Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Dream House: Dining Room

It has been far too long since I've posted something on this blog, almost a year, as a matter of fact. I've made some alterations to my dream house floor plan and I've been working slowly but surely on the dining room. I feel like my problem is that I have an idea in my head of how I want a room to look and I select certain pieces and then I see something I like even better in a new magazine and change the whole design around. Now I understand why it takes so long when someone remodels their own home. It's always different when designing someone else's space.

Here's the new floor plan of the house. I added an actual powder bathroom, as well as a bay window to the dining room. I'm much happier with it now.

The dining room I had a hard time with. I changed the dining table a few times and went through about 10 chairs before I finally chose the Saarinen chair. At first I was going to use a leather on the back of the chairs and a fabric on the seat, and then decided on using the blue snake-pattern leather on the backs of all the chairs with six different leather colors to go on each of the chair seats and back fronts. It would definitely be a colorful, moody dining room, which suits me. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Fall inspiration

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In honor of Fall I thought I'd share some fun ways to spice up a room for the new season incorporating some of the above selected Pantone colors. I wanted to start with a piece of art and I didn't mean to get so literal with Fall, but I'm a sucker for cityscapes and I think this piece from ZGallerie can translate into any season.

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From the art selection I picked a paint color. It just happens that Sherwin Williams has already named their color for 2017, "Poised Taupe", which I thought worked really well with the art and creates a really warm, inviting atmosphere. It's actually a really versatile color. As Sherwin Williams says: "This timeless neutral is modern, classic and a beautiful balance of warm and cool."

Paint can be a really obvious way to change up a room, but there are times -- like when you rent, for instance -- that this just isn't possible. Another big way to make a statement in a room is with an area rug and I'm completely addicted to rugs from ABC Home. I will admit these aquasilk rugs like the one I chose are an expensive statement, but they do have sales and sometimes you can get lucky with the rugs on clearance. These are high quality rugs that would be well worth the investment.

The living room just made sense to choose as an example for this post because, after your bedroom, your living room should be the most comfortable room in the house. Arhaus has some gorgeous sectional sofas and my favorite is the Truffle pictured above. What better place to get cozy in the colder months? Of course, throw pillows are the easiest and most cost effective way to update a room. There are so many great colors in the art and the rug to pull from and you can change up the pillow covers all year round. I had to throw in that gorgeous skull pillow from Arhaus for Halloween.

Lighting can make a huge difference in a room. The general rule is to have three different sources of light in one room (overhead, table, ambience, direct, etc). Table lamps are the most fun, in my opinion, and I love this Kelton lamp from Crate & Barrel, but even Ikea has some great affordable table lamps.

Last, but not least, I added some scented candles. One of my favorite things growing up was the smell of cinnamon candles in the fall and pine in the winter for Christmas. Not only can they create a mood with scent, but also with that soft, warm light. These candles from West Elm have the added appeal of stylish glass votives that you can use even when the candle is done.

Happy decorating!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Guide - a short story

I had the idea for this story a year ago, but it stuck with me. So much so that I wrote it out in one afternoon a few months ago. I think it's ready to share now. Enjoy.


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She was making her way across a crowded, high-ceilinged lobby when she saw him. There was a flicker of recognition, followed closely by confusion. How could he be here? Was she dreaming?
            Then he saw her and his face lit with recognition, and she knew she was dreaming.
            He stood calmly, waiting for her as she approached. She couldn't understand it, this compulsion to speak to him, but it felt right.
            A female voice from behind called, "River!"
            He raised his hand in greeting and said, "Hi, Laura," but he didn't move.
            In no time at all he was close enough to touch.
            "Hello, Jane," he said. "I've been waiting for you."
            "I'm dreaming, aren't I?" She studied his untroubled face, young and untouched by time. His blue eyes were piercing this close. She was having a remarkably vivid dream.
            He smiled. That bad-boy, half smile like she remembered from The Thing Called Love.
            "No, you're not dreaming."
            "How are you here?"
            "Where is here?"
            She looked around. They were no longer in the lobby full of people rushing to work. She remembered it now, the last place she'd worked before getting married and having three kids. But now a wide corridor stretched out behind her, its stark-whiteness giving the impression it went on forever.
            She looked back at River, who was miraculously still there. "I don't know where we are."
            "What do you remember last?"
            She stumbled around her memories for a moment. Why couldn't she remember? And then his face popped into her head. "My husband."
            But that wasn't it. Will died three years ago. Their children were grown. One of them lived in Colorado. She'd been on her way there. Some of it was coming back, but it hurt her head. When she brought her hands up to her face to brush away her swirling thoughts, she realized her hands were not her own. She looked down at her body. She was young again.
            "This has to be a dream. I haven't been this young in decades."
            "You're not dreaming," he repeated.
            "How else do you explain this conversation? You've been dead for decades and I never knew you."
            He smiled, so calm and steady. "You always knew me, just not on earth."
            "On earth?" What was he saying?
            "Do you remember driving, Jane?"
            She nodded. "Driving to Penny." Her daughter. Colorado. The snow. She'd never driven in the snow. A sudden realization hit her. "I died, didn't I?"
            He watched her, waiting for her to have a break down or explode.
            Finally, when she did neither, he said, "Your body died, Jane, but you're here."
            "But I remember." Her hands went to her head again. She remembered the impact. She felt it. "I hit my head."
            A mirror appeared on the wall behind River, and her face reflected back at her, only it wasn't her face. She was twenty-five again. There was no blood to be seen, and instantly the pain vanished.
            "Anything you're feeling now is a phantom. You're still tethered to your body, but that will fade."
            "But I'm dead." She felt the truth of the words the moment she said them, but also the lack of emotion associated with them. Shouldn't she feel something? Panic? Fear? Loss? There was a strange lightness in their place she'd never felt before.
            "Your body was mortal, but your soul isn't. You're not dead, Jane."
            The mirror dissolved from the wall.
            "Let's walk for a while," he said.
            She followed him down more white, dizzying corridor, though doors appeared periodically along the right wall. Even though she'd never been there, the space felt familiar somehow.
            "So if we're not on earth, where are we?"
            "I never said we're not on earth."
            She stopped walking. "Is my husband here?"
            He hesitated before he turned to face her. "There are some things I can't tell you, but you'll understand soon enough."
            "Why you? Why did you meet me?"
            "I volunteered."
            "But I don't remember you."
            He smiled again. "You will. We've known each other a very long time."
            She stared at him, unable to comprehend any world in which she might have known River Phoenix. "Where are you taking me?"
            "I'm here to guide you to your door."
            "My door?"
            "You'll remember everything when you go through your door."
            "You had a door?"
            "We all do."
            She turned to face the door behind her. "Is this my door?"
            "No. You'll know when it's your door."
            "Have you done this before?"
            He shook his head. "You can only guide someone once."
            "So how do you know what to do?"
            "I had a guide too."
            "You'll remember her too."  He smiled serenely at her.
            "So this isn't your job, guiding people?"
            "We don't have jobs. Each of us has a purpose, a specialty."
            "But...why me?"
            "I told you, I volunteered."
            "Why did you volunteer?"
            "Because I wanted to."
            She made an exasperated sound. "How do I know you're not lying, making all of this up? How can I trust you if I don't know you?"
            He flashed that sly grin again and said, "What does it matter if you're dead or dreaming?" He watched her for a moment before he started walking again. "Besides," he said over his shoulder, "I can't lie, and neither can you."
            She caught up with him. "You can't lie," she repeated skeptically. "How does that work?"
            "People still tell half-truths, only part of the information, but they can't lie."
            "Did you believe your guide?"
            "Not at first."
            "But it didn't take much convincing for you," she guessed.
            He shrugged. "I wasn't occupying a body as long as you were. Everyone's different. Sometimes the stronger the mind and body, the stronger the hold it has."
            It was her turn to smirk. "Are you trying to tell me I'm stubborn?"
            "That's one way of putting it."
            As they were walking, their surroundings had changed again. She was struck with a memory so powerful it was like she really was twenty-five again. "This corridor reminds me of Versailles." Just as she spoke the words, the whole corridor transformed into her favorite part of Versailles: the high decorative ceiling, the gilded walls, the windows on their left, and one pair of double doors on their right.
            She knew they were hers. They pulled at her like a magnet.
            River's smile spoke volumes. He was radiant.
            "You said a door," she said, laughing.
            "Like I said, everyone's different. I know someone who told me their door was actually a pair of French doors that were just like the ones that led out to the balcony in their favorite apartment."
            "And yours?"
            A faraway look crossed his face. "It was a large wood door, very ornate, lots of carvings like something you'd see in Morocco. It was beautiful."
            "And the room?"
            He gazed upward. "It was not like this." He laughed. "This is all you."
            "You made that mirror appear earlier." She hadn't realized until now that it might not have appeared on its own.
            He smiled and nodded once. She saw then his true depth; how much older and wiser he was than he first appeared. "Is everyone this young here?"
            "Young is subjective."
            She looked back at the doors. She thought she could hear the faint sound of bells or glasses clinking together on the other side. "What will I find on the other side? Am I going to heaven?"
            He looked almost mischievous at this. "There is no heaven and hell, only choice."
            She let his words sink in before an alarming thought occurred to her. "Does anyone choose to not go through their door?"
            "Yes," he said, sadly.
            "And what happens to them?"
            "They stay here, able to visit their old life, the people they love, but they are no longer a part of it."
            "That does sound like hell."
            His silence sounded like agreement.
            "Can they never go through their door then? Will it disappear?"
            "No, they can come back. It's always here, waiting for them."
            She took a step toward the doors. "What will happen to you, where will you go when I go through?"
            "Home." As though he could sense her next question, he added with a smile, "You'll see."
            "So I'll see you again?"
            His smile was radiant again. "Oh, yes."
            She turned back to her doors almost reluctantly. No matter their pull, she suddenly realized his pull. She hesitated with her hand outstretched toward the ornate golden doorknob, and turned back.
            "Yes, Jane."
            "Why do you think you were so unhappy when you had a body?"
            He hardly paused before he said, "Because I remembered too much."
            Her hand touched the doorknob when River said, "No matter what you see, just know this is how it was supposed to be."
            She didn't know what he meant, but his encouraging smile and nod seemed to tell her that she would know soon enough.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Ride with Norman Reedus

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(Episode 2 Death Valley: Dante's View)

This feels more like a book review than anything else considering the show is already over, but I liked the idea of experiencing all of a show like Ride with Norman Reedus before talking about it. Its debut season was only 6 episodes so it felt a little like a mini-series, short and sweet, but just long enough to really miss it when it's over. (I'm sure there's a "that's what she said" joke somewhere in there...)

I've been on the Norman Reedus bandwagon for some time now, though I don't even like saying that because it's really The Walking Dead bandwagon. (But don't get me wrong, Daryl is my favorite character.) Everything about that show is incredible-the writing, the acting, the sets, the makeup, the zombies. Anyone who knows anything about me knows I love amazing, well told stories, and this is one of them. I have a hard time shutting up about TWD actually. After getting hooked on TWD, I got hooked on Daryl and then on Norman. Finding out what a talented, amazing man Norman is, it totally made sense that the creators of TWD invented the character of Daryl just to have Norman on the show.  There's a reason why everyone who meets Norman tends to refer to him as the kindest human being they've ever met. I've never heard him say a negative thing about anyone or anything, and everything he says and does is genuine. He's one of the amazing few who, with no force necessary, brings people together and generally makes the world around them a better place. It's no wonder people are drawn to him.

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(Episode 3 with Jason Paul Michaels in Appalachia: Blue Ridge Parkway)

It's also no wonder that Ride, which AMC created just for him (I'm noticing a pattern here), is such a pleasure to watch. This is all Norman, not a character he is playing, and it's incredibly endearing to see these different sides of him as he experiences new things all across the US. (He seems especially brave about trying new food, which he often let other people order for him on the show, and he would try whatever was put in front of him.) Some of these new things include, but are not limited to, riding a dune buggy for the first time at Pismo Beach, learning how to pop a wheelie on a dirt bike in the Nevada desert, racing porta potties in Georgia, and walking through a Louisiana swamp to catch crawfish. (Most of that Louisiana episode had me in tears I was laughing so hard.)

One of the my favorite things about watching Ride was that every episode made me want to get out and explore. All the places he visited, especially New Orleans, I would love to see. In episode one he travels up the Pacific Coast Highway from LA to Pismo Beach to Santa Cruz. I've grown up on the beach in Oxnard and I've only traveled as far north on the road as Santa Barabara. I was actually trying to plan a road trip up the coast to San Francisco for my birthday this year, and Vegas happened instead, but I'm still determined to make that trip happen. Maybe for my 33rd birthday next year. No matter when I go, I will be stopping in Pismo to ride a dune buggy.

Another great thing about the show, besides drooling over gorgeous motorcycles for forty-five minutes, is how fun and uplifting the episodes are. I was in the best mood after I watched them, and as I said before, watching episode five in Louisana with Brent Hinds from Mastodon made me laugh so hard. That's probably my favorite episode. Norman and Brent were just the best form of entertainment.

It's obvious, though, that the very last episode in Florida with Peter Fonda was Norman's favorite. He's said before that Peter in Easy Rider was the reason he got into motorcycles, and he was totally geeking out riding with Peter through the Florida Keys. But if that was Norman geeking, then I'm impressed. He totally kept his cool, and Peter seemed just as taken with Norman as Norman was with him. I sincerely hope that more of Norman's fans will take a lesson from him and keep their cool when meeting him. He's a person too, albeit an above average one on the amazing-human-being scale.

So here's to a second season of Ride. I would love to see where Norman explores next, and it's so cool that he's willing to share that with all of us. And really I hope there's another season because he looks like he's having so much fun. You deserve it, Norman.

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(Episde 2 with Balthazar Getty in Death Valley)

P.S. I find it fitting that this is my 500th post. What better way to celebrate such a landmark than with Norman?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Dream House: Kitchen Board

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I would say, out of most of the major rooms in a house, I probably spend the least amount of time in the kitchen. I'm not a terrible cook, but I don't particularly enjoy it. I love to bake, but when one is attempting to cut sugar out of their life, it doesn't make much sense to be baking things one can't eat.

I do know, however, that after living in apartments most of my life I've had my fill of white countertops. The top picture is basically my dream kitchen, just probably with grey cabinets, though I can't decide if I like the clean look of the cabinets in the top picture better than the more traditional look of the bottom picture. I figure it's a decision best left for when I have an actual kitchen to design. The easiest decision is the backsplash. Those Turkish ceramic tiles from Ann Sacks in the top picture really do take the cake.

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Jane Two

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I love this story. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it for the past two weeks. When I wasn't reading it, I wanted to be reading it. I can relate so much to Mickey, how he pines after this girl (Jane, obviously) who he knows without a doubt is the best thing to ever grace the earth, but is too shy to tell her, so he writes her letters instead.

I first heard about Jane Two when Norman Reedus posted about it on Instagram. I'm a fan of both Norman and Sean, and I'll freely admit I had every intention of reading Jane Two before I even knew what it was about. I was not expecting to be blown away with how good not just the story is, but the writing as well. As a writer myself, and an avid reader, I have to say, Sean, I'm impressed.

I love all the messages in this story: passing knowledge and wisdom from generation to generation, the relationships between grandparents and grandchildren, parents and their children, the sometimes tenuous love between siblings, family, what it means to be a kid, growing up, the power of music, a sense of belonging and home, loss, but most of all love--the unconditional, soul-deep kind that breaks boundaries and brings out who we really are, that makes us seek the impossible and makes it possible, that speaks without words; the kind of love that is even understood at the age of eight. And, most important, that life is too short to wait.

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Mickey is such a likable protagonist, and the situations he gets himself into--including, but not limited to, the opening of the story in which he climbs up a flag pole to rescue Jane's shoes--made me laugh aloud. I particularly enjoyed his conversations with his granddaddy (and the fact that he calls him his granddaddy.) who speaks with a thick Louisiana accent, as well as every single reference to the 70's, like every time I opened up the book I was going back in time. It brought back the feeling that I've had many times over my lifetime that I was born in the wrong time.

What's so great about Sean's storytelling is the vivid sense of place--using the culture of the 70's (I love all the references to music) and setting and all five sense puts the reader firmly in the small Texas town where the story takes place. Sense of smell is especially great, like when Mickey comes home as an adult and so much comes back to him with smell. It felt really clear to me that much of this story is semi-autobiographical because of the clarity of Sean's voice. If you've ever seen any of Sean's movies, you'll be able to hear him like he's telling the story to you in person. Even without knowing him, I heard so much of him in the story, which made it all the more poignant, especially the end. I was in tears. And I'm sure this story will move me to tears even after I've read it again and again.

So thank you for telling this story, Sean. You have no idea how much I could relate to it, and how much I needed to hear it.

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