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Fake it till you make it – Thug Life

thug life

I love it when the neighborhood gang bangers get all inspirational and shit.

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Dia de los Muertos

This weekend turned out to be a nearly perfect weekend, complete with a trip to our local farmer’s market, quality time with my husband, and our first ever evening spent relaxing in front of a roaring fireplace. But the highlight? The very best part of the weekend entirely? It was the Dia de los Muertos exhibit at the Canoga Park Youth Arts Center.

a wedding celebration

The Canoga Park Youth Arts Center is housed in a beautiful 1927 Spanish-style building that was originally the Canoga Park Telephone Exchange. Today it is a place where children and teenagers go to explore their creativity. This exhibit was so wonderful it made me want to have babies just so I can send them there to learn about art.

Mauricio Tacos Place

dancing in the street

The exhibit included photography, sculpture, original paintings, and elaborate ofrendas. These photos are of a display that, I’m guessing, was a collaborative effort by many of the students. Using cardboard, pipe cleaners, tissue paper, sculpey, and various repurposed household items such as bottle caps and discarded earrings, the children created a whimsical world that playfully pokes fun at death while honoring the lives of those who have passed.


kick back

I was completely knocked out. First of all, the talent of these kids blew me away and second, the simplicity of the materials they used, and how beautifully they used them, absolutely took my breath away. This display in particular was one of the most enchanting things I’ve ever seen.

a family dinner

on horseback

I could practically feel the joy emanating from this display. It was obvious that it had been a labor of love, and a fun one at that. I walked away uplifted and inspired.  I want to make my own now. In fact, I even set aside my first cardboard box today. It’s a heavy duty one that will be perfect for a church or something. I can’t wait.

Sam's Sea Food

view through a window

To see photos from past Dia de los Muertos exhibits, click here. To check out some of the other pictures I took of the exhibit, click here.

Melly Klistmas and a Happy New Lease

This is probably the longest stretch of time I’ve ever gone without writing in my blog. It’s been almost a whole month, you guys. So what’s been taking up all of my time, you ask? All fifty-six and a half hours a week not spent sleeping, showering, eating, working, and commuting? First, there were the holidays.

snowy village

Christmas was lovely. I didn’t get the Sylvanian’s out of their Thanksgiving outfits until December 21st, but it was totally worth the wait.

sylvanian xmas

I didn’t bake my traditional gingerbread people this year, but I did make all my own gift-wrap.

recycled wrapping

We had a wonderful New Year. Mike had to work New Year’s Eve, but I got to spend the evening with my brother and his wife, just the three of us, and it was absolutely lovely. Since Mike and I weren’t going to spend New Year’s Eve-ning together, we spent the afternoon together instead. And what does a young starting-out for the third-time couple do on a sunny So Cal winter day? They apartment hunt.

I had been hoping for a two-bedroom apartment, some outdoor space, and hardwood or laminate floors, but two-bedrooms with all those amenities in the San Fernando Valley are more expensive than you’d think. We looked at a couple of cute places, all brand-new laminate floors, lots of sun, one-bedrooms totally within our budget.  We looked at a couple of awful places, one-bedrooms outside our budget that looked good on paper but turned out to be carpeted windowless dens of misery.

We were getting ready to wrap it up for the day when Mike convinced me to take a look at a little apartment off Saticoy he’d seen the day before. A two-bedroom with a dishwasher, a balcony, a fireplace, and carpeting, it was right within our budget. However, as far as I was concerned, the carpeting cancelled out the dishwasher, the fireplace, and the second bedroom. I was determined to hold out for hardwood floors. And by that I mean laminate flooring would have been equally awesome, but carpet was out of the question. If we had carpet I would spend the next five years scrubbing dog butt-smear out of it.

“But the landlord said she didn’t care that we have dogs, she doesn’t care what happens to the carpet, so you don’t have to worry about it.”
“Dog butt-smear in the carpet is disgusting. I’m not living with carpet.”
“I’ll buy a carpet cleaner and I’ll shampoo it once a week.”
“There are two bathrooms.”
“Fine. But we’re only looking.”

He turned onto a street lined with 1920’s Craftsman bungalows and palm trees. “This is probably where we’ll walk the dogs in the mornings. There’s a coffee shop at the end of the block.” I rolled my eyes and coughed the words “butt smear”. He turned a corner and parked in front of a little six-unit building. There were two kids sitting on the lawn out front, playing with a puppy under the shade of a big beautiful tree.

The minute I walked into our Harlem apartment, I knew I was home. I loved that apartment from the first moment I saw it, like it was a part of Mike and me and who we are together. I loved it’s tall windows with the deep sills, the shining original hardwood floors. I loved our neighbors and our community, but mostly I loved how happy we were while we lived there.

When Michael opened the front door of this new apartment and I saw the fireplace nestled in the built-in bookcases, I knew we were home.  We signed the lease three days later and started moving in right away.  Life has been incredibly upside down ever since we left New York, but never as much as it has been in the last fifteen days. We’ve been overwhelmed and frustrated and of course there is always some butt-smear, but you know what? That’s life. And a little at a time the boxes are vanishing, our things are finding their place in cabinets and cupboards, and we’re making this apartment ours. Welcome to another new beginning. Welcome to the Valley.


The sunset off our balcony