Monday, May 24, 2010
Summer rolls around and all kinds of out-of-character ideas pop up. I often dream of a little vacation house like this little cabin-in-a-kit. Get-a-way houses are generally in the mountains, near a lake or by the sea shore! This year I'm dreaming of ways to make my own property feel like a vacation spot and it's kind of funny. After all when you are really on vacation you don't have to clean or change the bedding or cook or load and unload the dishwasher. Yikes! I'm not sure how I'm going to pull this off. One idea might be to develop amnesia about household chores. I like that one. Another might be to turn a blind eye to the piles of doggy hair that the dogs are shedding at lightning speed now that the days are turning warmer.
If I had a little cabin like this one down the canyon in our yard I could hide from everyone and maybe then I would feel like I am on holiday. Hmmmmm. We really do have room on our property and I'm thinking that this could be a good idea. I'll need electricity, but we have that already running down there. I want air conditioning, because I'm spoiled by that in the main house. A fountain outside the door could drown out the hum of the traffic below running through Rose Canyon. Nothing will silence the sirens or the groups of motorcycles periodically rumbling down the road, but I can live with that inconvenience.
This idea has legs. We've always wanted to put the land to better use, but as it happens the wind blasts through the canyon and up across our yard. That's why the idea of a pool never quit took hold. I once thought that our neighbors and we could build a huge common pool, but it is just too cold on top of the bluff for a swim most of the time. Besides we live right above an honest-to-God earthquake fault (the Rose Canyon Fault) and I always imagined the pool cracking and the water seeping down onto the broad boulevard below. So the idea of a little hideout is better. Got to get serious about this plan.
In the mean time we are running away for a couple of days this week. We are going to pretend and go to Las Vegas where we can visit Venice, New York and Paris in just 3 days! Quite a bizarre concept, but definitely an affordable break. Then I'll come back and straighten up my office and maybe get moving on my disastrous garage! That will require a pitcher of chilled margaritas I think and several long afternoons.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
When you are a kid the prospect of summer arriving is sort of like waiting for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve or the expectation of getting some great present for your birthday. But when you are the mother of three little kids and you are trying to figure out what to do with them during a summer break, well that is not fun. Nor is the reality of facing a summer without the resources to entertain or educate your kids. If you aren't able to take the traditional summer vacation this year either I can understand feeling kind of grumpy about the summer solstice rolling around and that goes for all ages. I'm irritated because I'd love to be headed for an exotic vacation too.
Instead this year I'm thinking of really tiny goals that don't cost much money. These are mostly items that involve my home and are activities instead of relaxation. First, I would love to re-landscape the back yard but I'm pretty sure that it could eat up $100,000 because it is very large. So instead, I am going to dig up a part of my front yard and plant drought resistant shrubs that bloom. What does that have to do with the backyard you might ask? Absolutely nothing, but if I can coax the front into being as attractive as I can make it by myself then I won't be so discouraged about the wild state of my back lot. I can't do it all at once because of physical issues, but I began tonight by soaking the spot that I have in mind. I want a kind of wild South of France garden and fortunately we share similar climates where native plants of delicious varieties thrive.
Next, I have a garage that is literally dangerous to enter. It holds the remnants of my office and for months I could hardly even look at it. I began to simply toss things on the pile instead of putting items where they belong. Now I have a garage that resembles the people I make fun of on those programs about hoarders. Organizing that disaster is my next goal. I will not be able to clear it out, but I can make an improvement in how it functions. That little bit of progress will be enough for me.
Finally, I need to paint the entrance to our home and dining room of the house. The baseboards are scratched and the paint is worn off thanks to my enormous Labrador Retrievers. This task I think I will leave to the professionals and I will at least begin by getting a quote. Many painters are surviving in these times by accepting smaller projects so I know that they will be grateful for this small project.
Just to prove that I'm not all work oriented another goal for the summer is to get a tan! It's been forever since I've even had the time to sit out in the sun and generally I find it a waste of good time. However this year I'm gifting myself the idea of just sitting outside in my completely destroyed back yard for about 20 minutes an afternoon. It doesn't cost a dime!
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Sometimes it's fun to see how little money you can spend in a day or how small a suitcase you can get away with on a trip. Nowadays the suitcase trick is not so much of a lark: You almost have to squeeze everything into a small bag if you want to avoid long lines at the baggage carousel and the prospect of lost luggage. Whether or not minimizing your home office is possible, it sure is appealing to imagine that you could function with this little office!
This particular product - made by a company called Anthro - is called the E-nook Standard. It offers a place to charge your phone too and a small spot for stamps, pencils,or a little calendar. The entire storage assembly closes up like an old-fashioned drop-leaf desk. But this is not your grandmother's desk.
Stand-up computer use likely appeals to a young audience, but older users can charge the laptop before plopping down on the sofa to work it. The idea of hanging your computer station on the wall just like a small piece of art is rather cool. Sadly with the amount of business shrinkage we've all suffered in the past two years the size of this specific home office might be absolutely adequate for far too many people. Entire positions, industries and functions are simply crumbling up and blowing away in a dramatic way. It makes you think of the plaintive images taken by Dorothea Lang during the last Great Depression and Dust Bowl in the middle of America. Our dust is made of the crushed hopes and dreams of millions. We may not be breathing in the grit, but it is affecting our mental and physical health in very serious ways.
We have morphed into a position where many finally have achieved the "paper-less" office that was so talked about in the early 1960s by Herman Miller iconic designers. Offices without walls were the cat's meow and open office planning broke down old stereotypes of how people work together. These days all some high power executives need is a remarkably thin laptop and connection to the Internet. Truly amazing progress unless your office is paper less because your job doesn't exist anymore. Sigh and keep moving ahead.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
OMG! I just heard a report that indicates that those who eat a lot of chocolate might be depressed, but they don't know if the chocolate causes the depression or if depressed people crave chocolate. This is terrible, terrible news. I can take making $60,000 a year less. I can deal with not having taken an fun vacation in over 4 years. Even the idea of cutting out pedicures. But give up chocolate? No way is that ever happening. Don't these scientists know that we women depend on chocolate to breathe?
Everyone seems so darn mad these days: White middle aged men are pissed about losing their jobs. Women are crushed that they have to give up their dream house because their husband lost his job. Kids are bitching about not having the latest electronic do-dad that costs 500 bucks or the latest digital camera.(I offered a used laptop to a young friend and before she would even consider it she wanted to know "what it looked like....") Holy Moses! I actually have three cameras in the garage that no one will take because they are out-of-date. Why the revolutionary Kindle might be obsolete now because of that newest device. The eco-friendly cars are killing people and they want to charge us for taking our purses onto the plane.I can't keep up.
Actually all I want is my chocolate! I am over optimum weight and I know it, but if the big one (I live in earthquake country right over a small fault known as the Rose Canyon Fault) hits I want to have a mouthful of chocolate to ease the horror. I've had cancer twice and for years worried frantically about what I ate. I got cancer anyway. I worried about taking artificial hormones and getting breast cancer, so I cold-turkey stopped hormones and suffered through a nutty menopause. I got the breast cancer anyway. So what is my lifestyle point?
Enjoy your day. Buy fresh flowers. Go out for coffee even though it is cheaper to make it at home. Smile and stay up as late as you want. Pet your dogs and let them sleep with you if you want to. Kiss your significant other with a long, wet smoldering kiss. Listen to the music that your kids think is corny. Life is unpredictable and we can't waste any more time. And buy some chocolate.
Friday, April 23, 2010
So much of how we live depends on what stage we are in at the moment. For instance if you have three little kids under the age of 5 you live in a certain manner, accepting the fact that the house might be a little less picture perfect than you might like. If you are empty nesters perhaps everything stays in place and you only have to clean once every two weeks. Good for you! Young couples on the go live life mostly out of their nest - taking advantage of local coffee houses, clubs, social networking and bars - and basically just sleeping at home!
Lately I've been watching that program on TV about hoarders and while only the most excessive cases are revealed, the idea of keeping too much "stuff" kind of touches all of us in some way. Lots of people have corners where they stack up little used things. Maybe it is simply a cupboard in the kitchen where we keep stuffing plastic and paper bags. It could be a junk drawer where we cram restaurant menus, sticky notes, rubber bands and pens. We all have some secret mess that needs to be cleaned up.
Spring is the perfect time to get into gear and even if your mood is sluggish still from a long winter - or maybe you have the blues from the economic woes - these are the days when organizing can really make a difference. Your mood might be improved by simply attacking one of these disorganized areas. I unfortunately have several spots that need attention: Looking around my home office I can see three boxes that need emptying. In my bedroom I have a huge pile of clothes that needs to be sorted in order to give away to charity. The garage is a horror movie stacked up to the rafters with the contents of my office that I recently moved home. Frankly I haven't been in the mood to even walk out there except that I have to pass the disaster every time I go out there to do the laundry.
If your crisis area is something that you too have to face several times a day may I softly suggest that maybe you would feel better by addressing the need. A shallow bookshelf such at the one shown can hold a myriad of things if they are stuffed into baskets or canvass bags like the ones shown here. You could use almost any type of shelving that is at least 12" deep and the storage devices can be separately bought. Items from small toys to hobby supplies to photographs might be contained in a neat manner. Sometimes it helps just to have a container where you can organize a task on a temporary basis. Then while sitting and watching TV you might take the basket and slowly work on the task at hand.
Bill paying could even be organized in this way. Reading material or mail can be stuffed inside a compartment on a daily basis until you can get enough time to focus on the job to be done. The funny part is that once much time passes - a week or two -lots of the mail is no longer pertinent. Real hoarders have an illness that doesn't allow them to throw anything away and items that most of us consider as trash have a strange meaning to them. For healthy folks the secret to keeping your home livable IS to regularly rid yourself of obsolete items and trash. Especially if you have a tiny house, the idea of keeping the areas tidy and clean is critical. Small spaces do not allow you to clutter the area up with junk.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
All you have to do to verify that we are experiencing a big baby boom is to sit down at a mall and watch what passes you by. I've never seen such a wide variety of carriages, running strollers and other futuristic looking devices obviously created by clever industrial designers to provide parents with ergonomically positive transportation. It is amazing! Management at shopping centers have already figured out that if they offer whimsical push carts (in the form of mini fire engines or horses) that parents will want to linger with the kids. Wonderful fountains and jungle-gym play equipment also serve as a draw for house-bound parents anxious for an outing.
Once at home the variety of cradles and swings that slowly rock your little one to sleep to various environmental sounds is amazing as well. Baby products are more complex these days and appropriately expensive. Where we just rapidly rocked an infant new parents can set a dial and free themselves from having to hold the kid. Warming a bottle also requires a special device that shortens the process of heating up a mid-night meal. Pour water in the well and in about 1 minute the bottle is warm! Magnifique!
The rules for being a foster parent in my community allow for up to two children under the age of two to share a bedroom with an adult. Kids older than two need to have their own bedroom available. So this public policy makes a case for how new parents with tiny homes can make room for a new family member. A corner of mom and dad's bedroom might become baby's area if the room is large enough. You could screen it off or perhaps install the equivalent of a hospital cubicle curtain to divide the space. Even if a baby is across the hallway from mommy and daddy the cries are going to wake them up so sharing a room may not be so outlandish.
Even a home office could share space with the new nursery if necessary. Some color schemes are appropriately gender neutral and still fun enough for a baby. Try apple green, aqua and warm brown. Look at white, orange and sunflower yellow. Denim blue and red is another classic combo that will satisfy an adult usage and an infant's theme. There are no hard and fast rules against using blue for girls, but I don't think too many folks would put their little guy in a pink room. Other than that color there are hundreds of other color family options.
The bottom line is that babies come along and there is no "perfect" time to become a parent. You have to make babies when it is physically appropriate or more accurately stated: Women must abide by their biological time clock. Despite the lousy economy and uncertain future, we are smack in the middle of a wonderful birth explosion! No more wonderful event can ever take place in your life
Thursday, April 15, 2010
There they are just exploding to get inside: Dundee, Kai and Siggy: Our extended four-legged family. The ones who teach us how to love unconditionally. Life changed in my house when we acquired these two large Labrador brothers about 4 1/2 years ago.(The small one belongs to our son and Dundee was just visiting when the photo was taken.) You wonder what dogs have to do with interior design? Quite a lot it turns out.
I used to be one anal housekeeper and totally fixated on keeping things looking in new condition. Any new piece of dirt caught my eye instantly and nothing was ever out of place for long. I love my "things" as most interior designer will admit. We are all possession junkies! Cannot resist a beautiful vase, a great woven basket or a piece of art. When I was young I didn't understand how or why my older designer friends would spend all their money on objects that they fell in love with...it seemed so unwise. But slowly the deep appreciation for the decorative arts got into my blood too and I began to keep some of the items that I supposedly bought for clients!
But then the boys came to live with us and all hell broke loose with regard to the condition of my house and yard. The baseboards are scraped and dirty, the walls are splattered with crud that comes out of their mouths when they shake, and the once off-white grout is a lovely chocolate brown now. (Well at least it matches Siggy's warm coat color.) Now we are into full blown shedding season so the vacuum cleaner just stays out all the time. I've given up! I literally have two huge black crates right in the dining room because it is one of the largest rooms in the house. My adult son felt the need to point that out to me recently. "Do you realize that you have dog crates in the dining room?" he passionately pointed out. Yup! I sure do.
What my good-looking boys have taught me is that while my environment is important to me and I still absolutely enjoy the visual treats all over my home, I value the warmth brought into our home by these nutty labs much more than I can imagine. I am willing to ignore the hair, the goop, the constant cleaning and the barking all because they just love us. Our yard is an entirely different issue: Nothing is left of my gorgeous garden or lawn. It is hideous looking at the moment.
Which makes me think of young families with little kids. You've just got to decorate in a kid-friendly way. Choose fabrics with texture and pattern so that you are not overly worried about spills. Check out some of the newer Green textiles that can be literally scrubbed. Select softer lines: A round coffee table vs. a sharp glass-top version. Avoid breakable accessories or put the delicate treasures up high or behind a locked glass door for safety. Favor flooring that will conceal dirt and traffic patterns. Bend. Flex. Be reasonable. Your little ones won't be tiny forever and there is plenty of time for a whole new look later on. There are safety issues to be sensitive to such as avoiding cords for window treatments or heavy lamps that might be pulled over onto a toddler.
But in the end your home already has the most gorgeous element possible: A precious young life! Relax and enjoy this time as a family. Life in the colored pages of decorating magazines is not real. We stage rooms for photography so remember as you lust after some specific "look" that it has been prepped for the camera. Real life is more sloppy for most people. Somewhere between being one of those embarrassed TV hoarders and a neat-freak you will find domestic happiness. May you eventually achieve your easy and balanced pace!