Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Garden

The old garden is in good form for Graduation Season. The rellies will be here any minute. Mum and Dad are flying in tonight from New Zealand, Kevin's parents are coming in from Pennsylvania and his brother from Denver. No pressure then, you birds of paradise who want to hog the attention! Arms and feet in fifth position and...extend, as Mrs Shirley Dibble, our old ballet mistress, would say.


These pink guys (anyone know what they're called?) just wootle all over the place, like every day is a party.



Seen on Naomi's blog post today about Constance Spry, celebrity gardener-florist-philosopher-educator in the 1930's.  I never heard of her, she's fascinating, go over to Naomi and read all about her.

Anyway Naomi said: "Spring fever has got the better of me and I have been Druid like in my reverence of all the blooms that herald my new favorite season." 

I had to google "Druid" - didn't know what they were. Must have missed that class at my alma mater, Whakatane High School, NZ. (pronounced "Fuckatane," btw, if you're new to the blog)


Apparently the daisy-like flowers above are technically weeds. (Whose blog did I see that on?) Well good on them for making the transition to plantable fleur. Like a reality star rising up to become host of their own show. (Not saying reality stars are weeds, but you get the picture) The plants are all well established and we have fake lawn, so watering kept to min. We're in a drought, so instead of adding flowers, we got some cheapie cushions from CB2.


I didn't think I would like them in the situ, but I do.









Kangaroo Paws do really well here. 




Proteas, love them. Remind me of NZ.



Old succulents hanging out on the deck as per usual, pretty relaxed characters aren't they?





That's all from the old jardin. Which plant in your garden do you favour most at the mo? (I won't tell)



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Couple Who Are Doing Up a 11,041 sq ft (!) Victorian in Oakland

My latest article for the San Francisco Chronicle is about a couple, Josh and Steve, who are doing up a 11,041 sq ft (!) Victorian in Oakland. For most people this would spell D-I-V-O-R-C-E, but for this couple it's been a labour of love. You can read the full article here.

All photos by Aubrie Pick.

Josh and Steve with  their dogs Kobe and Bacon
The men do a lot of the work themselves and as far as I can tell work on it into the evenings and all weekend. The house is really amazing in the flesh: it has six parlours alone.




This tremendous Staghorn Fern is 100 years old. It was given to them by their neighbours, who when they moved into the neighborhood in the 1960's, had stones thrown through their windows because they were gay.





Josh has done all the styling and finding furniture himself and the result is both elegant and cost-conscious. In the dining room he has used cheap painters' cloth for the curtains which he sewed himself.




What's fascinating about this home is that as soon as they bought it, they were contacted by a location agent about renting it out for photoshoots. In the last two years many home decor companies including Pottery Barn and Serena and Lily have rented it out for the day or week to shoot their products. Look at what Serena and Lily came up with in the parlour next to this one - I love this green floor-to-ceiling stripe.



Serena and Lily


This is what it looks like from the outside. Steve calls it "two shades of liver." They intend to paint it all white when they get the money.



This is what the inside used to look like. Some of the rooms were painted up to seven different colours.


They built a chookhouse for their 26 chickens. It's a cross between Martha Stewart's and Abraham Lincoln, apparently (Built by Matthew Hooven of Alhorn/Hooven.)



The spare room.


Steve says visitors either love or hate their kitchen, which remains very rustic and has only one drawer which is possessed.




Would you ever take on this project? Not me, I'm too lazy. Hats off to these guys.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Aliens Landing

I thought my kids had reached the zenith of what therapists call resentful attachment. Maybe I just made that term up, but you know what I mean... "Get out of my life but first could you drive me and Cheryl to the mall." But actually I've discovered a more logical and scientific explanation. Aliens landed in our backyard one night and inhabited the kids for what we earthlings call the Teen Years. Little do they know I have cracked their code.


Before the "Eye-Roll Years"


*Eye rolling is clearly a signal to the Mothership and to each other that Kiwi EarthMother is in the room and to halt all Alien communications until she has left. I worked this out because any time I enter the room, I am greeted with an eye roll.

* Any seemingly rational and civilized observation or question on part of Kiwi EarthMother evokes the same look from them. I would describe it as a dizzying cocktail of pity-disgust-amazement - a look only Aliens could conjure.

*Alien No. 1, a 17 year old boy, must not be asked about school, grades, exams or graduation details. To do so is obviously a serious infringement of his Alien customs.  It simply will not be countenanced.

*Shrugging is part of their vocabulary and will suffice for an answer on any given subject.  I asked Alien No. 2, a 15 year old boy, if he had done anything that day. He shrugged. I repeated the question. Alien No 2 replied: "I said" - and he shrugged.

*Alien No 3, a 14 year old girl, will not be asked about friends, what they say, what she says back to them and why she is wearing that. All of that information is obviously classified on her planet. In addition she appears to have received (incorrect!) information from the Mothership that I am Crazy Kiwi EarthMother who will make a scene and embarrass her and anyone else in the vicinity and as such must be kept in the dark about all of the above.

*Child Four, a boy who is 11 years old, does not seem to have been taken over by the Aliens - yet. Though it appears he has an unusually selective memory. He cannot remember to return his homework to school. And yet the other day I found this photo from when he was at pre-school, eight long years ago. He said immediately: "Oh, I remember that popsicle. I remember it exactly!"

The popsicle from eight years ago that is well-remembered.


But yes, I'm the one that's winning on this, don't you worry about that. Oh ho ho. They are NOT getting the better of the earthling mother. And I am sure they are relaying this to the Mothership as we speak.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up - Does It Work?

If you've been visiting another universe, firstly: welcome back!  One of the first things you need to know about Planet Earth of late is everyone's trying to KonMari their lives. Marie Kondo is the most adorable Japanese woman whose book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  is, as it promises, life changing.  Not only is it practical and also unflinchingly self-revelatory in her search for tidiness from age five, but it's beautifully written, like a wee haiku.



Marie Kondo. Love how she tucks behind her ears, elvish style


When we did our re-model six years, all the cheque writing started getting very stressful so we decided to do a mish mash of Ikea stuff for my closet. It was always a bit of a noodly tangle of stuff so this month I decided to California Closet it...fairly reasonable if you keep to basic finishes.

All of my clothes have been on the bedroom floor for a month. This is partly because the carpet in the closet needs to be re-laid, so the set of drawers can't be moved in yet, but mostly because my stuff doesn't fit in there anymore - how is that possible?

Last night I just ended up just chucking everything in as before, resulting in a tangly noodle of stuff. Then I remembered I hadn't performed he most basic of KonMari magic, which is is to fold everything vertically. More on that later.

Reading the book has not only resulted in us donating about 50 bags of clutter (I know this amount sounds obscene but Marie says after she's done a two-bedroom Japanese apartment, about 45 bags of stuff are taken away). This is despite the fact we don't do Costco and I try to hold up a string of garlic when passing Big Box Stores.

Some of the books and stuff being donated

Warning: my wardrobe is a work in progress, so does not qualify as closetporn - yet!


Trying to hang things attractively and with like-colors like they do in stores. Not sure why everything has come out as minty green
Need to replace hangers so they are all on the same page


It's also changed my writing a bit.  Don't keep a line/paragraph/chapter just because you've spent a lot of time writing it or you think the words are nifty - if it doesn't fit in your book, cut it out, baby!

But back to my wardrobe - how to get everything in? The final piece of the puzzle for me was: folding things vertically. That is, folding things into tiny oblongs and placing them vertically in the drawer.

Ta da!!!

All my workout tops -  and space to spare! They're resting today, it's a Saturday after all, and having glass of wine with friends later. 


Marie Kondo's tips for tidying up - and whether I actually, really, honestly followed them. 

1. Sort by category, not location: Don't do the bedrooms first, then the living room, then the rest of the house. Do all your clothes, then all your books, etc. 
Did my wardrobe and gave the rest of the house to Kevin. That worked! His office went from four filing cabinets to half a drawer. One quibble...we decided after the re-model not to build bookshelves so we won't keep books. So why is his office still filled with his old economics books???

2. Tidy in one go. Don't draw it out. If you tidy a bit each day, you'll find that you're tidying forever. Do it all at once and you'll have the system in place to stay tidy. 
Didn't do this, too lazy, spent three weeks with stuff on the floor. Still not finished yet.

3. Pick up each item one at a time and ask yourself, "Does it spark joy?" 
Cheated on this onethere was one shirt I love to look at but seldom wear. Is it joyful if you keep thinking "I should be wearing this, why aren't I?" Probably not.


Negotiating with Marie on this shirt


4. Fold your clothes so that they stand up vertically. This way, you can put all your t-shirts (or other items) in a drawer and see every item at once, rather than digging through piles of fabric to find the shirt you want. 
Changed everything, got so many more things in the drawer and I can see what they are. 

5. Don't repurpose clothes to loungewear. Don't justify keeping a torn, ratty T-shirt just because you think you can repurpose it as a pajama top. 
Already got me ugly lounge pants for me lounging anyways

6. Recycle your papers. For important legal documents, scan them. Everything else you should get rid of. 
Kevin did all this. He got four filing cabinets down to half a drawer. When you really get down to it, how many papers are actually legal?

7. Don't keep gifts out of guilt. After the joy of the gift-giving moment is through, you can donate the gift without guilt. It has served its purpose. 
Hardest one, just hope certain people don't visit. Maybe I can say the drought took it?

8. Storage experts are hoarders. A "clever" storage solution never really solves anything. A new box or organizer won't make you tidy. 
That's why that stupid bag-holder hanger thingy never worked.

9. Start with what you know will be easy to get rid of. If you start with mementos or items you attach a functional value, it will be harder to know if they spark joy.
Still cannot chuck photos, even if they are doubles, or the kids ceramics however chipped or broken and the kids' pictures.


Cy in particular has mastered a very primal abstraction. Some of this stuff belongs in a museum - am I right?

10. Pick up everything you are donating or recycling and say "Goodbye and thank you for your service."
Seems ridiculous but makes letting go so much easier.


Might apply this to my kids. Don't think they would pass No. 3 at the moment. Tempted to give them the old No.10.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Going Back To The Well

I said no more dresses or skirts. Never end up wearing them: can't be arsed shaving the legs, they're all too short these days, what shoes do you wear with them...and how do you make them casual?  I swore I would not buy anything for upcoming Harley Graduation Season. (I heard there might be some other kids graduating too, what a coincidence...) But I bought something anyway. It's a Nicole Miller - she pretty much makes a variation of this same dress every year.



Already wore this twice so will be quids by the year-end. It has ambidextrous stretching,  is v-neck, (my sister Shazza does not care for v-neck but I like it) below-knee (vital for collapsing leg hinges) and covers the bingo wings. In short: all animal parts checked and happy.

Yonder darts and such

Most importantly, easy to make good for Oakland-wearing with navy leather jacket, clonky shoes and Metal Earth necklace.



crouchy comfy

I went back to the well for this one.  My inaugural Nicole Miller was four years ago, but became too short and flew down to the sister in New Zild.

Four years ago with Martin and David at Kn'M's house overlooking Oakland. Martin and David are now married!

Not that I would compare myself to these stylish women, but here's some notable "Back To the Well-ers."

Old Anna:

She loves her frayed boucles with jacket worn on shoulders and delicate shoes. (Seen on GSL's blog)

When she deviated (at the Met Ball) she looked a little hunched and uncomfortable
Old Betty:


Stuck to her scarf-pearls-brooch even when she went back to college (seen on FF's blog)

The Tomboy trou of Katherine Hepburn. For more Tomboys see Kim's blog today.







And tennis sensation Alethea Gibson


Nobody could do a white shirt, black tie and moto jacket like Patti Smith.


By the way, I couldn't resist this - Patti at high school!


Totes adorbs Zooey Deschanel of New Girl in her below-the-brows bangs (fringe) and short print frocks.








Do you go Back To The Well or are you a Switcher Upper?






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