with three luxury pools and a great kiddie water park on site to host our summertime slumps whenever the weather edges on unbearable, inching up past the 100 degree mark, typically around the tail end of July.

We also have block parties and Christmas light competitions. The kids know all of the kids across the street and down the block and go to a school that is equally divided by various ethnicities. We have neighbors who call to check in on sick children. Who help lighten the load when it comes to carpool duties and school party responsibilities. Who are quick to lend us eggs when we're out, or shovels when we can't find ours. Who buy overpriced wrapping paper for fund raisers and aren't bothered that our kids roam barefoot and freely around the expanse of this small culdesac erupting in play in the form of nerf gun wars, dodge ball games, and hide 'n seek. A cushioned sense of community linked to people living at arms length from one another who go to the same market, and attend the same Easter hunt year after year. An old school notion of neighborhood that doesn't exist as commonly as it use to decades before. And for that, outside of all that we regularly complain about, is where we know we've been most fortunate. 

Which is not to overlook the qualms that arise living in a preplanned track home community setting. For one, it's very much out of the way and mired in the armpit of two major traffic jams. Sometimes it takes Mike over 2 hours to get home and the same amount of time on route there. And two, track home aesthetics never been my cup of tea. I was raised in a 100 year old house filled with antiques and helped renovate the 1920's Spanish bungalow Mike bought while we were dating. I love everything inherit in an old home. And maybe never quite warmed up to the fact of this one being so new, cold, and seeminlgy unwritten. A house without history is a little less to love in my opinion but we've done our best to strip away what soulless attributes we could upon purchase and replace them with some of the things we love best about old homes. Wide planked wood floors, white subway tile, hallway arches and old brick accents. These days it certainly feels like home. So as much as we are itching to get out and break away from the stifling grips of our current HOA, to loose the traffic sucking away our spare hours, I don't regret a single year spent here because of the ways of a street so similar to my own childhood that enabled us to ride reckless around the alleys on our bikes until the sun went down. Playing basketball behind the garage with a grip of kids down the street. Makeshift hockey games in the driveway, kick the can under the Ginkgo tree ,and birthday party scavenger hunts that had us lugging trash bags from house to house asking for donations. My kids have had it pretty good alongside the rotation of children that have filtered in and out in between the years with the same freedom to unravel in the hours after school in a front yard scattered with skateboard ramps and remote control car races. They get along, they quarrel, they fight and make up like clockwork every day. The temperature of this block shifting sometimes by the hour. But overall, the kind of wholesome scene that feels good to grow up in. 

So sure, I read about the shifting changes of the suburbs and how they're devoid of valuable cultural identity - a soul suck you grow up in and try desperately to escape, and while we dream about our next house being somewhere in contrasting extreme to this one: be it soaked in new city or old country vibes, I have to say whatever perks that move might bring, I know I'm going to miss plenty about these streets here. Lined with tricky tacky houses that all look the same. Where the kids are out until the street lights fade and everybody knows your name. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Something Good This Way Comes

If you're watching the new Love series on Netflix you probably heard this song play at the end of one of the episodes, and then - if by chance you happened to love Jacob Dylan just as hard as I did back in my teenage years, you may have found yourself up late at night rekindling that old love affair by watching old videos, wondering how he could be so incredibly handsome and talented and downright lovable and never have actually "made it" in the industry. At least I did. Especially after seeing this video. It's beautiful. And my God, what's wrong with he rest of the world for not loving him just as much?

* Fun Fact: I actually met Jacob and the Wallflowers a couple times at his first shows in the late 90s when I was a young, die hard Dylan fan who had caught wind of his son fronting a band early on and showed up at the Troubadour in Hollywood with my mom, ran into him in the alleyway pre show and found him to be just as sweet as he is handsome. Painfully good looking in person with the same instantly recognizable mannerisms and build as his dad. Plus kind enough to stop and chat with us while posing for photos (that remain etched in disposable camera quality film) and then again at different show where he invited me on stage to introduce the band. Which, as you can imagine, left my 17 year old heart reeling for more than a few days thereafter. I'll never forget looking up and spotting the ever elusive Sara Dylan sitting up in the balcony above. Watching him so proudly.
All the stuff teenage dreams are made of.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Five Handy Apps

1. First Opinion: this is an app I shared in a sponsored post on IG a few weeks back that I tested briefly upon singing up and found the responses to be both attentive and helpful. However, a couple weeks ago I found myself leaning on it much more regularly. With newfound trust seeing how the online nurse assigned to our family was so quick to answer all of my questions regarding things circling our household: fever, little white bumps, late night stomach pains, ect. Not the kind of generic, text book response you'd expect from a Dr. you never met, via text, but knowledgeable, caring and concise. She even checks in sporadically to see how the kids are doing. She knows them by name and appears genuinely concerned with whatever issue you log on with. I was so impressed I even upped my subscription from the free option to the 9$ a month to allow me to send photos and with a little higher fee you can gain access to prescriptions based on these online communications. I had someone on Instagram thank me for introducing the app because it saved them a middle of the night ER drive. And allowed them to order antibiotics needed from her phone. And if that doesn't convince you, my friend's husband (a Dr himself) signed up for the app (in the company of fellow Dr.s looking to more or less give put another Dr. through the ringer) but came out solidly impressed instead. Even with all the ridiculous symptoms they came up with, he said the responses were professional and impressive. And the Dr.s advice seemingly straightforward and legit. Anyway, it's free. So certainly a good crutch for any parent to keep.

2. Snapchat: I know, this isn't news to the young folk. In fact I signed up for snapchat a couple years ago myself and then deleted it because I found it to be kind of a brainless bore. And, I didn't really get how to use it. But with my second go round, stumbling through the basis of what is generally a hard app to learn, I kinda fell in love. Maybe because it offers up the exact opposite of what IG is these days. A world away from polished edits and mile long captions. But more bad filters, briefly restricted captions, real time, unedited life snapshots in moving video and absurd face distortion filters if you want 'em. For those not familiar - you or your kids get to see your face turn into a dog, a cat, a rainbow spewing mutant with pink blushing cheeks, among just a few. It's fun. Silly and stripped of any prestige which is pretty freeing. Sure it can edge on annoying -  I mean it does. Plenty. But it's also a really nice outlet if you're feeling slightly bored by the slightly borish vibes happening over on Instagram. I know some of the best and worst moments of my life are unveiled there so think of it as a dirty little back street bar you go to sing karaoke and drink beer from pitchers without shame from time to time. And then wear a purring cat's face while you do.

If you are there, I'm under "House Inhabited," I think ...

3. Unroll. Me: sorted and discarded all of my junk mail sprouting like weeds in all four of my inboxes. Get it. Do it. And then wonder why you didn't a whole lot sooner. I know I did.

4. Genius Scan: Allowing phone scanned documents to be turned into JPEG or PDF files. Which for me, feels pretty genius indeed. And comes in handy much more than I expected it to.

5. Audible: By Amazon. I'm actually still getting the hang of how to use this one but as much as we're loving books on audio these days, it seems well worth the effort, right?

What about you guys? Any must have handy apps you love or swear by?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Scenes From A Weekend

Around the House

With the 91 freeway shutdown all weekend long, and local media predicting 3-4 hour delays plaguing alternative routes, we figured we'd it best we play if safe and stick around town. Silly now considering the reality of all. Side streets proving the exact opposite of everything they warned us of. Vacant. Quiet. Stressless. "Carmegeddon" at it's finest.

Mike and Arlo decided to take full advantage of it early Sunday morning, cruising the double cab some 30 miles down the open back streets to Orange County for an annual bus show. Arlo came back with a new surfboard he bought with his own money and Mike, bearing fresh coffee and bagels. 

The remainder of the weekend was slow enough to relax for a few hours outback, where I napped in the sun and the boys watered plants and colored* steadily, silently, for longer than I ever suspected was even possible. There was a last minute birthday party for one of Leon's school friends on Saturday which turned out to be a step above the standard birthday school bash if only because of the delicious tacos on hand in combo with the overly stocked Tecates and Spanish karaoke that unrolled after most of the party had cleared out. 

I also got some good T.V in too - Love,** the new Judd Apatow series (which is just as sweet and enduring as it's sneak peak trailer suggests and what we've come to expect from Apatow) and Better Call Saul (which is one of the only shows - currently - that Mike and I appreciate with the same intensity) We listened to records most of a sun drenched Sunday morning, made bonsai taco bowls*** for lunch and sat for a solid hour teaching the boys the rules of Mancala in the shade after cleaning out the van. 

Slow and mundane. Not counting the hummingbird ordeal that started when I spotted a tiny bird fluttering around in my bedroom nursing the yellow blooms on a small cactus that we had to work so hard at to push back out the window it flew in from. Or the painful (blurry eyed) 3am drive down the street to drop off a kid who said he wanted to stay the night but then decided (somehow at the absolute worst hour of the night) that he didn't.

A self car wash, a trip to Toy's R Us to blow the gift cards they had piling up which granted them a new series of nerf guns and Leon one remote controlled monster truck he let everyone on the block enjoy before him. And me, the blessed promise of an afternoon without them complaining about being bored or begging me to get up and get them out. Toys they made good use of in the dirt field late that afternoon when we drove around to test the new hitch on the L. Rover before settling back at the house for leftover rice and chicken.

All in all, a nice quiet couple of days soaking up the simple pleasure of home, in a town full of parked cars and one long, lonely empty freeway no one round here even dare thought try and bypass.

Post Footnotes:

This coloring book is the best! I even found myself begrudgingly waiting for my own turn on a page watching them flip thought to pick theirs.

** The series is great. I just - and forgive me if I'm starting to sound like your granny here - but find the word "fuck" used too excessively, which started to wear on my nerves a little here and there only 4 episodes deep. Making me focus on the fact of my own annoyance. Which can be hard for me to come back from sometimes. . .

*** I have no idea why these are called bonsai bowls in our house, all I know is that they are healthy,  and delicious drenched in lime. But then again, so everything right?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Morgan's Mexican Salad


So I'm back after a brief dry spell around these parts. Wherein the past ten or so days I felt the regular motivation to sit down and blog, simply slip away. Days blew by me engulfed with a mess of dental appointments (a topic certainly deserving of it's own designated post) Valentine craft madness, and one awful injury that turned my sweet boy's face into a swollen mass of black and blue lumps and bruising that came as a result of him being overly excited to finish up the last of his Grandmother's Valentine cards, tripping himself as he came chasing down the stairs and smashed head first into the corner of his craft table. We're both still recovering from the fall five days ago. But he, unfortunately, looks much worse than me.

Needless to say I've been exhausted by it all. So I have quite a bit here now to try and catch up on. But by way of pure laziness, I'm starting with the simplest post I've got on me. A recap of my favorite summer salad - a signature dish my good friend Morgan serves every year sure as her boy's poolside July birthday party that leaves me craving it for all the months that pass in between.

Last week when summer returned (and generally confused everyone in So. Cal who had just started to grow accustomed to bleak, cold weather calling for hot tea / warm soup cravings) I couldn't help but find my own cravings shifting as the temperatures continued to rise. So that in a matter of days, due to the false start and tease of a new season, I found myself longing for Micheladas (instead of red wine) and Morgan's Mexican Salad (in place of warm winter meals) Luckily, via text from my girl in Alabama I got the quick run down and made it for the first time for Rex's birthday last month and for a handful of occasions thereafter to the praise of everyone who tasted it.

Here, in simplest form is what she told me it entails. I added diced chicken breast though because why not?

Sliced Cucumber
Fresh Lime Squeeze
Crumbled Feta
Chopped Hearts of Palm 
And Creamy Cilantro Dressing

*Edit - I left out fresh Cilantro in the photo, but be sure and add that little extra green too!

I also want to try tossing in black beans and avocado, but for now this has been just about perfect for the fake summer stretch making a mockery of El Nino.

Try it & see!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Warm Winter Spell

Something feels so wrong about a 90+ degree February week. Even for us Cali folk. On one hand I want the cold, and with the cold the rain (that we were promised the whole year leading up to this season) but on the other, it's hard to not fall in love with a good summer tease.

Windows open, tacos soaked in fresh lime, and my boys shirtless on familiar summer sands. I'm not saying I'm over the cold season just yet. I only wish it would make up it's mind long enough for us to adjust and accept one or the other.

Until then, you can find us here building castles, eating our tacos in the shade. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Stuck ON


Yes. I realize I'm a little bit late to the game here. I remember countless Serial references popping up all over Instagram for the better part of last summer but was slow to investigate what it was everyone was actually so entranced by. I suppose I heard the jest of the podcast involved scorned teen lovers and an "unsolved" murder. Right off the bat, not what I would consider my cup of tea. But then again I said pretty much the same thing when a good friend of mine described the basis of Friday Night Lights being centered around high school football stars in a small town with no one I had ever heard of in cast. Ridiculous seeing now how much I came to love and praise that show. I mean I really really loved hard on that show.

Then last week while boredom crept into the long Tuesday hour where I wait alone in a parking lot for my boys to finish up their music lessons I discovered: lo and behold, the podcast option on my phone! Where I was shocked to find that Serial (and so many others) had been there at my fingertips all along. So I plugged in, settled into the first episode of season one, grateful for a new way of distraction that didn't involve any scrolling on my phone, and became instantly hooked. Mainly by the narration of the case. For me Sarah Koenig IS the show. Her tone, pacing, style, personality, brains, and wit carry us along and make us care because she herself seems so clearly conflicted by it. Plus, she's funny. And quickly likable. I have to say, even with all the hype "Making of a Murderer" is getting (I delved into both at the same time) I and was way more into Serial because of Sarah serving as narrator behind it.

In the end I swept through 12 episodes in seven days. Listening as I folded laundry, washed dishes, prepared dinner, and scrubbed the tub. I tuned in while stuck in traffic, and at the end of a long night mid week during the rainstorm where I stayed up far too long in desperate attempt to wrap up the series and find some kind of conclusion I could rest my head on. Because I wanted answers. I needed answers. But like any Serial fans comes to find, it isn't a gift you can ever fully count on. Slowly I'm still coming to terms with that. Though catching wind of the trial being reopened and picking up with Koenig again on call for the recaps, certainly helps ease pain.

Later, through text convos with my friend Lauren (whom I can always count on for things such as this) where I was already mourning the end of the series that had become the highlight of my late night hours, she informed me that there were in fact so many others I could love just the same. A topic she so kindly offered up to share on a post over on The Ma Books today - which turned out a fabulous guide to lean on. Especially for us newbies. So head over, check it out and let us know what you think and what you're listening to.

And if you haven't yet already, get yourself through Serial, let me know where you stand and if you're not left wishing you could share dinner and a glass of wine with Sarah K too.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Lunch Lady Magazine

"I feel  like, since I became a parent, my flaws, shortcomings and weaknesses are laid out in front of me pretty much every day." - work / life / balance 

"There's an old wives tale that the first born always look like their dad to stop the father from fleeing from the house in horror shortly after the babies arrive." - Parent Opinion Piece 2

"There's one way to get kids to eat stuff that's good for them: make it resemble a burger and fry it." - Tips on snack tricks

"Minimalism isn't about getting rid of all your stuff and living with barely anything... minimalism is really a conversation about what's important." - Conversation about minimalism with father of six Leo Babauta

"Seeing your children grow up is the best part. I've always thought from the start that good parenting involves a huge amount of letting go." - work / life / balance 

The above blurbs I randomly pulled from the first Volume of Hello Lunch Lady Magazine the new labor of love from the creators of Frankie Magazine, which I was kindly sent a couple months back then mindlessly stuffed inside of a rarely used leather tote hanging in my closet hoping to read on a car trip we never ended up taking. But then stumbled across it yesterday while searching for another lost token (seemingly a daily routine for me these days) and was instantly enchanted again by it's bold, artful appearance.

So I spent much of this bright Sunday morning today in bed soaking up a quiet house and reading through it thoroughly, front to back, and can honestly say it reads like a singing gem. Aesthetically speaking the kind of zine I live for. Chalk full of grainy home-based family photos, scattered with quirky curated art shots, food pics, kid drawings, picnic stuff! convos on parenting struggles, ect. Cute, unique, humble, and real. Lunch Lady is the kind of space that feels really good to fall into. Crammed with articles that revolve mainly around exciting recipes and cool tips to help incorporate healthful eating habits in the home and in school lunches - which is where the basis of this mag was born when the creator saw her 9 year old daughter being bullied for having off kilter lunch box creations she was preparing for her. But also touches on the aspects of motherhood I always find most appealing when reading up on the matter in general: maintaining creativity in light of having kids. Everyday stories from everyday folks, honest admissions. In other words: real life talk about how damn hard it is at times to keep everything together and feel good about the things we're creating and the children that we're raising.

For instance one essay opens up the topic of having four kids with the question of "Why the hell would anyone want four kids?" Which gave me a good laugh. And another father writes about his issue with embracing a kid that didn't resemble him AT ALL and the reality of feeling such discord as a result of something so superficial. Which I really loved. And then there's an interview with Erika Olsen Gross, founder of Mini Pomme where the topic of creativity being comprised as mother trying to remain "fully present with your children when you are feeling creative" is raised, which she explains: "I struggled with this much more when I was painting. I didn't mind the pressure of trying to make my best work under the galleries or museum before I had kids; in actuality I thrived on that stress. But once I had kids it just wasn't sustainable for me. Also, my studio was in my house, and it was always a challenge to keep little fingers off my crisp white paper. Now I have a little studio attached to my garage. My kids visit me and even work with me sometimes, but they know it's ultimately my space. I have also come to realize that my kids don't need my constant attention. Also, I'm not a very happy person when I don't have time to be creative, so for every one's sake its good for me to take time to do my work."

I could go on, detailing every nook and cranny I fell in love with reading through it - and man would I love to if I had the time. But fact is my sunny morning bed lounging widow-frame is steadily shrinking by the minute. On top of a mess of laundry I've still got to sort through, and walls to repaint, I just caught news of a spontaneous Super Bowl party I hope to make it to in time to enjoy the only two things I really care about on such an occasion: hot wings and Beyonce at half time.

So please, take my word and buy the magazine. Page for page I'm almost positive you'll only grow happier and happier that you did.

L. L Blog and Info HERE