Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Happiness - According to Ms. Luella Bates Washington Jones

I find a lot of joy in the little things. In fact, I find joy in finding joy in the little things, so I try to document those layers of joyfulness whenever possible. Usually, they sneak up on me so my phone serves as my means of documentation. Here are some of the happy things Ms. Luella Bates Washington Jones has captured lately.

{It is absurd how happy a new set of colored pens can make me. My love of school supplies goes way back and was a significant factor in my decision to become a teacher. Then I learned that the students had a tendency to abscond with them.}

{Now that I'm not teaching, it's easier to keep awesome colored pens around, but it's slightly more difficult to justify their purchase. Let's just say my to-do lists are very pretty.}
{This is from a while ago, but the combination of Tom, Lucy, and a healthy glass of Zin makes for a very happy time indeed.}

{Tom and I were very late to the party on this one, but seriously? I love these characters so much that I am willing to believe all the crazy-ass nonsense that they get into.}
{Hi there.}

{Mom busting a move}
{Lucy wanted in.}
{the succulent wreath in action}

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Welcome to (West) Hollywood, Baby

Melrose Place, the cross street at the end of my block, not the 90's primetime soap, is a darling little street. It's only a block long, but it's tree-lined loveliness makes it a popular place for photo shoots and the occasional commercial filming. Whenever anything is going to be filmed on Melrose Place, they post a notice on the front of our building. Usually, it's nothing too exciting - a Toyota commercial was the last big excitement, but this last one caught my attention.

TV Drama, you say? I looked up Newsroom and found that it is Aaron Sorkin's next project. This is the guy who brought us A Few Good Men, The American President, The Social Network, so on filming day, I walked down to check out the scene. Apparently Newsroom takes place in New York...

At one point I started feeling like an awkward, wannabe paparazzi (and really, who wants to be a paparazzi?), so I started taking pictures of flowers to pretend I was all L.A. and totally unfazed by the big studio production. Whatevs movie people, I'm not impressed; I just want to stop and photograph the roses.

The lights were still shining into my bathroom at 8pm, so I went back later that evening for more looky-looing. From what I could determine, someone may or may not have killed a baby, the police are involved, and Jeff Daniel's character will be getting out of a taxi at some point... Apologies for the crap photos; I got the impression that walking on set to get better pictures would be frowned upon.
{the "atmospheric smoke effects" promised in the Notice of Filming}

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Week 15: Caine's Arcade

Last Friday, (after a little wine) I finally watched this video:

Did you watch it? Seriously, go watch it. It's ten minutes long - you have ten minutes. See? I mean, have you ever? Anyway, I just watched it again, and I am still so in love with it. Caine's enthusiasm, his dad's willingness to let his kid run amuk all over his shop, how Nirvan is all, "heck yes, I want a fun pass," the way all of those strangers came out to make Caine's dream come true...the whole thing just fills me with love for all of humanity. If I'm this effusive about it now, dead sober, you can imagine how a few glasses (ok a bottle) of wine would intensify this feeling of love for all the world. I was basically Ebeneezer on Christmas morning after watching this thing...

Want to know the best part? When the Caine's Arcade website was first established, they decided to try to raise a little money for a scholarship fund for Caine's future education. The initial goal was to try to raise $25,000. As I write, the PayPal widget on the website shows that a total of  $179,271 has been donated to help fund Caine's education (a move to a private school now and savings for college later). And, actually, it gets even better - the Goldhirsh Foundation has agreed to match donations to the scholarship fund dollar-for-dollar. These matching funds will be used to establish a separate Caine's Arcade Foundation that will "help find, foster, and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in young kids." The interweb can be such a force for good - it's not all cat videos and cyberbullying after all!
Anyway, point is, I watched the video and decided that Tom and I needed to make a pilgrimage to East L.A. to get ourselves a fun pass. The next morning, I held on to my tipsily arranged plans and looked up the website again to get directions to Caine's arcade.  Lo and behold (who says that?), they had scheduled a block party for Saturday since the arcade would be closed on Sunday because Caine was going to be making his First Communion... I mean, really. Could this kid be any more adorable?

We weren't the only people who decided to come check out Caine's Arcade. You could feel the goodwill in the air.

The line to buy a fun pass stretched down the block, so we hung out for a bit, signed Caine's guest book, and headed home.

All in all, it was the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning. In addition to the rare opportunity to see an arcade made entirely of cardboard, I got a glimpse of an L.A. that I never get to see.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Week 14: Easter Fun

Tom had to stay in L.A. for the Easter weekend, so for last week's new thing, I used watercolors and washi tape to make him an Easter card that I hid (along with a Reese's peanut butter egg) for him to find on Easter morning.
While poor Tom soldiered on alone in L.A. for the holiday weekend, I attended an absolutely divine brunch hosted and prepared by Jaime. Giada better watch her back, between the home renovations and the fierce cooking, Jaime is prime for her own HGTV/Food Network show.
We got a defective egg coloring kit (for shame, Paas!), so we improvised with food coloring. I think our eggs looked pretty awesome when all was said and done.

On Sunday morning, we went to Mass, posed for pictures in our Easter finest, hunted for eggs, tore into our Easter baskets, and stuffed our faces with hard boiled eggs, cinnamon bread, and jelly beans. Despite the fact that my youngest sister is 22, our Easter traditions haven't changed since we were all under ten, and that is exactly how I like it. I only wish that my brother, his wife, and Tom could have been there.

The aforementioned Easter photos were priceless this year because my dad inadvertently photobombed the picture of me and my sisters. When my sister checked her phone to see how the picture had turned out, she broke into hysterical laughter and started to pass the phone around until we all collapsed in uncontrollable giggles. It was the best.
 Here's a close-up for you. There are no words for how much I love this picture.
Happy Easter and a joyous spring to all!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Week 13: Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

My love of NPR has become something of a joke around here... I'd say that I start a good 30% of my sentences with "So I was listening to NPR the other day..." or "I heard this story today about..." or some variation thereof. My love affair with NPR started five years ago when I started teaching. I had a half hour drive home every day, and after eight plus hours of wrangling adolescents, I found the rapid fire commercials and jarring voices of the deejays on pop radio to be intolerable, sooo I turned to the soothing sounds of NPR.
As it turns out, NPR for the commute was just a gateway listen. Pretty soon, I was flipping to NPR every time that I got in the car, and it wasn't long before I was downloading Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me podcasts to listen to while I cooked. I even added being interviewed on NPR to my Life List. Now that I don't spend as much time in the car, I use the NPR app on my phone to keep up. At this point, I get almost all of my news from NPR and in less rational moments, I'm pretty sure that Lakshmi Singh, Audie Cornish, Guy Raz, and I are all great friends. Also, we're in a book club with Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson and Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. Seriously, NPR reporters have the best names.

Six months or so ago, I started to feel really guilty that I have been taking advantage of NPR without kicking in my fair share to keep it going. Unfortunately, my guilt struck mid-unemployment, but I told myself that as soon as I got a job, I'd make a donation. This is all to say that my new thing for last week was becoming a sustaining member of my local NPR station. Hurrah! In addition to assuaging my guilt, I am looking forward to receiving some lovely new NPR apparel in the next few weeks - it's like a yuppy/hipster uniform!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Around the Neighborhood with Ms. Luella Bates Washington Jones

Working at home is great, but it has it's hazards, not the least of which is the close proximity of both the couch and the kitchen. In an effort to combat the temptation to nap and/or make baked goods that seems to strike around 3:30 every day, I've been taking a lot of late afternoon walks.

The other day, I walked by a house where a cat was keeping watch from the front step. As soon as he saw me pass his walkway, he ran out and started walking next to me. He walked with me for the rest of the block and then went on his merry way.

Cats are weird.

Window shopping is more like window admiring around here since the shops in my 'hood are on the high end of the spectrum. Sadly, Vera Wang and Carolina Herrera are not exactly in the budget at the moment. But, oh aren't the windows pretty?

This particular store, Neil Lane to be precise, comes with it's own security... I'm assuming that part of his job involves checking your credit score before he lets you in.

This guy doesn't live in my neighborhood, but I couldn't leave him out. His home is the window of a boxing studio (boxing club?) next door to the salon manly haircut place where Tom gets his hair done cut in San Diego.

So the moral of the story is: walking is fun and less likely to lead to a mirror-induced panic disorder come bikini shopping season than mid-afternoon bingeing.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Week 12: Fun with Succulents

I have recently developed an obsession with succulents. I mostly blame Pinterest. I have been saving pictures of all kinds of succulent-based projects for a while now, and when I showed my mom a picture of a succulent wreath a couple of weeks ago, she was all, "Let's make one!" Boom, just like that. If I had more Mom-based motivation in my life, my house would be full of fully realized Pinteresting projects... Animal bookends!
In any event, a couple of weekends ago, I went to Coronado to hang out with the fam while Tom was at South by Southwest. My mom had heard about a free class on orchid care at a local nursery, so we decided to combine that with a succulent-buying spree. The orchid class was led by Phil, a real orchid aficionado and epic storyteller.

Phil taught us that the state with the most species of native orchids is... wait for it... Alaska! Anyway, after Phil told us everything there is to know about growing orchids, we picked out some succulents and some moss before heading to Michael's for a metal wreath form. Once we got all of our supplies back home, we realized we would have been better off taking clippings from the plethora of succulents in my parents' yard and neighborhood because we ended up pulling the plants we bought apart since it was too hard to get the roots into the wreath after we packed it with moss.
I forgot to take a picture of the finished wreath, but it has to lay flat for a week or two until all the clippings have a chance to take root so I'll wait to post a picture of the final reveal when I can get a shot of it hanging on my parents' door.

Anyway, the success with the wreath and the realization that I didn't need to spend a bunch of money on buying succulents set me off on a stealth mission to sneakily take clippings of every succulent I passed for the next week.
{My stash}
When I had pilfered gathered a sufficient stock, I dropped $2.50 on some revolting "art" from $2.50 at Goodwill and started on my Pinteresting succulent project number two.
The inspiration was this project from Better Homes and Gardens:

{BHG via Pinterest}
First I ripped the hideous painting off of the frame, spray painted the frame blue, and stapled chicken wire leftover from my jewelry display project to the inside of the frame.
 Next, I flipped the frame over, stuffed moss leftover from the wreath project up against the chicken wire, poured cactus soil over the moss, and then stapled and nailed the "art" where it belongs, on the backside of the frame.
I can already tell that I should have had a piece of plywood cut to fit the back of the frame because I am pretty sure that the painting is on particleboard that will probably fall apart after a few waterings... I was too lazy eager to get started to make the trip to the hardware store for plywood, but I figure I can always replace the back later if it falls apart.

The next step, arranging all of the cuttings in the frame, was the most fun. Since I had to make do with whatever succulents were accessible and unguarded, and because my crafty efforts are never as perfect in reality as they are in my mind, I knew my final product would not be as cohesive and color-coordinated as the masterpiece that the professionals at Better Homes and Gardens created. And it's certainly a mishmash, but it's coming along...