Thursday, December 10, 2015

Striped Skater Dress

Pygmy palms.

As I write this I am gazing out my front window at the delicate waving fronds of my latest horticultural adoption. I have spent the last few days outdoors exercising my green thumb on the front and back flowerbeds.

I feel a bit like Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden; tugging at the weeds clustered around my various flower bushes to let them breathe. I know next to nothing about gardening and can only hope that the little sprouts I am pulling are actual weeds. Justin and I are caretakers to a little blue California bungalow whose land houses deep purple bougainvillea, roses, cacti, flowering trees, and apple, orange, lime, and grapefruit trees. It should feel like a tiny oasis but for the hideous drought. Residents can water outside only twice a week and lots of home owners are trading in the lush tropical landscapes for drought-resistent plant life.

Regardless, I am determined to nest.

Therefore, I found myself this past Sunday, topknot askew, digging feverishly in the front flowerbed to make room for new cacti and my beloved pygmy palm. My lovely neighbor, who has kindly been educating me on floral care, has given me bulbs to grow Aztec lilies and pink amaryllis. I have even attempted to propagate the giant cactus I brought with me from Kentucky.

This is all a lead-in to say that despite the early December date, the never-ending summer in California has not given up. The evenings may be dipping into temperatures in the high forties but the days remain sunny and 75.

In the mountains outside LA, there is a different story brewing. Justin and I drove to the San Gabriel mountains a few weeks ago and the air was crisp with the bite of winter. Clouds of mist appeared each time you drew a breath and the ground was hard with the promise of frost. In fact, shortly after driving back to sea-level we checked the weather and found it has snowed in the area we had just visited.

Combined, this made my dress of choice a bit unwise.

I made this skater dress out of cheap navy and white striped jersey cotton. It has a slight turtleneck, 3/4 length sleeves and enough stretch to be forgiving. It was a simple, 3-hour project and I absolutely love it. 

Yeah, yeah, the dress is cute, but, dude, that landscape! Its hella gorgeous in the mountains. All barren rock, succulents, and withered trees. I can't wait till it really snows and I get to see all that majesty covered in glittering white. 

I love this simple dress and plan to pair it with chunky sweaters or a denim jacket as the weather gets cooler. I have lots of other fabulous projects waiting to be photographed, and many that are just in the dreaming stages. I can only hope my gardening is as prolific as my sewing. I will keep you posted.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Big Sur

I have terrible wanderlust.

About once a week I think wistfully of the brilliantly emerald Scottish highlands or traversing the cobblestone streets of Rome at dusk. I think about crisp hot trdelnik melting chocolate into my fingertips while listening to street musicians in Prague. I think about dancing in St. Peter's Square under twinkle lights to the moan of a violin.

I am a hopeless romantic and the sights, smells, and sounds of the world beckon to me.

About a month ago, Justin went to a Porsche event called Rennsport outside San Jose. He and his buddy Mark drove from San Jose down the PCH back to Los Angeles in his old school 911. He came back spinning tales of white cliffs, epic vistas, abundant succulents, and bathing sea lions. I was smitten.

And yesterday I got to experience it for myself.

Our day started at 4 AM with the anticipation of catching a 6:15 flight from LA to San Jose. From San Jose we planned to drive down Hwy 1 towards Big Sur to take in the sights. 

Our arrival at San Jose was like a shock to the system. First of all, San Jose airport was quiet, nearly deserted at 7:30 in the morning. LAX is an incredibly busy beehive, always jam packed with people and action. At San Jose, we wandered around the airport like two lost souls after the Rapture. Secondly, San Jose has open space. I mean, miles of it. Just these massive rolling green hills crowding the road with the occasional farm house to add perspective. 

In LA you can't find open space till you reach the ocean. 

And what makes it even more weird is the fact that it is weird to me at all. In the past four months I have become so accustomed to the crowded roads and cities of LA that I have forgotten what it feels like to be in a rural area. It is freeing and makes my heart ache a little. 

But California has a way of making you fall in love.

Northern California is abundant in verdant hills, sheer rocky cliffs, and breathtaking views. The roadsides along highway 1 are swathed in brilliantly orange and red succulents. Fog and ocean mist cling to the cliff sides like a lover and the sun sparkles off turquoise blue waters. There are swathes of towering pines and scrubby sharp scented creosote bushes soaking in the sun's warmth. Around every curve in the road there is a new wonder. A sharp intake of breath, you can't help it. The view kicks you in the stomach and makes you yearn for more. 

Somewhere along the road Justin and I pulled off, climbed a fence, and wandered our way along cacti and creosote to a lovely secluded beach. The way to the beach met us with long lacy grass caressing our fingertips and hips.  Seawater guttered around white rocks and driftwood lay scattered in the sand. It was a place just waiting for a love scene.

Later that day we dined at Ragged Point restaurant, chowing down on burgers and sweet potato fries with the hunger of the near-starved. The restaurant tabby, a monstrous orange thing with marbled fur, kept us company and vertical gardens sat draped against the side of the restaurant while we dined alfresco.

As I write this I can't help but wish I was back there. Brisk wind, hot sun, the music of the waves. Maybe when LA is all wrapped up and Justin and I have to move on we will turn our gaze to Northern California. To the hills that look like Tuscany and the cliffs that inspire poetry.

You just can't go too wrong there.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Angeles Crest Highway

Golly gee.
What a week.

Do you ever have weeks where at the end you can only be glad you survived? Do you have weeks where the only chance of recovery involves a solid night's sleep and a moment of blessed silence?

That was my week. We are talking a handful of 12 hour work days, being choked out by a six year old,  and a newly developed eye twitch from too much documentation. At the end of my day on Thursday I indulged in a good cry, some bourbon, and like six hours of The Flash on netflix. 

Isn't Los Angles life so glamorous?

I think missing Justin has clouded my sunny skies of late. From LA to Chicago to San Antontio, he has been busy jetting off around the country. He has been gone a week. In that time summer had fled, heralding a bevy of chilly mornings and perfect days. The beautiful LA weather I was longing for has finally arrived. We are talking sunny and 75 with evenings that host enough nip in the air to warrant a sweater. 

On my days off I have been sewing like a mad woman, compiling a wardrobe full of stripes, corduroy, denim, and lace. I have this mental ideal of my fall wardrobe, with items from Reformation, Free People, and ASOS. However, my checkbook and I don't see eye-to-eye on these desires, so I guess I will keep sewing. I have reached the depth of self-deception that I tell myself my creations almost look store-bought. 

I have a lot of items awaiting their turn to be posted, but I need to get started on the backlog first. 

So, with Adele piping soulfully away in the background, I am going to post some pics from the Angeles Crest Highway and my crazy mixed-pattern boho mess dress. 

This dress was kind of a Frankenstein of desires. I wanted something bohemian and floaty, yet edgy and structured. This is what came out of it. I didn't use a pattern and the sleeves are definitely funky. I glance at it periodically inside my closet and think I may have to edit them a bit. Lace, I think to myself, it needs some navy lace. But for now it will have to do.

The fabric is a mixture of striped linen and a poly-mix dotted in multi-colored arrows. I bought the fabric at M and L Fabrics from the discount pile. Holla for $1.95 a yard. I love the bodice, particularly the back with its trio of lines keeping it together. The waist is quite loose and the whole dress can be slipped on over my shoulders. It is the kind of dress that invites an extra slice of pizza and beer around a flickering firepit.

The Angeles Crest Highway is a carousel of thrusting pines and spicy earth spun among blue-white skies. You can stand on the edge of a mountain and feel anonymous yet powerful as a deity. There is no doubt it will be the backdrop for posts to come. 


Monday, October 5, 2015

Vancouver, British Columbia

I am homesick for Kentucky.

I absolutely love Long Beach. I love the thriving metropolitan feel, the hugely diverse group of people who live here, and I love the glorious natural beauty of the beach and mountains. But there are definitely days when Kentucky tugs at my heart.

Particularly right now, as the autumnal air drifts through the trees as the leaves change their color and whisper along the ground. I want to sip black coffee as the chilly air whips the steam from my cup.

But, alas, it is in the mid-80s and sunny every day in LA.
So Justin Jones and I decided to chase the fall. We chose to go here.

For the first time, I got to use my Delta flight bennies. Justin and I booked stand-by tickets from LA to Vancouver. Of course, stand-by is never reliable. Unless a flight has open seats and no one else has higher stand-by seniority, you may not make the flight. Which was exactly the case for us. The flight from LA to Vancouver left totally packed on Thursday evening with me staring desolately at the boarding screen.

It was time to improvise. Justin and I hopped on a flight to Seattle instead, with plans to drive up to Vancouver the following morning. A lovely friend leant us keys to her apartment so we could crash for the night.

Our drive north from Seattle meant we would hop onto the Sea to Sky Highway 99 in British Columbia. This gorgeous strip of tarmac laces its way from northern Vancouver along the coast, dipping behind mountains and allowing drivers to glimpse icy ocean islands glimmering through the fog. It was an epic drive. 

We had planned to hike to the Brandywine Meadows when we arrived. However, international travel always means one thing: no cellar data use. Without google maps to help us on our way we were restricted to list directions I had downloaded the previous day. With me navigating, we invariably got lost. We ended up climbing the side of a mountain on a treachorous gravel road, passing coyotes and little else for almost 10 miles. When the dips and scraping grew too alarming on the exterior of our rental car, we decided we should probably turn around. 

A little ways down the road we pulled off again to hike to the Brandywine Falls. This seemed much more legit, with a proper parking lot and loads of other hikers. 

The forests around Brandywine Falls seemed like an enchanted forest, complete with mossy boulders, icy turquoise rivers, and trees gilded in gold and amber. We dined on brie and chocolate and sipped a 12-year scotch on the side of the mountain. We had just nearly made it back to our car when the low hanging clouds surrendered, releasing a torrent of rain. The rain kept us company as we hurried to Squamish for our first Canadian night.

This jewel of a cabin was rented through Air B&B by a charming family. We had the ground floor with its own private entrance, a fire pit for roasting s'mores, and the lush grounds complete with gardens, wild mushrooms and mums. It was legitimately chilly, the warm air swirling from our lungs, and frost crunching beneath our shoes. I have been fighting a cold all week (some little kid germs finally caught up with me), but thanks to a belly full of pasta and marshmallow I slept like a baby. 

Good thing too, because the next day was our hike to Garibaldi Lake. 

Justin and I discovered that we really are the most low maintenance hikers known to mankind. He had forgotten his jacket and hiked the entire distance in a cardigan and jeans while I staved off the cold with my $2 flea market coat. We set off with sandwiches and half a bottle of power-aid, with little knowledge of what lay before us. The hike to and from the lake was about 18 kilometers. Half was up the side of a mountain, the other half was down. I may not be able to walk comfortably for the next fortnight but it was so worth it. That water. It really is crystal turquoise.

For anyone considering a holiday in British Columbia, its a must. The scenery is an unending vista of epic grandeur with excellent and kind company. Vancouver itself is a matrix of hyper-modern glass skyscrapers sitting on the edge of the ocean. It is nature and mankind in a blessed union of light and water. Go.