Monday, June 26, 2017

Pairing Down

These days I try to pay more attention to the "in between" periods in life. Embracing them because they usually entail major life lessons that come attached to loss, change in general, or unexpected circumstance that arise randomly throughout our life. Be it in the form of death, job loss, money issues, personal conflict, depression, relationship problems, you name it. Whenever circumstances falter, and the frame of routine starts to dissolve, experience tells us the best we can do is learn from it. Surely nothing new in the land of self help philosophies, I know, but worth the reminder from time to time simply because we ( ) need help keeping it in mind.

I'm alluding specifically to the past two months, where we up and sold our home without any clue where exactly it was we were headed next. Because my intuition told me it was time. And promoted a move where even people like us - who cling to the grand notion of spontaneity in just about every aspect of life, couldn't help but stress the impending outcome. Partly for reasons I noted here in previous posts - regarding us being tossed into a seller's market in an endlessly hiking So Cal real estate bubble, combating bidding wars that tend to overshadow what should be a pleasant hunt for a new house. Where it ends up being a very easy place to feel defeated. But I also worried about all the typical things that go along with a big move - finding new (good) schools (the one we pulled them from was amazing, so I knew the replacement one had to compare) a decent neighborhood, a warm, welcoming home, as well as a hundred other things I worried about late night on long nights I couldn't sleep along the way.

What I didn't anticipate though, during the 2 month period in which we were fortunate enough to shack up with the in laws while searching for the "perfect house," was the accidental enlightenment that arose under such circumstances. How I would wake to realize - inside of this strange, fleeting & chaotic period - that we could live, and thrive, and be perfectly content without a huge percentage of the possessions we owned. That a small selection of "stuff" was really all any of us even needed. Without much consideration we left most of what we have in storage and decided to live similar to how we do while camping. For as long as it took. Leaning solely on the bare necessities to get us by: a select & minimal wardrobe for the entire family, a few favorite toys, books, computers, and a couple craft bins to get us through. What became quickly apparent as the weeks passed was just how easily the boys were entertained by what surrounded them. Minimal as the options were. And how much we adapted the same way. Wearing a handful of items over and over again in what ended up becoming a refreshingly basic rotation. Easy and unthought. Me, having but a single pair of shoes I wore for weeks on end without much care. How freeing it proved to have to keep track of and consider so much LESS on a daily basis.

It was the kind of awakening that would coincided perfectly in this next chapter of our lives. Just when we needed it most. Seeing how we were facing fact of a major downsize, square footage wise, in whatever home we could find in our budget, in the cities we were seeking. The thought of which honestly stressed me slightly, imagining such strict storage space, and having to be smarter and more practical about what and how we accumulate things from here on out.

And yet I know now that we can. Because we have to. Because it feels quite liberating to own a lot less. And because it doesn't necessarily entail the sharp sacrifice I envisioned. So we continue to weed though what we have. Eliminating furniture. Donating clothing, editing the array of knick knacks and clinging to a new sense of freedom in the sparseness of new beginnings. Nearly two weeks in and we're still without Internet. Or television. Or clean laundry, or excessive toys. And yet blissfully happy in it regardless. Waking on stiff mattresses plopped on the floor. Seeing dim layers of fog painting our windows white in the morning. Consumed in the endless possibility this new dream house brings. Wearing the same overalls and frayed denim shorts to the beach early morning before the crowds pile in. Boys caught playing with orange peels in the slow roll of a mid week afternoon nap. Building towers out of blocks in the sun spilt corner of the front room, where the blue glint of the harbor boats hang in the corner window, day dreaming about the beauty this new house will eventually encase. New beginnings, paired down. Slowly, steadily, with nothing but our own hands here to shape it. Living simply, minimally, gratefully, here all summer in the meantime.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Cooking Up Trouble / Recipes to Nourish Women

When Anne first told me she was cooking up something special, to benefit Planned Parenthood I never guessed she was speaking literally. Then a couple months later it arrived on my doorstep - a beautiful spiral soft cover cookbook titled "Cooking Up Trouble / Recipes to Nourish Women" a labor of love created by a handful of talented ladies seeking to combine their efforts towards meaningful ways of donation.

The result is perfection. A uniquely styled collection of healthful recipes and delightful cocktails broken up into the following Categories: Drinks, Breakfast Things, Soups & Sides & Snacks, Mains & Stuff in Bowls, and Deserts. The salads are fantastic and the "Bowl of Plenty" is the first dish I plan on attempting.

It's the kind of book you buy for your friend or roommate, teacher, sister, mother, neighbor and kin. And it's only 30 bucks. So it's almost silly to even consider against it. And they're selling like hot cakes so get yours while they last.

Purchase info HERE


When the good folks at The Cambria Beach Lodge invited us to their hotel a couple months ago I worried first (like I do anytime we get an invitation of this nature) they maybe they don't realize how many kids I actually have, but figured eventually - once I realized they were ok with us all, it was the perfect excuse to get out of town just as the school year came to an end and the stresses of escrow appeared to be wrapping up as well. Plus the lodge boasts a low key surf friendly vibe which seems easily suited to our crew. The fact that in all my years road tripping up the coast, I'd never been to Moonstone beach, made me that much more exited to head up there this season especially. Which I adore because the blanket of fog covers the coastline and I can drive all day long in that scenery with a good soundtrack on my side. Which is what I did. Along with my niece who tagged along and always seems to bring a calm balance to the bunch whenever she does. 

A few things I learned about Cambria during the three days we were there is:

- Moonstone feels like a little slice of heaven with all those stunning rocks scattering the beach and staggering wood stairways taking you from the cliffs to shore.

- The driftwood (in addition to the rocks) is prettier than any other beach else I've met (we brought home buckets full of both) and they are currently piled on our mantle in the new house. 

- The town is small but inviting and the sandwich and ice cream shops downtown do not disappoint.

- Lobster bisque, while delicious, is too rich for me. 

- The Nitt Whitt Ridge house back story is worth the read, and visit: "Purchased by Arthur Harold Beal in 1928, this “castle on a hill” was perfected using only a pick and shovel. Beal made good use of his job, as a garbage collector, taking natural minerals that were tossed away and beach debris to accentuate the Ridge.

- Population in town is approximately 6,100

- The seal lions down the road at San Simeon are far stinkier than they are cute. But the picnic benches on site by the beach are an ideal place to park a picnic. 

- The Beach Lodge being across the street from the beach is even more convenient than I expected. Mostly because the air is so cool and brisk up there this time of year it allows you to dart into the lobby for some hot chocolate or to warm our hands by the fire place when you need a break from the cold. 

- The name Cambria, chosen in 1869, is the Latin name for Wales.


In short, it was a lovely trip, briefer of course than I'd prefer, but isn't that always the case when it comes to these gorgeous coastal beach town visits? Good news is we'll be back. And when we do, it'll be at the lodge. Where I know know we can count on good rates, friendly staff, buckets full of moonstones, and hot chocolate at brunch with a hazy, brooding ocean view in June.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Still We Rise

Another go at a super successful auction that ran earlier this year benefitting Planned Parenthood with 100 percent of the proceeds being donated to them.

- Bidding begins this morning - you can follow along over @_stillwerise on Instagram for news and listings.

Thank you, Lindsey for putting it all together!

And I'll be back this week playing catch up here on posts, and life in general starting tomorrow as well.

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Brooklyn Affair

On the plane ride back, before take off, I overhead one of the women next to me discussing the other one's first trip to L.A. Where she was warned that people out there walk "a LOT slower. And "most of the time don't even seem to know where it is they're going." A fact I would silently agree with. In all fairness, it's true. As a self proclaimed "fast walker" myself I always find the brisk rhythm of a New York street quite refreshing to fall into. But as far as undermined destinations are concerned is it so bad that West Coast folks like to wander? We may not always know where we're going, but one might argue that that's part of the beauty inherent in California dwelling.

I also wanted to inform them - one Zanax and half a glass of champagne (pre flight) deep - in slight defense of my sun drenched slow paced coast, that there are also a couple things they could stand to learn from us. The art of a proper Michelada, for one. I don't care where in the world you reside through the summer months, beer, with ice, spices and a splash of Clamato, doused with lime is always a fantastic idea. Unless of course heartburn is your hurdle.

Based on my experience though (and plenty of conversational inquiries dedicated to the matter) New York is getting it all wrong when it comes to bloody beers at brunch.

But I digress. As this is not a post about cocktails. More a snapshot of love. Specifically in regards to the wedding reception I was there for, in honor of my best friend and her new wife, held in a quaint Brooklyn loft cleared out and transformed into a chic, customized venue to host the after party. On a Saturday where all walks of life poured in to drink, dance and celebrate their union.

Wherein the four days before the event we swept through the Met - greeting the sparse brilliance that is Sara Berman's closet in person. And later visiting the sheer genius of Georgia O'Keefe's art and wardrobe on display over in Brooklyn. The shot of her flirting coyly with Ansel Adams giving my heart a quick jump. As well as the obvious determination as a young handsome girl wishing to stand out amidst of sea of slick haired beauties in a graduating photo from her year book that mentioned her being "one of her own." Everything new I learned about her exploded the trending notion of what measely information I gleaned prior, based on the reposting of her image basically becoming the new "Jane Birken" in the hip cycle of social media "shares." I walked away sure that she was far cooler, and more cutting edge than any of us actually might ever realize. And it's no wonder all the great talents of her generation flocked to be around her. It also struck a new obsession in me wanting to learn more. And yet somehow in that frame of mind I managed to escape the sweet lure of the gift shop stocked with books and art prints, where one's new intrigues might find plenty of reason to empty their pockets. But then again, it's a practicality I'm kind of regretting now that I'm home . . .

And then of course there were all the beautiful bars we stopped into in between. Too many for me to dutifully note here in spite of my better intentions being to unroll a point of reference of sorts after the trip. My time was too hectic to take notes. But there was one in particular on the Thursday after I arrived we found at a fancy hotel down the street from the Met. Just as a mid day rainstorm was brewing overheard and we were getting wet without umbrellas. Where we sat snacking on plates filled with nuts and popcorn. Before an oddly handsome man who looked as if he had just walked off a David Lynch film in the 90s to serve us. Leaving with an impressive bill earned in the three hours we were there watching the rain fall. Drinking tequila and laughing the bulk of an afternoon away.

Other highlights, randomly out of order and likely out of context too, being:
Late night tacos with the girls in Brooklyn, 
a stunning dinner after a notably stress filled day atop the rooftop eatery at the William Veil (where every single thing delivered to our table was more delicious than the last) 
room service in bathrobes, 
a dive bar with a really great selections of hot dogs, 
a dance party in the green glow of Jess's self titled "Liberace Room" where brass dishware competes with ornately framed floor to ceiling art,
and one glorious cheese platter display built by their good friend Billy and his husband. Who more or less explained to us that only gay men in sharp looking suits should be in charge of such feats. Which we all surrounding witnesses agreed.

And naturally all the bagels and flagels and pizza, and beer I could possibly stomach. A proper, five day New York indulgence that I was sad to leave, as much as I was starting to miss my wild household of boys by the end.

I headed back full of gratitude for the time shared with these incredible ladies. For my friend finding solid love and companionship in a city I tried so hard to talk her out of some years ago with all my selfish reasons rooted in convenience. Like a best friend is prone to. For the new memories made. And all the fun we had. In spite of a couple of illy concocted attempts at that signature California Michelada which I know now might forever serve as rightful temptation to those who know better. Just another perk to pine for while planning their visits back. Where the tomato tinged drinks and slow stroll on the boardwalks they grew up with will forever be waiting on their return.  As brief as their stays always feel.