Thursday, May 31, 2012

Garden Perfection

Now that our outdoor living room is set up, we're spending an inordinate amount of time in the garden, morning, afternoon, and early evening. Why waste your time on Twitter and Facebook indoors when you could be wasting your time on Twitter and Facebook outside in the bright California sunshine?

Spending more time in the sunny weather yesterday led us to cool down with some maple Oreo ice cream at Scoops, followed by an impromptu trip to Rolling Greens to get some new plants to complete our outdoor living room. I've discovered after a few months of living here that our garden is not as shady as I'd originally thought (the hydrangeas I planted are suffering a slow burning death) so I decided to try out some full-sun plants, with the help of the friendly blonde lady at Rolling Greens and a certain detective who helped search for clues about which plants would survive the longest.

verrrrrrrrrry interesting evidence indeed.
Here's what we came home with:

sweet lavender

furry kangaroo paw!
forgot what this is called

succulents, my favorite low-maintenance girlfriend.
Investigating the newcomers
By the way, these gorgeous peonies below are not from Rolling Greens, but rather, Trader Joe's. It was only $5.99 for the whole bunch because they're in season and are mostly shipped down from Northern California. That's like $1 a pop for tabletop beauty that lasts over a week. You can't tell in the picture, but these are each about the size of small dinner plates.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Design Your Own Bedding, Plus Potato Chips

Ever since my post a few weeks ago about trying to find the perfect bedding, my friend Ayana has been sending me helpful links about where she goes when she obsesses over best modern linen and duvet covers.

Today she turned me onto InMod, where apparently you can design your own duvet covers. Say what?

It's true. You start by choosing the pattern. Though the selections are somewhat limited, there are definitely a few cute, Swedish-looking modern designs. Next, you choose between cotton (215 thread count), cotton/linen blend, or silk dupioni. 215 TC isn't the softest material this princess has ever slept on, but then again this is just for duvet covers, so it shouldn't matter too much unless you don't use a flat sheet. Finally, you choose your colors and customize the colors of the embroidery/detailing for the pattern you've chosen.

Here are a few designs I came up with in just a matter of minutes as I was playing around with the site.

What do you think, I should totally quit acting and start designing duvet covers as my day job, right? Right guys? Guys?
Speaking of acting, here's a little commercial featuring me that's on TV right now. I don't while away ALL my time just shopping online for house stuff, c'mon! Warning: Eating Ruffles in bed will no doubt ruin your beautiful new custom-designed duvet with unsightly grease stains.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

An Outdoor Living Room

If you're 1 of the 2 people who follow this blog, you'll remember a few posts back that I was sitting in our wicker garden chairs inherited from the previous tenant when --CRAAAACK!-- in the middle of chatting leisurely with my friend Daniel, the back leg suddenly collapsed, sending me tumbling into the bushes, trapped underneath a mess of broken wicker. Daniel, kind soul that he is, insisted on snapping a photo and posting it on Facebook before helping me get out of the bushes. Thanks, Daniel.

The timing worked out great, because with Memorial Day Weekend upon us, most furniture stores are at the peak of their outdoor furniture sales. We didn't want to spend a lot to replace the chairs because we're not sure how long we'll actually have a garden, but at the same time we do spend some warm evenings hanging out back reading magazines, sipping wine, and watching the cats go buck wild, so I wanted to make sure we found some comfortable, non-middle-aged-cat-lady-like replacements.

Contrary to popular belief, our owner is not a cat lady.
We found a great deal at one of my favorite bargain stores here, Cost Plus World Market, which is sort of like a cooler Pier 1 with better prices and awesome snacks like old-fashioned soft eating licorice* and dried mangosteens.  We scored a great deal on a 4 piece set for only $200!

*As opposed to modern throwing licorice, of course. For the record, licorice is delicious.

Our new outdoor seating is made out of solid, plantation-grown acacia wood, so in order to protect it from all the outdoor elements I set to sealing this with some all-natural water protectant.

I took an old, soft rag and painstakingly rubbed the oil into the wood. Let it set for 10 minutes.
Wax on, wax off.

Oily sheen on the acacia wood.
Let it set in for 10 minutes, then wipe off the excess oil.

Voila! We have a waterproof outdoor living room!

Now to work on those flower beds. My brown thumb hasn't changed much.

Friday, May 18, 2012

When You Wish Upon A Chair

I salivate at the sight of Hans Wegner wishbone chairs. The curved lines, the mix of modern and rustic, ay de mi!

Normally these suckers are like $800-$1000 a pop, but in my search for new dining room chairs, I found these high quality reproductions on for only $138:

Ummmm...can anyone really tell a difference? I think some reproductions of nice furniture are cheesy, but for $700 cheaper? These look pretty damn good. Can anyone attest to the comfort of actually sitting in these? I think I'm gonna registry this.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wedding Registry Guilt, Ice Cream, and Beds, Oh My!

We started putting our wedding registry together last week, and BOY is it fun to walk through a store with a scanner and -- ZAP! ZAP! ZAP! -- indiscriminately choose items that would be fabu in our new home together.

Stands and delivers.

My married friends and my parents have convinced me, against some of my anti-consumerism and anti-materialism instincts, to just cave in and accept that we will need things to build our new home together. Ikea, after all, will eventually fall apart, and I don't want to be using the same 20-year-old, threadbare sheets that I brought back home last time I raided my parents' closet. Once I accepted this fact, I could revel a bit in finally getting a chance to have those grown up things I've lusted after for most of my adult life-- a Kitchenaid stand mixer! Le Creuset cookware! A Dyson Animal vacuum cleaner! Part of me still feels guilty asking for these things; after all, who needs an ice cream maker? And then the other part of me that's telling me to relaaax and just enjoy this wedding ritual is saying, "Yes. Your summer evenings will be spent savoring the delicious fresh mint chocolate chip ice cream that you and your husband made together on a Saturday afternoon." So BAM. There it is. Ice cream maker: ZAP!

Mmmmmmmm...marital bliss.

One thing I've been having a hard time finding is some decent bedding. For Alex's sake, I'm trying to veer away from my girly instincts (ix-nay on the Anthropologie-ay) and find something that's modern, a little more masculine, but still fun and airy and light. Now that my revamped French blue dresser and these cute patterned curtains are the dominating factors in the room, I need to find something that will go with that. Here are a few candidates:

I love the yellow and grey combination and the modern take on floral for these sheets from the LoftHome Collection at The Company Store. Plus the reverse pattern is very cute.

This is probably way too ornate, but I'm always drawn to the bright yellow and the peacocks on this duvet cover from DwellStudio. At a $350 price point, I also feel bad for putting such an expensive thing on my registry.

For some reason, I keep being drawn to poppy red stripes as well, though I probably would get tired of these after about a year.

Anyone got any thoughts or favorite places to buy their bedding?

Friday, May 11, 2012

We Need New Patio Furniture

The old furniture broke. While I was sitting in it.

This was not staged.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chi-town, Frank Lloyd Wright, and House Lust

Last week, I booked a national commercial where they flew me out to Chicago to eat potato chips. On my way to the airport, I chatted with my town car driver, who was an older, black gentleman who had gone to college and lived in the same neighborhood where I lived when I was at the University of Chicago. Just talking about Hyde Park with him brought me back to memories of living there in that leafy neighborhood that's one part gothic and depressing, one part university-style quadrangle clubs and ivy-covered buildings, one part rich jazz history, one part roughneck South Side, and all parts nerd.

Yes, a certain pre-presidential Barack Obama was my neighbor just a few blocks away, as was bowtie-donning Louis Farrakhan.* Hyde Park is a historically rich neighborhood, having been the home of residents such as Nobel prizewinner Saul Bellow, pilot Amelia Earhardt, infamous activist Bill Ayers, and Nobel-winning physicist Enrico Fermi (he developed the world's first self-sustained nuclear reaction, purportedly in the university's lab underneath the squash courts, leaving a radiation footprint for ages to come).
*A few of my friends thought it would be hilarious to dress up and go trick-or-treating at Farrakhan's house on Halloween, only to be scared shitless by guns drawn on them by his Nation of Islam security guards parked out on his front lawn 24/7.

All hail POTUS!
I loved the multiple layers of Hyde Park: the Thai and Lebanese restaurants on 55th Street, the very Shining-esque luxury hotel turned dorm, The Shoreland (aka The Scoreland), my first home away from home, where Al Capone and the Queen of England had stayed. The green expanse of the Midway, where the 1893 World Fair was held, where nobody in their right mind would cross mid-winter, student eatery The Medici, where a friend of mine once found glass in his salad (and kept eating), and the eggplant sandwiches from Pizza Capri, the grassy Quad, where I'd guiltily spend cut-class time laying out and reading, the colonies of monk parakeets that were bright glimpses of green in the dead of winter.
Harper Library, location of many a good nap


Bond Chapel, where socially weird U of C people can marry only other socially weird U of C people

But visually, when I think of Hyde Park, I most immediately think of the buildings--the grey, gothic structures on campus, the 1900s craftsman-style apartment buildings with stained art glass, the professors' houses on Woodlawn.

The law quad, where I spent some time due to some misguided moment in which I thought I might go to law school so I better take some law school courses, was designed by none other than Eero Saarinen, maker of the famed drool-worthy tulip tables. And the school's groundbreaking School of Social Service Administration was housed in a building designed by Mies van der Rohe, one of the forefathers of modern architecture.

Saarinen's tulip chairs and table
And, of course, there Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House, a masterpiece of American architecture and a stunning example of prairie style. I spent a lot of days walking by this place on campus.

Robie House in Hyde Park, Chicago
My conversation with that driver inspired me to rethink sunny Los Angeles. Sure, LA is pretty in some places. I can't deny that looking down from the top of Temescal Canyon in the Pacific Palisades at the Pacific Ocean doesn't appeal to me, or watching the sun set over the Hollywood Hills isn't awesome. Mostly, on the ground level, though, I see LA as strip malls, traffic, newness.

But talking to driver guy reminded me of a little spot I discovered just a year ago on my birthday, Barnsdall Park. I had a picnic on top of a peaceful, grassy hill, where my friends and I spread out with cupcakes and wine and spent the day overlooking LA's city expanse. Behind us was Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House, but it was closed at the time.

Since Alex's architecture-loving parents were in town when I got back from potato-chip-eating, I figured it might be a nice idea to see the city from the top of Barnsdall and check out Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House while we were up there. There, I got a good, healthy dose of house envy.

The living room. There's a moat around the fireplace!

Wright's art glass windows.
By the way, I didn't get it at first, but this is a hollyhock flower:

And here is Wright's abstraction of it:

Get it? Anyway, lesson learned: LA's not so bad after all. It's just as historically rich as Chicago. You just gotta look...and house lust is not a bad way to motivate yourself to turn off reruns of 30 Rock and explore the neighborhood.