Monday, April 29, 2013

Weekend Report

This weekend I did more Spring tidying and brightening up. I cannot believe the crazy warm weather here. My flowers and plants are growing like it's June. A bit worrying really. I put away the heavy coats and scarves and hung out lightweight jackets and canvas totes. Espadrilles and flip-flops have already taken over in the boot basket!

I'm rearranging the kitchen a bit more and used my open shelves to stack my whites. I'd love to remodel the whole kitchen with open shelving, but that's not going to happen anytime soon, so this is going to have to suffice. I love having everything out where you can see. Eliminates a lot of clutter.

We made a little alfresco dinner on Friday. I am crazy for artichokes right now. My family likes a dip we make with 3 parts mayonnaise with one part dijon and a squeeze of lemon, salt, pepper and whatever herbs you've got growing. My new favorite white wine with this is Decoy Sauvignon Blanc. I got that little tip from a local gal, The Creeping Fig. Check out her Facebook page. She has a fun alfresco dinner party video and many wonderful ideas for gardening and decor!

Saturday morning I visited some new model homes nearby with a few friends. I always love to check them out and steal a few decorating ideas. These homes were gorgeous inside. I particularly loved their use of colors and patterns. I snuck in some snaps with my phone.

One of the rooms above and a boy's room that I would love to try to copy, below.

I also loved this little vignette some clever designer created on a desk near the entrance of the home...

So I went home and tried my own version with the use what you have at home method! I like to putter around like that when I can.

Also love this new tray I bought at Pottery Barn. It's oversized and it will fit all my magazines, books and even a tray for drinks. The men folk are saying it is taking up some of their foot room on the ottoman. :P They do not embrace change around here.

We enjoyed Saturday at home and yes there was time for my youngest and his pal Abby to give her dog Ruby some wagon rides. Not sure how much Ruby liked it...

Snapped this on a wall on the way to dinner at Santana Row in San Jose with my husband on Saturday night. It was crazy there and we didn't get to eat where we hoped.

 We found a table at the Mexican restaurant there. I love all Mexican food, but this place was horrible. Have you ever eaten cactus? Let me just say do not bother.. Anyway still good to have a date night! out. My husband cracks me up. This is him waiting while I shopped a bit.  He has absolutely no interest whatsoever in shopping, but he did swear a garbage can was opening a lid on its own...We were laughing like lunatics..That's the kind of things he tells me when I'm asking whether or not he likes one pillow or another!

Finally, we drove up to San Francisco on Sunday to catch the de Young Museums' exhibition of Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring!! If you read this blog you may have caught this post where I wrote about the painting and Vermeer and how his art has influenced so many.

It was a gorgeous day. Unfortunately, my sons were being total turds. Just keeping it real friends. Usually they are so good about going to museums and you know it just didn't happen today. They basically ruined the trip with their gripes and had no interest at all in listening to the headsets etc. We left as soon as we went through (painful) and I bought a few post cards of my favorite pieces in the show. You know teenage boys and tweeners especially are a real challenge with family activities sometimes..

Golden Gate Park..

Anyway, I got to see the girl and that was a thrill!

Hope your weekend was great!

Kim xx

Friday, April 26, 2013

Getting Green- One of my Personal Passions

Just a little post on how we could all be a little greener...It doesn't have to be a radical thing. Small steps all add up to a lot...

Living in Northern California, the importance of this is emphasized everywhere and I do appreciate it. I don't consider myself or my family to be eco-warriors, but we try to do our part. What that part is, is just a few things that we can all do and that are easy.

An Anthropologie Earth Day display.

I don't know if you are as old as I am, but do you remember that commercial in the 1970's with the Native American chief crying and walking among the trash? It may be corny, but that ad really affected me as a kid. As a little girl, I would be shocked if I saw someone throw trash out! I think it's stuck with me all these years. Being green seems like the right thing to do.

Several years back, when my youngest was in kindergarten, a friend was the home and school club president and asked me to help start a Green Team at our school. I had no idea what I was doing, but I liked the chance to educate my kids about being more green- and why it mattered. The team has grown the years and has a lot of wonderful leaders and is still going strong. I highly recommend doing this at your child's school if you can!

 We've done Earth Day fairs, costume swaps, planted gardens and even art contests using recycled items. The biggest impact though was getting recycling and this year composting of lunch waste. Lot's of red tape to get this going, but after years of persistence, it's working and the students are so good about doing this. I'm proud of all the caring elementary kids! The events were terrific community builders and brought out so many super parents, local businesses and got kids excited about being, 'green.'

One of Earth Day fairs and parents who participated.

Of course parents help shape the attitude of their kids towards being green. Some families are just not on board. It's not important to them. How though, I ask you, can you raise a caring individual in this world and not talk about caring for our planet too? 

 I just have a few pet peeves... One is families who are less than a block away from our school who daily pile their kids into an SUV to  drive to school each morning instead of walking. Then there are the moms in the car pick-up line in their huge cars with the motor running for 20+ minutes while they wait for their child to get out of school. I'm guessing these are the same folks with a 48 pack of water bottles in the back of the car and nary a reusable shopping bag.. And some families do not even make use of their recycle bins at all. Okay, I'm done ranting.

 Here's a few things we try to do in our house. I say try! We aren't perfect, but it's a start. If we all did a little more, it adds up.

- Reusable shopping bags! I love having cute ones. My favorites are from travels like The Jane Austen Center in Bath and Harrods. My friend Kim brought me one back from a grocer in France. Assert your style while shopping and it's one less tree or plastic item used on the planet! (I'm sorry I don't buy the argument that they are unclean. You can always use your washer or wipe them out.)

 (While we are on this, you do know that plastic bags are bad because plastic is a nonrenewable and petroleum derived product that takes very long to break down? When it does the tiny particles contaminate the soil and water system and ultimately end up in our food chain. Always choose paper if you are without a bag. It's can be reused at least and recycled.)

Apartment Therapy

- I never take a store shopping bag in the mall if I can help it. A fancy bag for my mascara ? Really? You can throw it in your purse. Another reason to always have a tote bag like Europeans carry. It's your purse as well as your shopping bag.

Feed bags are one of my favorite totes.
-Bike and walk whenever you can. Weekdays can be crazy at out house, but on weekends we try to make at least one bike trip to the grocery store. My husband has a backpack and I have a wicker bike basket to carry things. The kids go too and can lug things. It's fun and you feel so good doing this!

A grocery run.

-Kids bike, scooter or walk to school when they can.

Getting ready to walk to school with his rain coat. :)

- If you make lunches for yourself or your kids, invest in reusable containers. You'll save money and prevent plastic baggies from ending up in the water system. If you have to have baggies on hand choose paper waxed ones like we grew up with. Much less toxic to the Earth.

- Buy reuseable water bottles! Buy them for the family. We have loads. I try never to resort to individual plastic bottles, only when we are desperate. A plastic water bottle emits toxic chemicals being made and once produced is here to stay. The average bottle does not biodegrade and can be here 400+ years. They can be recycled, but 90% end up in landfills. What is shocking is the fact that each year the oil used to produce these bottles could fuel one million cars! We need to phase these out, but when you see folks leaving Costco with flats of these bottles the message is still not getting through or people don't care.

-Another thing that we can all try is consuming less and using things already on this planet. Did you know that the clothing industry is one of the most polluting in world, second only to oil in terms of toxic chemicals and pollution of water? Yet how often do we think of that when we buy a new shirt? Almost never I bet. By buying recycled goods we are lessening the impact of these industries on the planet. 

-First and foremost, buy less. Growing up in the 1970s, we bought clothes when school started and when Summer came. Oh how things have changed. What happened to us? We Americans are use shopping as a pastime and hobby. We go to the mall to entertain ourselves and buy new clothes almost all the time. It helps to take stock of your closets and purge what you don't wear, keep the best and have less. If you know what is exactly in your closet, you won't be tempted to shop all the time. When you add something it should be something you need or really love. It's worth buying quality too as it's more likely the items are made ethically. That five buck T-shirt may be so cheap because of child labor or poor working conditions and practices. It's not a bargain if it's bad for the planet.

-Another alternative, if you have to shop, is to check out vintage, resale or thrift stores. We have great one locally called Crossroads Trading Company. You can sell back your clothing and you can buy clothes here barely worn for very little. I love how this place merchandises by color and designers. I love how you can get an Anthropologie sweater here with the tags still on for $7. If you can find the right vintage or trading store you will become a convert. 

-Start a garden. Even if it's a small patch of lettuce or herbs in a container. You will love growing your own food. Organic food is good for the Earth and for your body. Did you know recent studies have proven that a year on an organic vegetable and fruits can actually eliminate heavy toxins and chemicals that have been stored in the body? Another great reason to eat organic. Also, the more we buy organic, the less it will cost to us all. 

I never have thought of myself as a green kind of person. However, I later realized that I had been living green in many ways just from how I was brought up. We always had a garden thanks to my father. I had green beans strung over my windows in the Summers, (My window looked over the garden and I still love the smell of wet dirt.) Our dad had a greenhouse complete with a compost bin filled with worms. As a kid, it was kind of fun. We grew up eating vegetables and anything that my dad grew. We even had chickens and got fresh eggs. Having a grandmother who grew up in the depression we learned not to throw things out and that most anything could be repurposed in another way.

What started as one generations way to be smart with money became another generations way of doing the right thing for the earth I guess. So if you look at the past, I think you could say our grandparents' and parents were a lot more greener.

If you have children, these are values like any other that need to be taught. You can't have caring and thoughtful kids who don't give a whit about the planet.

No one should stress about these things, but we make decisions each day that together can change the world. I truly believe that.

Let's do it! I'd love to hear more green ideas from you all.

Thanks for reading and I hope you don't mind me sharing something I'm passionate about.

Have a good weekend!


Friday, April 19, 2013

Spring Breakers

Yes it was Spring Break around here this week and we opted to stay home for once. I have to say, we are surprisingly enjoying it. I cancelled all sports, piano, tutoring and appointments so we had nothing  to rush off to. My kids got the luxury this week of doing mostly what they wanted with their days.

We kicked off the week by inviting a friend over who was alone all week with her 3 children while her husband traveled for work. She needed a break and was just relaxing and sipping wine as we were watching the kids enjoy some water hijinks outside. As she started to relax, we watched our sons and she said this is just bliss, watching them having fun. Literally, five minutes later, my dear friend was on the way to the emergency room when her son kicked a jar and then stepped right on the broken glass. He foot had the deepest gash...Thankfully, 7 stitches and 3 hours later he was back, but what a start to the vacation! My friend just couldn't get a break.

We broke out the badminton set with all the warm weather.

I spent some time enjoying the plants that have bloomed in my yard like the jasmine above.

The ninth grader kicked the week off with an all night Lord of the Rings movie and junk food marathon with his buddies.  He had a blast- and slept 17 hours straight the next night! That's okay we had no where to go.

 The fifth grader actually spent some time playing with items he owns (imagine that) and giving quality time to his guinea pig, which was sorely needed. Together we spent some time doing art stuff and staying up late watching a few shows we like.

I got to play my first tennis match of a new season Saturday with my awesome friend Gigi and we won! If you know me this is huge because I'm not the most competitive person. If I had to say what I like best about tennis it's the friends, socials, and outfits in that order...No one ever really admits that though do they? :D Our team is called Orange Crush and so far we are. Maybe I'm actually getting athletic in my old age...

We visited my friend Karen's new puppy named Boomer... How sweet is this guy?

We fit in time to visit grandma and papa and have lunch together as well as a trip to our favorite bookstore in Willow Glen, Hicklebee's. This beloved store was my boy's favorite place as kids and it usually included grandma spoiling them with a book or toy from there.

 Now Hicklebee's has a wonderful regular book section as well. My Dad and I browsed the cooking section and my Mom and I chatted about biographies. (She's reading Shirley McLane's daughter's book now and apparently Shirley was a horrific mother!...but I'm digressing here.) I came away with no less than 3 books for myself and some for the boys. Well okay and a bug vacuum for the younger. :P Then my Dad treated us to lunch.. Things we never get to do- you know? I really love time with my parents and life gets so busy and daily it doesn't happen.

Bought some flowers too!

Today we spent the morning taking my 95 year old Grandmother shopping. She needs some shopping days since she stopped driving a year ago (amazing right?) and it gives the boys a chance to help her. She loves that these, "big strong boys," as she calls them, can take her arm through the store, fetch her items, push her cart and carry her groceries in for her. We then spent a nice lunch chatting about my Grandma's high school years in many diverse places like Lake Chelan, Washington and in the dessert town of El Centro, California. Her father had a flourishing cement business and when the depression came the family was forced to become migrant packers of fruit and traveled far and wide to make ends meet. To hear her tell it, they were the luckiest people in the world and she had a wonderful childhood.

I love for my boys to hear about her life. Though people would say kids today have it all, I would venture to say that they are missing out. They will experience much less life than the generations before us due to all the electronics, computers and phones. They may have less adversities and challenges, but also less appreciation for life. I think we could all use more time with older generations. They have so much to share if we will listen. I try to make my boys ask her a lot of questions. :)

We cleaned rooms a bit and closets. Even caught up with the laundry.. I have seen the bottom of the basket people! I bought some new plants for the yard. And for the first time since we moved here, a had a whole fence of roses bloom.

Last year our neighbors' behind us removed a 45 year old Monterey Pine that had been dying and basically weeping all over our yard. It also was about 75% on our side and that part of the yard was shrouded in shade most of the year. It seems the roses which had been planted many years before this tree grew so large were anemic. After about a year of shock from climate change, they have blossomed better than I dreamed.

This week was their coming out and last week, our Wisteria. The Wisteria was brutally, "trimmed," (and I use that in the lightest of terms- it was basically hacked machete style) by rogue lawn guys parading as ones who knew what they were doing last year. The result was almost no blooms last Spring, which was so awful.

This year I took charge and it came back in all it's glory thank goodness. I also started my garden thanks to help from my dad and my sugar snap peas, lettuce, carrots and radishes are on the way. This warm Spring has helped.

I even shuffled the kitchen a bit and decided I'd rather have my dry goods out on the counter in random jars than back in the pantry in plastics. It's making baking and cooking easier by being right there.  Plus I like the open pantry and kitchen look right now and it feels a bit fresher.

And on a totally unrelated note, duck pairs are out in full force! This couple was second of many I have seen this week. The mallards are everywhere waddling around and it's sweet.

Tomorrow we will venture out to Monterey for a night getaway for the kids at The Clement on Cannery Row. We will probably have a picnic at the beach and wander around the town of Carmel-by-th-Sea. It's a quite different from Carmel Valley and I can't wait to write a little post about it and share my favorite stops.

My photos of Monterey Bay last Fall..

I hope you have all had a good week. I know many of you are on getaways and I look forward to hearing all about them.

The gun vote this week really got me down, Also, I can't stop thinking of Boston and all the innocent people hurt by that horrible tragedy. I'm also thinking of the bravery and kindness of those who helped to save many lives. There's so much goodness in so many people. Try and remember that.

Sending you all some California Sun. xx