Thursday, December 31, 2009

Welcome to my International Art Collection

Samuel Ruiz, Sobreimpresíon 60" x 36"

So when we went to Puerto Rico last April and I fell in love. With a piece of art. Lyle loved it as well. Neither of us was in love with the price so though I obsessed, ultimately we came home and the painting stayed there.

We returned to Puerto Rico in December and went back to the Galeria Botello see if the painting was still there. It was gone! But maybe... it was still close? Seems the artist had come to Puerto Rico as well and had taken the painting to try and sell at an art show in Miami. But had not left for Miami, yet.

So we returned the next day to meet the painting again. It was back and so were we. Hello painting. Hello lover. Prices were discussed, shipping was discussed. Drinks were offered. We bought our first piece of big art.

Now I have to redecorate the bedroom because the color is all wrong for this painting.

Samuel Ruiz, Painter, was born in Argentina, 1957. He has studied with different teachers: Mario Bustamante, Colombia (1976); Rodolfo Abularach, Guatemala (1983); Manuel Ayllon, Spain (1985); Juan Valladeras, Paris (1988); among others. Among the distinctions he has received: Mention, Biennial of Taiwan (1987); Mention, Gran Salon de Agosto, Foundation Gilberto Alzate, Bogota (1987); and First Prize, Salón del Desquite, Manizales (1983). The last years has had showings in the United States in Miami, Chicago and Philadelphia.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas meltdown (almost) averted

I am a confirmed Christmas nut. It's not just the decor and the music and all that stuff, I also have issues with the "perfect gift". A few years ago I just stopped torturing myself and quit gift giving. Even between Lyle and I, we decided that we'd have more fun if we didn't buy each other gifts and instead went out the week after Christmas and bought twice as much on sale.

But it creeps back in.

This year, on the 24th of December I panic. I am technically done with Christmas. But I always feel as though I could do more. So I announce that we need to go to the mall. Breezy. We'll park at valet. Since we don't NEED to buy anything, we can just wander and laugh at people who are really panicking. Unlike us. We are professionals. We are done with our shopping. I am lying.

Halfway through our shopping I start to cry. It's the dreaded Christmas meltdown. Lyle grabs my hand and whispers that I'll be fine. He asks if we should stop for food. He tells me to breathe. We continue on and I realize that he is giving me one of my favorite gifts, enabling me. He knows I will panic if I go shopping. He knows I will panic if I stay home. He knows if he doesn't go with me, I will panic all by myself. So he agrees to come along and play along as if I am not going to have a meltdown and he manages to make it all smaller. And I love that he knew it was ll coming and came along to keep me company in spite of the fact that it can't be that much fun.

I drop him off at Border's in the cafe to feed him. I can't eat, nerves. He finishes and finds me in line to buy a couple of last minute gifts. I shoo him away. One (or both) are for him.

I know. I know we agreed in years past to not buy gifts for each other. But seriously, how sad would Christmas day be? I mean, what would Christmas be without presents under the tree? Or at our house, presents on top of bookcases (those dogs will tear open anything near head height or below).

AS we pick up the car from valet, Lyle says to me, "We're not doing gifts with each other, right?"
And there is a long pause from me where I say, "Wellllll....."
And my confessional begins, "I'm sorry, I know we normally don't, but I found a bargain or two, I didn't spend a lot of money and I bought something small for myself at the same time so that you can wrap it up and pretend you picked it out, because I just thought how sad would we both be if there was nothing to unwrap on Christmas morning?"

And then we get in the car and drive to Beverly Hills where Lyle tells me that we will find something for him to buy to give to me to for Christmas, where he is actually there when it is chosen. And since I am incredibly difficult to buy for, I will have to help him choose it.

Except its Christmas eve. And if you thought my mood was funky early in the day, you probably know what's coming the closer we get to Christmas Day. I can barely function. Everything we see is ugly. Everything we see is too expensive. Everything we see will probably be on sale on the 26th so I refuse to buy it on the 24th. Nothing is going to be right. Nothing will ever be right. And by now I'm crying on Rodeo Drive. Don't worry, I've worn sunglasses.

Battered and bruised, we've walked from Ralph Lauren to Neiman's, through Sak's and Burberry, Hermes, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. We're tired and cranky and our feet hurt. It's 3:30 and stores are closing early. We duck into our last store Ferragamo. I find a very pretty blue bracelet. It's the last one. It's on sale. It's a reasonable price and as fate would have it, too small. Luckily it's leather and has some give. Both the salesperson and I pull on it and stretch it slightly. It's fitting much nicer. This is it. This will be "the gift". Lyle gets it gift wrapped and we are on our way home.

On Christmas Day I open it and put it on. I am very happy. I love it. I haven't taken it off since then. Today I am looking at the bracelet and have an epiphany (why wait for January6th?) . It's not just that it is a very attractive accessory, what I love most about it is all the effort that went in to acquiring it. How important it was for Lyle to take care of me and fulfill my expectations for "the perfect gift". After 20 years together and many minor (and major) Christmas meltdowns, he is still there humoring me and taking care of me. And this bracelet is a stylish reminder of all that.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Sung to “Jingle Bells”

Dashing through our lives
seems we have plans all day
O’er the weeks we go
Laughing all the way
Lola wants more treats
Cooper loves sunlight
Where do you want to travel this year
And what’s for food tonight?

Oh, Jim & Lyle, Jim & Lyle
Laying in the sun
Oh, what fun it is to see
how dark they have become
Jim & Lyle, Jim & Lyle
In Paris by the way
Oh, it’s not fun to see your
Visa bill with such dismay

A week or two ago
I put up ornaments
And soon my neighborhood
Dropped by to complement
This decor can not last
For soon we leave again
Vegas, San Juan, what the hell
I’d like to sleep, but when?

Oh, Jim & Lyle, Jim & Lyle
working far to much
but how to pay for flights and rooms,
shoes and belts and such
Jim & Lyle, Jim & Lyle
Dinner party you say?
Oh, what fun it is to eat
When Lyle cooks, shout “Hooray!”

Jim & Lyle, Jim & Lyle
Sending love your way
Oh, what fun it is to try
to sing this song this way
Jim & Lyle, Jim & Lyle
Saying with no fear
Merry Christmas everyone
and have a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

My mother's Snow Village

Though I gave up and decided to not put up my snow town at my house thus year, I was assigned the task of putting up my mother's Snow Village. It starts on the right with the commercial zone, residential, town center holds the church and ends with the industial/agricultural area on the left.

I had to install a special remote switch because my parents are worried about leaving three watt lightbulbs lit inside ceramic sculpture when no one is home. Aren't they cute at that age?

Friday, December 18, 2009

The tastes of Christmas

The drink of my people, the snowball! My favorite ice cream, Peppermint!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I love Paris in the winter?

You probably assume I love the sun and the summer. YOU ARE CORRECT! But I have always wanted to photograph Paris in the snow. We were there one early Spring and as we were packing it was cold and raining. SO cold that snow began to mix in with the rain. I stopped packing ans stated, "if this turns to snow, I will send you home and I am staying for an extra two days. I don't care what it costs." Lyle said, "of course you are." then it went completely to rain so I came home with him.

I've was gone last weekend and I am gone for a couple of days this coming weekend. But I considered changing my plans (darn that dad demanding to turn 80 on his actual birthday!) and flying to Paris yesterday. The weather report said snow. Snow for three days, a day of sun and then more snow. I want to go so badly!

The best part of living in California is knowing you can go visit any weather you want and then come home to sun, sun, and more sun. I wouldn't have it any other way.

I found these winter photos from OhLaLa Mag. I have added some of my other season travel photos to give you the contrast.

I have the perfect outfit for this winter scene!

Jardin du Luxembourg in April.

Jardin du Luxembourg in December.

Place de la Concorde in March.

Place de la Concorde in December.

The Tuilleries garden in front of the Louvre in April.

The Tuilleries garden in front of the Louvre now.

Its sunny and hot in front of the Eiffel Tower on a June afternoon.

Obviously a lot less sunny in front of the Eiffel Tower in December.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chi Chi's are delicious!

A taste of Hawaii in Puerto Rico.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'm Cold!

It's cold and raining in Los Angeles.

Screw this weather.

I'm out of here.

Meet me over here:

See ya' Tuesday.

A very Disney Christmas

Our friends Dean & Sheryl came to Southern California to take their daughter to Disneyland. It's nice to live near somewhere everyone wants to visit, yet still not live so close you hear the fireworks every single night. (Fireworks every night would drive me crazy.)
I love taking photos when everyone has the 3-D glasses on.

It lends a certain air of Jackie O. glamour.

Along with their child, Dan & Sheryl brought a few immature friends also with them.

Including a few familiar faces...

New Orleans Square was all done up in a very subtle, yet tasteful decor.

Main Street was done up as well.
The garlands that are strung across have a Mickey shaped wreath in the center of them.

Sleeping Beauty's Castle is an icy dream in LED lights. It's stunning to see in person.

I could not believe my eyes when I saw this stupid hat. It has all Disney character ornaments on it so he obviously bought it there. Every time he moved his head the ornaments went flinging about, back and forth. It was such a ridiculous hat that I had to take a "sneak" picture of it when he wasn't looking. I mean, seriously, who would put something so incredibly odd and dumb looking on their head?

Isn't it fabulous?!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Christmases Long Ago

Christmas seems to bring out the sentimental side of me. Who am I kidding, I am always sentimental. I have ticket stubs from every Broadway show I've seen. I have file folders of maps I carried in my pocket on trips to far away lands. I keep far too much but refuse to change my ways.
My first Christmas! (I'm in the middle)
Under my grandparents tinsel covered tree.

I have total recall of the Christmas tree and decorations at my grandmother's house. It was always a medium to small tree and always a live tree. In a bucket.

My grandparents Christmas tree always sat in front of the picture window that looked out over the driveway between grandpa Don’s chair and the desk. If I close my eyes I can feel the texture of grandpa don’s brown chair with ottoman. It probably helps that I have that photo of it in a frame in my bedroom.
Grandpa Don in his brown chair.
I think we are getting ready to take on the Osmonds.
Right behind my sister is a brown stool where the tree goes.

For some reason in my head it’s always flocked. But now that I look at that first photo I know more often it was tinsel. It had the medium C-7 bulbs in multiple colors. You know the ones that weren't meant for outside but still gave off enough heat to burn you if you got too close. I was always too close to the Christmas tree. And bubble lights. I loved those bubble lights. I think they were my favorite part of the tree. If I remember correctly, I always got in trouble for touching them.
My own bubble lights that I can touch whenever I want.

I have three ornaments from my grandparent's tree. Two birds made of two Styrofoam balls and pipe cleaners. One pink and one blue.
One Santa made from a Styrofoam ball and pipe cleaners. They are on my tree in the living room right now.

Christmas Eve was spent at my great-grandparents until it became too much for them to handle then Christmas Eve moved to my grandparents house. It was one of those "all relatives" nights where you saw all the relatives you hadn't seen since the summer when we had the big potluck at the lake. On Christmas day it would be "just family" for dinner. That meant somewhere between 15 and 25 people trying to squeeze around my grandparents table. Children got moved off to the kitchen table.

Christmas Eve at my great-grandparents house.
In front of the piano, at the bottom of the stairs.

I also still have three small Santa head mugs that my great-grandma Myra used to serve me hot chocolate in. I tied ribbon to the handle and use them as Christmas ornaments now as well.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

How to decorate a tree

Christmas tree 2008

I've been called a lot of things in my life, but this one I will gladly agree to, I am a Christmas Tree expert. It began in my formative years of running through the Fullner Christmas Tree Farm and continued through my years as a visual manager at Nordstrom, and I retired to just doing my own home after doing a few tours of decorating celebrity trees including Richard Simmons.

1.) Start with the tree.

Real or fake? I fall on the side of real. I'm not going to judge you for choosing fake. Okay, I'm going to judge you a little bit.If you have to have fake, don't get the fake tree that goes up and down like an umbrella. Don't commit my mother's sin, don't leave the ornaments on year after year and just store the tree in a plastic bag. There, I called out my own mother. (In fairness to her this was well after all her children had moved out and I stopped being there to decorate for her.)
Most importantly is to get the tree you want. No right or wrong answer there. Some like a Noble Fir with the perfect plateaus for ornament dangle, some like a Douglas Fir that I call a "triangle tree". What matters most is you like it.

You want to get a tree that fits where you are putting it. Measure your space and make sure you get a tree at least one foot shorter than your ceiling height. The stand adds some height and then there is that tree topper. Don't make the mistake my family made on year. We couldn't quite reach the top of the tree so my dad pulled the top over to one side and placed the glass tree topper on it then released the tree, flinging the glass topper against the ceiling and shattering it.

You can't get a tree that is too wide. Push it up against the wall. Trim the branches in the back. Bigger is better. Why are you getting a tree at all if you don't want it to take over your house?

To flock or not to flock? My parents never flocked our tree. My grandparents often flocked their tree. I'm more of a traditionalist and lean towards the non-flocking. I think it shows off the ornaments best. Lyle comes from the hearty northern land and wants to remember snowy Christmases past (while wearing shorts and flip flops), he leans towards the flocked tree.

Flocking is good for that "designer" look of decorating. An all white tree with just one or two colors of ornaments. Non flocked trees evoke that Bing Crosby ideal of having the whole family gathered around a tree with popcorn and cranberries on a garland, singing carols.

2.) Lights! Camera! Action! But mostly LIGHTS.

You get to choose multi color versus single color. There are more advanced combinations but let's begin with the basics. I say you can't go wrong with plain white twinkle lights. I think the plain white show off the ornaments more.
There are also C7 and C9 lights available. You know them as the big lights that go inside and the bigger lights that go outside. Again, those are more advanced combinations.

If I could pass along only ONE TIP for lighting your tree this would be it: CUT OFF THE PAPER TAGS ON BOTH ENDS OF THE LIGHT STRING. Do this when you take them out of the box. Sit at your table with scissors and cut all three tags. Two near the plug in end, one at the other end. They are too hard to tear off and this is why people give up and just leave them on. CUT THEM OFF WITH SCISSORS. Don't cut the cord.

Test each string of lights BEFORE you put them on the tree. Plug it in, give it a shake. You'll thank me later.

How many light strings will you need? As a general rule I think one string of 100 lights for each foot of the tree. 6 foot tree = 6 strings or 600 lights. You use less near the top and more near the bottom so it evens out. If I'm being truly honest, I will tell you that for my own purposes I have 2000 lights on a 10 foot tree. But then again, one year Richard Simmons had to install a dimmer switch on his tree because it was too bright and was overheating the upstairs of the house.
Red & White lights of Christmases past...

It's good to have two extra strings of lights ready when you start. You won't have to s-t-r-e-t-c-h that last string and you won't have to panic when one string goes out suddenly. Target and Rite-Aid often have sales on their lights. Watch the flyers and get them for cheap.

My technique for lighting the tree is a little hard to write out, but it basically involves wrapping the lights out a branch from the trunk of the tree, then back down the branch, moving over to the next branch and repeating. This gives you good depth by spreading the lights throughout the inside of the tree but can be a bit overwhelming. For beginners,start at the top of the tree and wrap your lights down in a spiral, giving coverage to the inside of the tree and the outside. Wrapping the light string helps to hold it close and hidden against the branch. Layer between branches so tree holds this secret electricity contraption that magically illuminates your tree.

6 strings! No more!

If they are the (now) standard 50 , 100, 150, mini-lights, they use a 3A fuse and you COULD use a MAXIMUM of about 750 lights if they are strung together from one string (end to end plugs) before blowing the fuse built into the plug of the first light set. If you plug them into separate outlets (or into an outlet-strip), then you could light about 3750 lights on a (otherwise unused) 15 A household circuit.

I never chance it. I stop at 6 strings and make my way to the power strip at the base of the tree. Drop your cord in by the tree trunk and no one will see it.

If you are going to flock your tree, light it first and let the flock hide all ills. You'll never get enough lights on on top of the "snow".

While you are decorating, you may notice obvious or stray cords, tuck them in, wire them down, hang an ornament in front of it, no one is going to notice those cords after all the decorations go on it.

3.) Ornamentation

When I was 8 my mother came up with a new tradition, each of us kids got a special ornament to put on the tree. When you grew up and left home, you would get to take your ornaments with you. As the years progressed I've added writing the name and the year on each ornament. And I try to buy an ornament when I travel to special locations.

This has led me to have special "collections" of ornaments. The nutcrackers, the dog ornaments, international travel, moose, snowman... okay, they're all special.

First ornaments on the tree plain cheap ornaments of various sizes that get hung inside the tree. This adds depth. The tree is divided into thirds with large, medium and small ornaments placed in the bottom, middle and top respectively. Since I have dogs, there is a special collection of plastic, metal and noisy bell ornaments that goes around the bottom third of the tree. From any room in the house I can hear a bell ring on the tree and shout, "GET AWAY FROM THE TREE!!!"

The top of the tree has smaller ornaments and some "featured" ornaments. This is where the space is most open and you can really see the ornaments.

The middle is a wonderland of memories with all sorts of shapes and colors.

Psst..... here's a secret tip, the back of the tree is where I hide all the ornaments that aren't as showy as I'd like but I just love them and cant let them go. Basically its the "Island of Misfit Ornaments" side of the tree.

I try to group the ornaments. Three white snow globes over here, three Santas over here, Lola ornaments from here to here, Eiffel Towers down the center... Threes. Think in threes.

Christmas Tree 2007

Ribbon is a great filler. Check in at Michael's or Jo-Ann Fabrics and Craft Centers. They often have a 2 for 1 sale. You can make a giant ribbon bow for the top of your tree and then do a maypole effect spiraling down from the top. Or you can use ribbon to replace the look of a garland of popcorn on a string. Put your ribbon on before the ornaments as it should be a background element and not the foreground.

Buy ornament hooks. For $1.50 for 75 hooks, they make a world of difference on getting the ornaments exactly where you want them. They also help you secure the ornament to stay exactly where you want it. You can also place the hook back in the tree and draw the ornament out along the branch to give it placement. Heavy ornaments can sometimes pull a branch down, use an additional ornament hook to hold the lower branch to a stronger branch above.

Christmas Tree 2009

Now you are ready. Remember, cut off light tags, use ornament hooks, and here's a final tip I tell myself every year, it's just a tree and it's just here for one month. ENJOY YOURSELF.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Extra! Extra! Red all about it!

My friend Christine asked where all the red ornaments went. This year, they moved to the dining room.