Monday, September 30, 2013

The Modern Lodge Proj: Search For Art

One of the unexpected side effects of moving into our house has been my new-found disdain for the framed artwork that hung in our previous homes. For no clear reason, photos and prints I'd carefully considered and framed over the years now look sloppy and/or juvenile. And it's too bad, because now we've got more walls to adorn than ever before.

Starting with this one.

The print hanging on the wall here is a really cool series of Bill Murray illustrations that I still like.  I just don't like it there.

And so the search began for some art that Devin and I could agree on and that supported whatever I mean by modern lodge (henceforth: ModLodge). For a few weeks, there were conversations like this.

Devin: What about skis?
Briana: You mean hang skis on the wall?
Devin: Yeah like in a ski lodge.
Briana: But we don't ski.
Devin: Oh yeah...What about snow shoes?

Eventually the conversation found its way to mounted deer heads.

They certainly say "classic lodge," but they also scream, "Look at this thing that's dead now!" And I can't get down with that.

Still, we were onto something. If you've spent any time on Etsy, you know it's loaded with hipster-friendly deer head alternatives made up of just about any material that's not carcass.

Ornate Floral Deer Head Wall Mount  Deer Heads - made from designer wallpaper
 Mini Knitted Deer's Head Trophy Wall Decoration  Faux Taxidermy Large Deer Head Sculpture

But no matter how colorful and ridiculous these pieces are, they still remind me of the hacked off heads that inspired them.

Then, I remembered deer can be intact and still be art. I took to Etsy once more looking for whole deer and found this:

Pretty cool, right? Devin actually agreed and we'd finally found one thing. I ordered it immediately.

2 weeks later, this is what showed up at my front door.

It was a narrow package that contained:
The canvas/burlap print, folded
A piece of beige linen, folded
4 pieces of wood
4 plastic...bits

If you're looking at the picture and thinking that slip of paper is instructions, you're as hopeless as I am. That's a shipping receipt. It didn't come with instructions. For the sake of comparison, let me tell you that over the weekend I bought Oscar a rechargeable nightlight and inside the box was the nightlight and an a/c adapter.  And THAT came with instructions.

I emailed the seller, wanting to write something along the lines of "What the fuck am I supposed to do with this?" Instead, I politely inquired if maybe they'd forgot to include instructions and oh, by the way, you didn't mention I was going to need to assemble this.

He sent instructions back, but they were not terribly helpful [think: "How to bake a pie" Step 1- Preheat oven. Step 2- Pie.] Fearing I'd mess up my nice new thing, I schlepped everything to a frame shop. The guy working there said there'd be absolutely no way for me to be able to do this myself, so I felt reassured that I hadn't been asking too much in assuming my art would arrive in one piece, rather than ten. He also said that the creases left in the fabric from folding them wouldn't come out completely unless I ironed them, so I took them home and ironed and ironed and it turns out burlap is a lot like aluminum foil in that in can not be de-wrinkled.

But anyway, after 4 days and 3 trips to the frame shop, it was ready to hang.

I realize it's off-center but there was already a nail there and I was at about my limit with this thing. I'll get around to moving it. What's important is that one more mission is complete!

And if you're wondering if I wrote a bad review on Etsy... I didn't. I wrote this.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Spare Room

Typically one might award the title "spare room" to a small room at the back of the house used to store boxes of junk or the occasional house guest. In my home, the spare room is at the very front of the house, the very first room you see upon arrival.

We've tried calling it the den, or the family room, but neither term sticks. It's a second living room, a smaller version than the one that sits just on the other side of the wall. (The larger living room has the TV and therefore, the power.)

Don't misunderstand my frustrations; too much space is a delightful problem to have. It's just that because this room is such a focal point, and right off the kitchen, I've spent more time fixating on it than any other room in the house. 

I gave some thought to making it a formal dining room, but when I offered this suggestion to Devin, he said it would be a waste of a room. And he's right. Our last two dwellings had formal dining rooms that were almost never used for dining, if at all.

So at present, the room is an island of misfit furniture. Two armchairs, two bar stools of different heights (swiped from work after a shoot), and three tables, including a media console.

But it won't be so confused forever. I have a plan. A motif I'm calling "modern lodge." Feel free to borrow that phrase for your own design inspiration. Go ahead, try it. It seems like a thing, right?

We bought the house because it felt like a cozy camp. It just needs a smattering of modernity because I am, if nothing else, a hip and modern woman on top of the trends. Shut up yes I am.

The black and white rug was the first purchase towards this goal. An easy $99 dropped at Ikea. It only took a week for Seamus to stomp all over it with dirty paws. It was possibly intentional and certainly unappreciated. But the rug stays. For now.

I've got a few tricks up my sleeve for this lodge proj, including painting the fireplace. By the way, that taupe strip of wall above the brick was originally bright turqoise on our arrival. I took care of it using some leftover paint from the guest bedroom. It goes on record as the only project that took exactly as long as I estimated to complete. No more, no less. It was very refreshing.

I doubt I'll be able to say the same for everything else on the horizon. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Tiny Los Angeles: Adventures In Toddler Amusement

Obviously I love our son and love being a mom and it's a joy and yaddi yadda and all the things that a parent shouldn't need to say as a preface to any small grievance, however obligated they may feel to do so. But with that out of the way, I have to disclose that on weekends things can get a little tedious around the house. I admire that Oscar can be amused for hours simply patrolling the perimeter of our property. Examining rotting oranges ("anu") that have fallen from the neighbor's tree and into our garden, pointing out dog poop ("da poo"), instructing me to pick up said dog poop, throwing the dog's tennis ball ("sheshe ball"). And then there are the trash cans. Oh, the trash cans. I really do wish that his favorite place to hang out and play wasn't so smelly, teeming with bacteria, and all around unappealing. But he does love a good trash can!

Devin and I take turns dutifully following him from place to place, reporting cute stories to one another during the shift change. But even with all of the attractions our backyard has to offer, there still comes a time when Oscar will stop what he's doing and look at me as if to ask, "Now what?"

Indeed. Now what? What can a family do to get out of the house, but not for too long? (Regretfully, I've allowed the nap to become sacrosanct.) What doesn't cost a lot of money? What place is not only kid-friendly, but tiny-kid-friendly?

In this edition of Tiny Los Angeles: Adventures In Toddler Amusement, I present 3 places that meet the above criteria:

Mother's Beach - Marina Del Rey

The name is not a coincidence. This beach is a mother's dream. Unlike the rest of the ocean beaches with their scary waves, rip tides, sharks and pants-optional homeless population, this secluded beach is on the edge of the marina's calm waters where pretty much nothing happens. Little ones can run and play -- no maternal panic attacks necessary!

 I don't see much reason why'd you'd come to this beach if you didn't have little kids, so it means you're in good company. (Though there are far fewer bikini-clad hotties. Sorry, dads!). Parking is easy because there's a designated public lot. It's about $10 to park, but I'm so brainwashed that seems cheap to me. As a bonus, if you go on Sunday morning, like we did, you'll be treated to the musical stylings of a city church group that meets up to worship in the picnic area and brings a pretty decent sound system. If Jesus isn't your thing, just don't listen too hard to the lyrics, and it's basically 90's R&B. In my opinion, it adds a little something to the whole experience.

Wildlife Learning Center - Sylmar

I first heard about this place from Groupon or Living Social. I thought it looked cool, didn't buy the deal, and forgot about it. A year later, as the parent of an animal fanatic, it popped back into my head.

This is a pretty small animal rescue center with monkeys, foxes, reptiles, porcupines, birds... nothing is over the top exotic, but all the critters are cute. Except a few of the reptiles. And the hissing cockroaches.

In my opinion, this is a better place to visit than the Los Angeles Zoo when you still have a tiny tot on your hands. I say this for a few reasons.

1. The barriers are low to the ground so they can see everything. At the zoo, all of the walls are taller than Oscar (fair enough, I realize we're dealing with Sumatran Tigers), so we have to keep lifting him up to see everything. But of course he wants to do things himself. At the Wildlife Learning Center, there are low ropes so kids can get up nice and close to everything. Don't worry, most creatures are also enclosed in cages, but you can get right near the cages and really take a look.

2. Free demonstrations. Every hour or so, a member of the staff brings one of the creatures out for petting and a very quick lesson.

3. It's not crowded. We visited on a weekend afternoon and there were only a few other families present.

4. It's small. You can make the lap around all of the exhibits in about 10 minutes. Then make it again, and again, and again. The zoo is way too sprawling for a pair of little legs to manage, which means the inevitable scenario of carrying a heavy big baby, under the hot sun (why is it always 20 degrees hotter at the zoo?) while pushing an empty stroller because will he ever, ever sit in the thing?

In conclusion, it's only $7 for adults, $6 for kids, and free for kids under 2. And you park on the street near the entrance, which is simple. And also free.

Fashion Square Mall Before 10 AM (11 AM Sundays) - Sherman Oaks

Back when we were in our apartment, we'd all start to feel cooped up and bored by about 9 in the morning. Luckily, we lived a few minutes from the mall, which opens its doors at least a half hour before the stores do. This is ideal because it means that tots can waddle or run down the length of the mall without colliding into shoppers. And because all of the stores' gates are still down, there's no way to divert off course. It's just a straight shot from Bloomingdale's to Macy's and back again.

I'm sure this plan works with almost any mall. Fashion Square gets bonus points, however, because it has some good stuff for kids. There's an indoor play space with a fish tank built into the wall. Also, train rides. And, not that we need it at this point, a family lounge in the restroom area which would be perfect for nursing breaks.

Any of you have suggestions for me? Where should we go next? Leave your comments below.