Sunday, March 31, 2013

Funny Bunny

  Pao Pao joins me in wishing a Happy Easter to all our friends who celebrate!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

First Roses of Spring

 My roses have begun to bloom! First ones out are "Double Delight":

Such a gorgeous rose, with its cream-to-magenta coloring.

And they smell glorious.

Each bloom is just a wee bit different from its neighbor, some with more cream, some with less.

Some with more magenta, but all gorgeous. When cut, they last a long time in a vase.

I love love love this rose.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Roadside Treasure: San Marcos Blanket

Well, I keep taking the dogs for walks, and the Universe keeps putting the most interesting things in my path. This time, it was a huge, folded-up blanket in a large basket, set out by trash cans in an alley. I don't need the basket, but I thought the blanket might be good to cut up in fourths and donate to my city's pound. (Pound puppies always need more warm blankies.)

When I got the blanket and unrolled it, however, I realized this is NOT a blanket to cut up. This is one of the famous San Marcos blankets! I remembered reading about them in an article in the Los Angeles Times:

Thick, plush, and a bit garish, they have been beloved by Angelenos, especially those with a Latino background, for decades.

But the San Marcos factory stopped making the famous reverse-image blankets in 2004, so they are a coveted item now. Folks buy and sell them on eBay.

This one features a couple of bison thundering across the plain under a moon--or is it a sun? The blanket reverses image, so it looks more like a night scene on one side and more like daylight on the other:

 (It also looks like that bison is heading for Mu Shu's butt!)

The blankets are famously soft and cozy. Mu Shu noticed that right away, and as I folded up the blanket after I took the above shots, he plopped himself down and refused to move off:

Eventually he'll get tired and move off, then I can take it in to launder it.

Meanwhile, don't fawn pugs look good when photographed against teal-and-black blankets?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Clutter Busting: The Tee Shirt Collection

As part of my campaign to clear out the clutter in small, manageable steps, I tackled my tee shirts. That may not seem like much, but my daily "uniform" is a tee shirt and jeans, so I have a couple dozen of them.

Clutter-busting tee shirts--or anything that you use on a daily basis--like towels or dishes or pens and pencils, is a two-step process. First, you have to get rid of the ones that aren't working for you. Second, you have to fill in any gaps made.

I took a close look at every shirt I owned under a strong light. I put aside any that had a hole, a stain, or that I simply wasn't wearing for one reason or another.

I donated the ones that are in good condition to Goodwill:

The ones with holes or perma-stains become rags. (I tend to wear only 100 percent cotton tees, and they make good, lint-free rags.) I cut off the arms and put the torso part in the rag box:

I use the sleeves as small, soft wipes to clean out my pugs' nose wrinkles. A pug has a deep fold of skin above its almost-nonexistent nose, and it needs regular wiping out:

(If you don't have a pug, you could of course use the entire tee shirt as a rag!)

Next, I filled in the gaps left by the tee shirts that were donated or tossed. I bought some solid vee-necks in black, white, and gray (my go-to choices). I like Gap's "Essential V-Neck" these days, and these were on sale, so Yay:

Then, I pushed myself to buy a few Gap tees with patterns. Usually a solid-tee girl, I felt it was time to dip a toe into the water. These are all in colors I like (and no giant, crazy patterns):

The random silver stars scattered on this blue one look good with my hair:

And two with polka dots. (How could I pass up polka-dot tees?):

And lastly, this one with a solid sleeve. It has a vaguely French flair, which I like.

Here's the trick: Make sure the number of things you toss or donate (tee shirts, coffee mugs, whatever) is bigger than the number of new ones you buy. That way, you will reduce the numbers in your closets or shelves over time. When it comes to clutter busting, that's a good thing.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Clutter Busting: Corralling the Clippings

One of the biggest sources of clutter in my life has been my magazine clippings. So recently I sorted them all into different categories and bought some pretty binders to put them in. The first mess I tackled was my "Things I Love" pile:

I just rubber-cemented the clippings onto plain, ruled paper (which helped me keep them straight):

I pasted not only things I cut from magazines, but also tissue paper, chocolate wrappers, stamps, and anything that I thought is lovely:

I popped the pages into one of these inexpensive three-ring binders I bought from the Martha Stewart line at Staples:

I love this turquoise-blue binder. It feels like leather, but it's only about $10. It has a pocket on the inside to tuck future clippings that are waiting to get glued down:

To identify the binder when it's filed on a bookshelf, I used a hang tag from the Martha Stewart line at Staples:

At first I was baffled: How was I going to write with chalk and make it look pretty on such a small tag? Then I had a brainwave: I used my white dressmaker's chalk pencil. Worked like a charm!

I love the black/white graphic look of the hang tag, and how the binder's smooth surface contrasts with the rough twine of the tag. I also love that, if I change my tastes or want to update the binder, I can move pages in and out easily:

One binder down; five or six to go!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Orange: A Color to Love?

It's pretty well known in my family that I don't like the color orange. It's so brash, so cartoonish, so clownish.  I don't wear anything orange, and there's nothing orange in my home's decor.

And yet, there are some oranges in Nature--actually in and around my house--that I think are delightful. The Clivea in my yard:

Simply glorious this time of year!

A rose called "Chris Evert" that I would never, ever have ordered, had I known it would look like this:

And yet it's such a riot of sunset colors, especially orange, that I forgive it for not being the pale, whipped-butter-yellow flower I thought I was ordering:

And Ojai "Pixie" tangerines. If you've never had one, PLEASE go out and find some.

They are the sweetest, most intense citrus I've ever found. Far sweeter than a regular mandarine, or a tangerine, or even a "Cutie." These will redefine your idea of a California citrus:

They are intensely orange in taste, smell, and looks. So, yeah, there are times when I love orange!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Chalk Paint Labels for the Pantry

You know how great chalkboard paint is, right? How creative, crafty people use it for all sorts of projects? 

Yeah. I admire them, but if I'm honest with myself, I'm not gonna go in for all this mess:

photo from planningqueen, via flickr Creative Commons

That's why I was so happy to find these: peel-off, stick-on chalkboard paint labels. And you can reposition them by simply peeling them off and re-applying:

Now, that I can do! I've been wanting to organize my dried peas/beans/lentils/barley stuff for a while, because this is what it looks like now:

In a basket, but slumpy and sort of chaotic. Also not easy to see what I have at a glance. So I dragged out some clean, empty jars and started in:

Okay, maybe it's not the coolest look that the jar on the right says "Laura Scudders Peanut Butter" on the top. Oh, well:

I smoothed on a label and used the white chalk (included!) to identify the contents. If your handwriting isn't gorgeous (mine certainly isn't), you could always ask a friend with a nicer hand to do this part:

Meh. I got my first-ever "C" in second grade for my handwriting. It hasn't improved since then.

One note of caution: these labels work best on jars with smooth, cylindrical sides. If your jars are faceted, you will find the labels pop off, like this:

Oh, well. After you're finished marking your jars, you can toss the chalk into your junk drawer. Or drop a piece or two of chalk in with your sterling silver. It helps keep it from tarnishing.

I found my chalkboard labels at Cost Plus World Market.  You can find a similar set of labels in the Martha Stewart office supplies section at your local Staples.

Happy labeling!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Polka Dots at White House/Black Market

Do you have White House/Black Market stores where you live? There's one at the local mall near me. I love going in there, because everything is either black, white, black-and-white, or maybe one little bit of color, just for spice. They have a catalog, too, which I can't get them to stop sending me. (I don't need the temptation! Save the trees!)

But this time the catalog came and Oh!, am I tempted. Because there are polka dots. Specifically, this dress:

And this beautiful little top:

And this spiffy skirt, with dots of different sizes:

And although I'm not a fan of beige, this top looks very intriguing. Are those pintucks?:

Might have to go to the mall and investigate this further....

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Bit of Provence in My Neighborhood

A few years back, there was a cute little ol' house in our neighborhood that had an English cottage sort of vibe to it:

I passed by it every day as I walked my pugs. I admired the funny little popped-out kitchen nook:

...and the British-phone-booth bright red door:

It had an unfortunate hodge-podge of a garden, with everything from primroses (English cottage!) to banana plants (so not!):

After 60 years of continuous ownership by one family, the house was put on the market. Dumpsters and workmen appeared. One day, I saw the house's five beautiful diamond-pane, leaded-glass windows tossed on the trash heap:

Most suffered from broken glass, but one escaped undamaged. I asked the foreman if I could have it. He not only said Yes, he loaded it into his truck and took it around the corner to my house!

It now hangs above the dining-room bar in the home of Lovely Daughter #1:

The little old house went through quite a transformation. From funky English cottage, it emerged as a beautiful, spare country home that evokes the hot landscape of Provence:

Its grounds are planted with olive trees and lavender bushes. In place of the higgledy-piggledy garden out front, there is now an interior courtyard with decomposed-gravel:

These gorgeous ceramic balls are set next to the front door and function almost like a beautiful pot or planter:

Now the house is behind a wooden fence, and I can't see in to the windows much. What is visible has a spare, architectural sense.

But I always wondered what the inside might look like.

And now I know! The house was featured in an article in Country Living's February 2012 issue. The interiors are just as spare and arresting as the exteriors. The lady of the house is actress-turned-decorator Amanda Pays. She's married to actor Corbin Bernson. They've done a beautiful job of carrying a certain look throughout their home. Here is the kitchen:

I love this rough little cabinet stocked with simple yellow and white dishes. You don't have to be wealthy or famous to steal this look!:

Here is the living room. I love the oversize painting on the back wall, and the casual assembly of four paintings off center from the left-hand couch. (And look how one hot-colored pillow and a vase of flowers balance out all those neutral colors):

This is another bit of the living room. I have sometimes seen the little bust in a front window; Ms. Pays must like to move things around a bit. (Or maybe the stylists for the shot did?) The whippet is "Digby," and the pugs and I see her a lot, trotting elegantly around our neighborhood on her daily walk:

She even matches the interiors!

Below are some shots of the upstairs, which Pays and Bernson built (the original house was one story). The wicker chair, the simple pouf, and the vintage map make a great little spot to sit and read (or pluck the guitar):

Here's an easy idea to copy. They turned this utilitarian box into his-and-hers laundry sorters by setting two hampers inside:

Love, love, love a clawfoot tub. It must be delicious to soak there and gaze out the window at the tree tops:

I can see this little cone-shaped lamp from the street, but I never knew what was under it. Now I do: a nook with a sink:

When this property was for sale, I walked through it. I fell in love with this space, below, which was a ratty old garage/workshop that stood at the back of the property, separate from the house. It was dark, dripping with cobwebs, and lined with rotting tar paper. Little cardboard boxes of rusting nails and odd bits of this-n-that lined the entire back wall. I could imagine it redone as a beautiful art studio. Ms. Pays made it into a separate living quarters for two of her grown sons to share when they visit:

Here's the whole family in their back yard. The decomposed gravel in the front courtyard reappears here, as well as the simple, spare furniture, some of which was made by Bernson:

All the photos from the Country Living shoot are from the talented hand and eye of Max Kim-Bee.

Well done, neighbors!


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