So Long, California

BigSur_05_011.19.14_LA_14Over the last few months, two of my very best and most beautiful friends came to visit The Boy and I in LA. I wanted to show them all the magic and splendor of the golden coast, so I brought these ladies to Big Sur–“The Most Dramatic Meeting of Land and Sea”–and Leo Carillo Beach in Malibu. We scrambled over rocky bluffs, peered into crystalline tide pools to spy on lazy starfish and anemones in briney blues and violets, gazed up in awe at the tops of towering redwoods, and scaled peaks to look out across the whole wide earth all the way to the glittering sea.

BigSur_41_011.19.14_LA_341.19.14_LA_60BigSur_03_01BigSur_15_01These pictures are especially poignant to me now, because The Boy and I are packing up and hightailing it out of California. We debated this decision over weeks and months, but in truth it was while we were in Big Sur with Lorenza that my heart made its decision. I was sitting on top of a rock on a mountain overlook, looking down on a valley grove of redwoods that stretched all the way west until the land finally gave way to the Pacific. I felt nothing but happiness and the sun setting on my shoulders. Then something broke inside my head, and I had one of those perfectly clear thoughts: we need more space. We need more room to breathe. We need better air in our lungs. We need seasons, we need change. We need something more than the feverish grit and dizzying, disorienting, omnipresent sunshine of Los Angeles. But, sitting on top of that same mountain, I knew I was not ready to give up the wonders of the west, not yet. So Portland, Oregon, here we come.

BigSur_17_01BigSur_31_01BigSur_33_01I am beyond excited for our new life in a new city. We knew from the start that LA would not be our forever home, and eventually it seemed pointless to keep putting down roots if we weren’t ready to commit. Nevertheless, I’m sure I’ll be nostalgic for our Tiny Cottage one day.

BigSur_26_01BigSur_08_01BigSur_40_01In many ways, it was the perfect place to live as a newly married couple. 400 square feet offer no hiding places, no refuge, no room for cold shoulders or silent treatments. This house has been a wonderful crash course in marriage. The space forced us to be close, to speak plainly and honestly about our problems, to be gentle with each other even when one of us had had a bad day, and wasn’t feeling especially nice. We had spent so much time apart before we moved into the Tiny Cottage, and it was a little disorienting at first to swing so rapidly from 3,000 miles between us to just 3 feet.

BigSur_37_01BigSur_30_01To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t always easy. The Boy was slow to adjust to LA, and for months he was cranky, out of sorts, vulnerable, and lost. It fell to me to pick up the pieces a lot of the time, and quite frankly I did not always accept that role gracefully. We went through a little rough patch in those months, where it felt like we were arguing all the time and getting nowhere.

This was especially tricky during wedding planning, also known as hell on earth. I have one particularly fond memory of the early stages, which happened to coincide with The Boy’s poor mother staying with us for a weeklong visit, where a casual conversation about when we should start hanging lights in the yard erupted into an argument over nothing. I can see his mother so clearly, pretending to read on an airbed in our tiny living room, while we had a heated conversation in undertones just fifteen feet away in the kitchen. Ahh, wedding planning… that perfect melting pot where two different sets of values on family, religion, money, and tradition all come crashing together. Good times.

BigSur_19_01BigSur_21_01BigSur_11_01But little by little, the Tiny House showed us the way. I learned the value of small measures: making an extra cup of coffee in the morning, without being asked… picking up his favorite soda from the grocery store… washing the dishes, even though he told me he’d take care of it in the morning. These things count in a very real way, and they can make all the difference. Around October, without warning, the load got a little easier. We were sweeter with each other, and bickered less. We spent a little extra time in bed each morning, talking softly together about our plans for the day. And we both learned something important, something critical, something obvious but nevertheless difficult about our marriage: sometimes, some days, one of us will have to carry the heavier load, and that’s ok, but it’s especially important, when those days roll around, to not just remember that we love each other, but to say it, too, in gestures large and small, explicit and unspoken.

BigSur_42_01Our new house will have a lot more space, but we’ll carry these lessons there with us anyway. And one day, when we’ve been married a lot longer than we have now, I’m sure I’ll tell someone about the tiny cottage we lived in when we were so young, and so in love, and so full of plans for the future.

All pictures by Xander Keeping.

 

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Echo Park_28X Echo Park_01Echo Park_81Echo Park_03Echo Park_75Echo Park_13Echo Park_65Echo Park_87X Echo Park_52X Echo Park_18Echo Park_82Echo Park_101The weather in LA has been lovely lately, so refreshing after being home in the snow for a week! The Boy and I have been trying to take advantage, so we’ve spent a lot of time over the past few days walking around our neighborhood and taking pictures.

We live in my very favorite part of LA, Echo Park, right in the middle of one of LA’s biggest parks, Elysian Park, which is also home to Dodger Stadium. The Elysian Fields were the Greek mythological paradise in the afterlife, and as a total mythology nerd I get a little thrill out of that. The Elysian Fields were supposed to be a pastoral haven free from snow and bitter winds, where the earth bore sweet fruit and the sun was always shining. Our Elysian is still very much a city park, though very large and not especially manicured, but compared to the smog and ceaseless traffic of LA, it feels like our own little paradise. We love our neighborhood because it’s very quiet, much greener than the rest of the city, and there’s this great feeling of an older artists’ community, where both the people and the houses are a little more eccentric.

There’s also an abundance of exciting nooks and crannies to explore, thanks in large part to the many “secret staircases” in the area, some of which you can see above. The staircases in Elysian Valley traverse the incredibly steep hills that line Echo Park Avenue (our home!) on both sides. Back in the 1920s, when Echo Park was being developed, the staircases served as direct routes for pedestrians in an age where there were far fewer cars. I was so excited when, during one of our first weeks here, I walked up one of those staircases and found myself in a little secret garden complete with a public swing, pomegranate trees, a babbling stream with a footbridge, and a whole flock of hummingbirds.

LA can be a bit intense sometimes, and neither The Boy nor I think of it as a forever home, but some days, when the sun is shining, and the jasmine flowers perfume the air, and I’m standing on top of a very tall hill looking out all the way to the Hollywood sign, I think, “Well this is nice.”

 

Liquid Happiness

Today The Boy and I ventured out of the cottage to Galco’s Old World Market, and it was pure delight. I could have spent hours wandering around looking at all the different sodas. Eventually we had to stop ourselves from picking out anymore, because we had so many in the cart already. Still, we walked away with a pretty good selection, including coffee soda, chocolate soda, and two different kinds of cream soda. The best part was the owner, featured in the video above, who walked around offering friendly suggestions. When I asked him if he had a favorite cream soda, he said “No!” the same way parents do when asked if they have a favorite kid. He then proceeded to walk me up and down the aisles explaining the differences between all the different creams the same way a sommelier might talk about fine wines. It was totally perfect, and thus far our selections have been superb.

Video courtesy of CHOW.com

Our Many Homes: The LA Pad

I want so many things. I want to grow my own tomatoes. I want an entire closet for just my shoes. I want enough shoes to fit in said closet. I want my own land, land so big that I can stand on the back porch and hoot and holler and no one but the pigs will hear me. I want a home filled with love, and magic, and hidden nooks for curling up with books, and secrets waiting to be discovered. I want my purple house.

But here’s the thing: I have too many tastes, and ideas, and personalities just to fit in one home. I want a thousand homes, a million homes, a home in every port, a home for every mood. So this week, every day I’ll do a new post for each of my imaginary, one-day homes.

LA padToday’s post is all about my dream pad in LA. Los Angeles is my home right now, but I think The Boy and I would eventually like to move north where there are more trees and fewer cockroaches. There are lots of things about LA that I could happily live without: the traffic, the trash and grime, and at least some of the people (the ones who gladly live up to every LA stereotype). But there’s plenty of stuff I love about LA, too: the sunshine, the funky neighborhoods, the thrift shopping, the tacos. I could never say goodbye to all that, not completely.

In my fantasies, my LA home is a bungalow up in the hills around Griffith Park. On warm summer nights, The Boy and I walk to concerts at the Greek Theatre. Inside is all mid-century glamour: lots of white with gold accents and pops of bright color. We’ll put on Motown records and dance around in front of our huge windows that look out across the city below while we drink whisky out of these moroccan lowball glasses.

Tune in tomorrow for more housing dreams, or check out my Pinterest for inspiration!

Image sources, clockwise from top left: 1, 2, 3

 

California: I’ll Be Knockin’ On the Golden Door

Well what do you know, I finally got around to posting photos of The Boy’s trip to California! It was his first time in Los Angeles, so of course the firs thing we had to do was go to the beach. Actually, the first thing was tacos. But then the beach! Living in LA, there are many beach options, but I always choose to drive about an hour out of the city to Leo Carrillo. Not only is it a stunning beach (much cleaner than some of the closer ones) with caves (!), but the drive up there is pretty spectacular as well. You have to wind in and out of beautiful Malibu Canyon, and it’s actually pretty terrifying because it’s very narrow, and everyone drives so fast, and it’s a pretty long fall from the road to the bottom of the canyon. But that’s all the fun!

That’s my car! Isn’t she a cutie?

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