Saturday, July 31, 2021

My New Project

For the past couple days, I've had an itch.

A creative itch.

I tried to stave it off with some late-night shopping sessions on Etsy, but finally I realized that I didn't want to buy something creative. I want to make something creative. 

So I did what any red-blooded creative type would do: I went out to my workspace in the garage and started rattling around through bins full of half-baked projects that had been abandoned for one reason or another, looking for something to light me up.

And I found a gem.

* * * * *

Let me throw this story back a couple years to a day in mid-December that found me strolling around Michaels, looking at the ragged remainders of Christmas decor and wondering why I held out hope that there might still be a pearl among the aisles and aisles of swine. 

It's a stretch to call my find a pearl. It was a cheap shadow box with a corny Christmas message and a glued-on plastic figure, and it was awful. But I suddenly envisioned a brighter future for this little box, so I took it home and eventually gave it new life.

This turned out to be a brilliantly fun project.  

And as the fates would have it, as soon as I wrapped up that project, I found myself once again wandering another year's ramshackle week-before-Christmas aisles in Michaels whence I came upon another equally garish and tacky (to me) shadow box begging for redemption.

Okay, Universe, I accept your challenge. 

Just like my first-go round, it was the simple shape and sturdy structure of this diamond in the rough that gave me hope. This little mama was an interesting geometric construction - a triangle atop a square - and to me, immediately screamed dollhouse.

Oh, yes. I could definitely get on board with a dollhouse project. Immediately, visions of sugar plums began dancing in my head, and a clear picture of a lil' Night Before Christmas scene popped into my brain.

So it was that last December, I bought this second funky little frame, brought it home, stripped away the old embellishments, and... promptly ran out of gas. 

That's when I plopped it into my bin of stalled projects where it's laid till I picked it up this week.
My Christmas cottage begins to take shape with a new attic floor and custom wallpaper. 

My vision is to turn what began as a pointed box into a two-story dollhouse by adding a strip of wood to serve as the first-story ceiling and the second-story floor. Hoping to find a decent match to the existing perimeter wood, I sorted through my collection of leftover dowels and trim pieces, and I struck gold. 

Now, with this segment of square dowel tucked into place, I would never guess that the attic floor was not part of the original design. It looks like it's always been there.
See how the attic floor does not come out as far as the walls of the house? 
Yeah. That was bothering me. A lot. 

Once I fine-tuned the fit of the floor piece, I turned my attention to the wallpaper.

It was not even a question that I wanted stripes for the living room downstairs, and dots in the attic bedroom, and I opted to use a shade of red that matches to the outside of the box (although the reds certainly seem to clash in the light of this photo.)

Easy and fun.
The first version of my itty bitty custom beds, half-assembled. 

Ready now to think about some beds. 

I'll be honest, this is where I really got thrown off in my first attempt with this project. I spent considerable time scrolling around Etsy, hoping to find some adorable wooden bunk beds perfectly sized for my small-scale house. But normal doll houses are much bigger than mine, so I had zero luck in finding viable options.

This week, I discovered a bold new confidence within myself. Forget Etsy, I silently swaggered, I'll build my own furniture. 

Riding the rocket fuel of my optimism, I rifled through more drawers of supplies and came upon the Goldilocks of popsicle sticks - not too big, not too small - but just the right size for beds that will fit perfectly in my attic. 

I came up with a simple design. Several careful measurements and precise cuts later, I grabbed my glue and began final assembly.

Which is exactly when my brain blew up.

* * * * *

Suddenly, I saw another, better way to build the floor joist so it will be the same width as the overall frame of the house.

And I hit upon a simpler and stronger design for my beds which would, frankly, bring me silly amounts of joy.

So with a single sweep of my hand, I knocked aside the old pieces and began again.

* * * * * 

These changes cost me nothing more than a couple bucks at Home Depot and maybe an hour of my time. But it's hard to describe the satisfaction I find in this kind of creative problem-solving. 

No instructions, 
no manuals, 
no photographs of how the final product should look. 

This project is just me and my imagination, shooting for the moon, seeing how far I can fly with an idea and my own two hands.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to root through my box of fabric scraps to see if I've got anything that might serve as tiny sheets and blankets. 

I'll keep you posted as my new project continues. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021


When my dog sleeps in her bed of blue hydrangea, I imagine that she must be dreaming of clouds.

Endless miles of puffy blue mists through which she can run to her heart's content following, no doubt, the scents of quail and rabbit and cheeseburgers. 

I imagine that she is very happy indeed.

As for the flowers she's crushing, I'm not worried. I imagine that they are dreaming of being cuddled by a big red dog. 

Best Beaches

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have no end of gorgeous beaches.

City beaches and wilderness beaches.
Near and far beaches. 
Lake and Sound and coastal beaches.
Sandy beaches and rocky beaches and log-strewn beaches. 
Beaches for walking or beaches more suited for sitting.

I could go on and on, but my point is this:

After three decades of intensive research, when you come to visit me, I will take you to my three best beaches.

And here is exactly how our adventures will go down.

* * * * *

Deception Pass State Park

Head north, either up the interstate for maximum efficiency or across the water on the ferry and up Whidbey Island - both routes will take about an hour. 

Once we come upon the bridge, we stash the car on the side of the road and walk across this iconic engineering marvel. We keep to the west side for the best views and we will be rewarded.

^ From our vantage point atop the bridge, we gaze west and get our bearings. Straight ahead lies the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a straight shot to the wide open Pacific. To the left, the top of Whidbey Island, and beyond, views of the Olympic Mountains.To the right, Fidalgo Island, and on beyond, Victoria, British Columbia. 

Mhmm.  Expect some "Welcome to Canada!" network notifications to start ringing in on your mobile.

^ The green-blue waters of Deception Pass are notoriously chaotic and not for novice boaters; watch the eddies and whirlpools form and fizzle as the tides rush in and out. And keep an eye out for marine mammals - on a recent outing, we see sea lions, harbor seals, and sea otters.

^ Ah, but there's more to this place than the bridge. See the sandy bits of beach tucked here and there among the forest, broken up by rocky headlands, along the curving cove? That's North Beach. We can hike down in five minutes and probably find our own relatively private piece of surprisingly soft and sandy real estate where we can spread out a picnic and wade out into the icy cold waves, if we're feeling brave.

^ But let's drive on, if you don't mind, just a few minutes more and explore at West Beach. With the bridge at our backs, we're now at the waterline facing down the Strait. Waves crash more exuberantly here, and the wind feels deliciously wild, so even though there are more people here, there's also plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the sea.

 ^  Picnic tables perch along the top of the grassy ridge above the beach, perfect for our windswept meal of fruit and cheese, bread and chocolate, and then we wander to our hearts' content. 

It's an easy drive south down the island to the ferry from here and though we feel a million miles away, with some good luck at the ferry line, we'll be home in an hour. 

* * * * *

Double Bluff Beach

Bring some good walking shoes because this Whidbey Island bad boy runs five miles along a south-facing stretch of the water. We'll be walking there and back, and just for extra good fun, we'll be accompanied by dogs who are also enjoying a nice stretch of their legs.

Because Double Bluff is also an off-leash dog park, and about the dreamiest one I can imagine. Gracie joins in all of our beach outings but I suppose this one must be her favorite, and we'll all smile to see her reaction when I click the leash off her collar and say, "Okay, let'er rip!"

^ Trudge, trudge, trudge. Is it easier to walk in the loose, dry sand, or hobble across the cobblestone patches of rocks and intermittent bits of slippery kelp? Or pray for a low tide, when a blessedly smooth strip of soft sand emerges at the water's edge? No worries - with ten miles to cover, we have ample opportunity to sample and debate all the options.

^ The protected cove and soaring bluffs make remarkable vantage points for birds, and we see hawks, osprey, heron, and bald eagles. Hopefully, we've remembered to bring along a couple pairs of binoculars, and there will be many breaks taken to discuss and deliberate exactly what each specimen might be.

^ Gracie enjoys her own form of bird-watching, which involves stalking whatever might be floating out on Useless Bay.  As the huntress stares off across the water, we take our cue to do the same, and realize that the Seattle skyline is clearly visible to the south. City meets sky and sea, and we shake our heads in amazement to think that these two staggeringly different worlds lie in sight of one another.

Our house is not quite visible from this spot, but it is close. Half an hour back to the ferry and fifteen minutes to cross the water. 

* * * * *

Lighthouse Park

Four and a half miles. That's the distance from my driveway to my hometown beach on Possession Sound and its resplendent views of sea and sky, islands and mountains, ferry and lighthouse.

^Sea lions pop up almost every time we stop by; jelly fish are a dime a dozen and every now and then, a grey whale accidentally wanders in. This little neck of the woods is a lively place, and that goes for human visitors too. I'll admit that on weekends, the crowds can be a bit much for me what with picnics and barbecues and campfires and volleyball games and family reunions and teenage hangouts and QuinceaƱera photo get my point. 

But we live so close that we can swing by on the random Tuesday evening, or better yet, on an afternoon when stiff breezes, cloudy skies, or a few sprinkles of rain keep the lightweights away.

^ The ferry terminal now sits about a mile north of  Lighthouse Park, which keeps all the infrastructure and traffic associated with the state's busiest ferry run - as measured by vehicles carried - out of harm's way. Thankfully, the historic little lighthouse still sits here with its clapboard siding and dainty railed tower, still operating its Fresnel lens and fog horn to guide ships safely through her waters.

^ Of course we can wander along the rocky beach, climb on the beach logs, or stroll out on the floating docks, but depending on our mood and how much time we care to spend, we might want to investigate the old lighthouse keepers' residences and the charming lawns and gardens on which they sit.

^ I'll be honest - Ivar's Fish Bar is a short dash from the lighthouse, and even if you're not hungry enough for a piping hot plate of fish and chips, I'll bet you can't say no to a soft serve cone. The chocolate and vanilla twistee is my go-to. And Gracie, with much regret, will lie quietly in the shade till we finish our snack. Then we will call her to her feet, and slowly walk to the car and head up the hill toward home. 

* * * * *

For sure, there are countless other Pacific Northwest beaches deserving of your time. I don't dare leave out my beloved Kalaloch Beach, though with a four-hour trip each way, that gem must be saved for special opportunities. And while I hold no quibble with locals who might make some other recommendations to you, I stick by my list.

These three beaches are my tried and trues. They've stood by me as I've introduced round after round of house guests to their particular charms, some just as recently as this summer. I promise that you will love them.

Now all that's left is for you to come visit me and let me show you my best beaches. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

A Beautiful Birthday

"Every year on your birthday, you get a chance to start new." -Sammy Hagar

* * * * *

For her birthday on June 17, my second-born hopped on a plane and flew across the country to spend the day with me. 

Well, maybe also her father and sisters. And cats and dog. 
But you know, mostly me. 

She deliberated carefully about how to spend her big day, wanting to best honor the special moment of reckoning and renewal and redirection that a birthday can provide. 

And she made two excellent choices:

1. Lunch at Thai Tom's.

2. A stroll through the sculpture park. 

It's only fair to point out that we have done both of these things many, many times before. But after the long Covid recess and the resulting palpable hunger for familiar, fascinating places, we set off with high hopes.

* * * * *

Lunch is a dream. As always, my daughter orders the Pad Thai and I go for the Number 15, Swimming Rama. The dining room of the tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant is still closed, so we sit in the car, sun streaming through the back alley on which we are parked and lending a cheerfulness to the dumpsters in our view, and eat every single bite. 

The Olympic Sculpture Park is, as always, a double dream.

^ Wake | Richard Serra

Have you ever visited a dry dock shipyard and walked among the gigantic rusting hulls of silent, super-sized sea-going vessels? Yeah, me neither. But if I ever did, I think it would feel very much like this place. Giant, rusty yet oh so svelte behemoths rest in a broad bed of gravel near the entrance to the park, and I take a certain joy as I crunch along between them, knowing that I'll be back in just an hour or two to bid them farewell.

^Sky Landscape I | Louise Nevelson

When my second-born was in college, she devised a sculpture based on this artist's work. With my husband's help, she built a wood three-dimensional display where two boards - about one foot by three feet each - intersected each other on their vertical lengths at right angles, and created four triangular niches. She then collected up an assortment of interesting household trash - glass bottles, plastic lids, tubes and straws and a jumble of similar things - and attached them all in aesthetically pleasing arrangements in the four display areas of the wood contraption. Then, the coup de grace: she covered every inch in black spray paint. Whenever I look at this sculpture, intricate and unrelentingly black, I think of my daughter's project. And I am inspired.

^ Perre's Ventaglio III | Beverly Pepper

Maybe you've seen a fairly famous painting called Nude Descending a Staircase, No.2 by a French chap named Marcel Duchamp, which is extraordinary because it shows multiple versions of the same figure, in various static poses that together almost trick your eye into seeing the figure actually moving down the stairs. This silvery, shiny piece that almost camouflages itself in its lush surroundings gives me the same sensation - as if there is one single mirrored frame tumbling out of the garden and falling at my feet - and I like it.

^ Eagle | Alexander Calder

I've been obsessed with Calder since my art humanities class in high school, and I'm well chuffed to boast my very own hometown piece of his work. And what a perfect specimen - a delicate, soaring construction of no-nonsense steel, perched on the steep hill above Puget Sound and looking ready to flap its wings and soar off over the blue. I also adore the many personalities of Eagle, and entertain myself by capturing it from different angles and vantage points all around the park.

^ A sneak peak as we approach Eagle from the leafy, well-landscaped city side of the park. I'd recognize those skinny orange legs anywhere.

^ Looking west across the water toward the Olympic Mountains, and now you know how the park got its name.

^ Admiring a close-up of those gorgeous rivets and industrial construction.

^ Looking back toward the city - this is Belltown, just south of downtown Seattle and famed as the fictional home of Frasier, if you have any memory for Twentieth Century sitcoms.

^ When I work the angles just so, I can pop the good ol' Space Needle under the Eagle's wing, and she becomes a mother bird caring for her iconic chick.

^ Stinger | Tony Smith

Some people think this almost-four-sided geometric shape looks like a scorpion prepared to attack, and I can see their point. Still, whenever I'm visiting this piece, I do my best to block that terrifying image, and enjoy the simple fun of walking around the outside, and then the inside, of this interesting shape. The little girl-me wants to play house here inside the cozy confines, and I can see myself laying my dolls into their wood chip beds tucked up in the rectangular shadows of Stinger, as if they were trundle beds in an attic bedroom.

^Seattle Cloud Cover | Teresita Fernandez

A layer of some kind of holographic-ish material sandwiched between layers of glass. That's my inexpertly technical description of this piece. But what I can say with much more certainty is that on an overcast, drippy kind of day, the colors of this piece glow with an unworldly beauty and standing underneath the upper ledge feels to me like a technicolor umbrella. It's nice on sunny days too.

^ Stinger and Seattle Cloud Cover

Even better than examining each sculpture on its own is when I look from one to another and notice how they interact with each other. Though it's a perfect summer day today, I imagine how the colors of Cloud Cover would glow on an overcast day, and my well-trained sensory memories of rain can feel the tiny raindrops collecting on Stinger, and I can already see them running together and eventually cascading down the black metal in big, fat drips.

^ Father and Son | Louise Bourgeois

Funny story about this piece. Seems that a man named Stu Smailes left a gift of a million dollars to the city of Seattle for a fountain, with one small stipulation: the art must feature a realistic nude male figures. Mhmm. So the artist gave him a two-for-one deal - you see the father on the right, but inside the bubbling spray on the left hides his son. The water alternates high and low, intermittently hiding and revealing them to the world, symbolizing the vulnerability of nudity, or so I've read. I mostly like to look down at the splashing water from above.

^ Schubert Sonata | Mark di Suvero

If music could be made into steel, and hammered and welded into delicate shapes that gently rotate as they catch the wind, I'm inclined to think it would look like this. Which means that the artist hit is mark, because that seems to have been his intention for the piece. But I wonder if he knew his creation would be placed here at the edge of Elliot Bay, where the blue water and sweeping mountain views add a lyrical context to this simple instrument. I hope that he is please.

* * * * *

There are plenty of other delights tucked into the park, but my trigger finger becomes weary and I slide my phone into my pocket, content to wander and wonder and enjoy each sight in the moment. Soon enough, our adventure feels complete, and we retrace our steps, peeking round corners here and there to say goodbye to our favorites. Almost to the car, we walk back into the shadows of Wake.

A happy birthday trip.

An invigorating start to my daughter's new year.

And a delicious reminder that all the joys of the big, beautiful world are still here for us, ready to transport us to wherever our imaginations might want to go. 

* * * * *

Stories about my trips to the Olympic Sculpture Park, with photos galore. 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Shine On

"Yeah, we all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun." - John Lennon

Jolie is a family friend, daughter of our dear Navy friends once stationed here in Mukilteo, and though our paths cross less frequently these days, I've known her since the first day of her life. 

Shannae and Olivia are former students, little girls back in the day when my own daughters were wrapping up their homeschooling years, and I spent many happy hours teaching them and their siblings as if they were babies of my own. 

Alex is my nephew, son of my second brother, as dear to my heart as a nephew can be. 

Jonah is the first-born of my surprise brother-from-another-mother, so a nephew as well, and I am constantly delighted and pleased that he - and his entire family - popped into my life in such an unexpected way.

You are the special people in my life who graduated this year, Alex from university and the rest from high school. You are the class of Covid 2021, forever asterisked as the socially distanced seniors, the shut-in scholars, the ones for whom this milestone year of accomplishment and transition took a decidedly bizarre twist.

I'd also say that, in spite of these horrendous handicaps, you Covid graduates hold a certain advantage over the rest of us. Because of the pandemic, you've leveled way up in your ability to cope with 

the unexpected, 
the unplanned, 
the wild ride that is this life. 

Already you have lived the truth of John Lennon's wry observation that life is what happens while you are making other plans,and I'm certain that this crazy fruit basket upset experience has prepared you very well for the punches that life eventually throws at us all. 

So congratulations to my graduating class of 2021 - Jolie, Shannae, Olivia, Alex, and Jonah. In addition to your diplomas, you've also earned my respect and admiration for pushing through the weird difficulties and strange obstacles that Covid tossed into your lives, and for finding a way - your own way - to shine on. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Reading | Rocket Men

Rocket Men | Robert Kurson

If you know anything at all about the Apollo space program, you're probably aware that Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, along with that guy from Toy Story, and their flight was called Apollo 11. Maybe you've also heard about the nearly disastrous saga of Apollo 13, during which an oxygen tank blew up, putting in peril the lives of astronauts Tom Hanks and Ron Howard. Or something like that. 

But pop culture references aside, perhaps the flight most deserving of universal fame is that of Apollo 8, which was the very first spacecraft to slip the surly bonds of earth orbit and carry three men - nearly flawlessly - across a quarter of a million miles to orbit the moon and safely back home again. Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders became the first humans to gaze upon an alien heavenly body at close quarters, and Anders' groundbreaking photo of our home, Earthrise, came to rewire our collective understanding of Planet Earth. This book tells in familiar prose the fascinating and deeply personal story of their risk-filled journey complete with easy-to-grasp technical explanations and color photos, to boot. 

* * * * *

My space exploration deep dive continues. From Robert Goddard fooling around with liquid fuels back in the 1920s, to the Mars rover's current mission to gather rocks, I'm fascinated. (Just don't talk to me about private sector billionaires' flights to the upper atmosphere. I'm not impressed.) 

But Apollo is at the very heart of my obsession. And to be honest, I had fallen into the typical trap of assuming that Apollo 11, the first lunar landing, was the peak of NASA's prowess and the defining moment of our success in space. But Rocket Men has changed my mind about that. After buzzing through this well-written page-turner, I better understand the nuances of incremental progress in the program - how NASA systematically tested each new bit of equipment and practiced piloting maneuvers in a delicately programmed series of flights, and each crew's successes were unquestionably built on the backs of previous crews' gutsy hard work. 

So it is that the fine gents of Apollo 8, Borman, Lovell, and Anders, deserve so much more recognition and respect for their unprecedented journey to the moon. In the midst of some very complex mission planning that was subject to the vagaries of temperamental equipment, shifting crew assignments, and the Soviets breathing down our necks, just four short months before liftoff these three men were unceremoniously thrust into making a quick and risky decision: are you ready to try for the moon? They said yes, and the rest is beautiful, interesting, inspiring history. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

The End

With our birthday mission to San Diego complete, and our LA side trip in the bag, there's nothing left to do but follow the bread crumbs back towards home.

^ Another round of In-N-Out in Bakersfield at the Stockdale Avenue store. We took a break from the burgers in San Diego, but now that we are back on the road, it's no holds barred.

^ We follow up our meal with by a sunset swim at our nearby hotel. The pool is a bit chilly and the hot tub is too hot but still we are content to soak our weary bones before bed.

^ Next morning, we are up with the sun and after the standard pit stop for Starbucks, a bag of ice, and gas, we're off.  Our midday destination: picnic lunch at a rest area just north of Sacramento.

^By mid-afternoon, we are tooling through the Siskyous and come upon a fairly terrifying sight: a wildfire burning on the foothills northwest of Mount Shasta.We can't see any flames but the billowing clouds of smoke are spectacular.

^ One last burger binge in Grants Pass, Oregon, and our final night on the road in Eugene, Oregon. 

Next day, up into the heat dome we drive, as the Pacific Northwest is suffering a bizarre high pressure phenomenon that's causing extreme heat. We crank the AC, keep a close eye on the engine temperature gauge, and hightail it for home.

^ Where waiting to greet us at the end of our trip is one hot - but very happy - dog. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021


As we head out of San Diego, ready to road trip an easy 1300 miles due north, we detour into LA for a quick errand at the LINE Friends' LA Pop-Up to grab some Stateside BTS21 merch.


But if that sentence was at all unclear, please allow me to explain.

* * * * *

Remember that massive earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011? Yeah, that's where our story begins.

As the twin disasters demolished the Japanese telecommunications infrastructure, local engineers quickly rallied to build a new internet-based communication platform and christened it LINE. Within a few months, the resulting LINE app was released to the Japanese public and promptly blew up.

Today, the LINE app is widely and wildly popular, still rolling out country by country all around the world. It features many of the chat, media-sharing, video production, and music capabilities that we humans have come to expect from our phones, with one feature that is particularly charming: a set of unique and much beloved cartoon figures that users can purchase as digital stickers and use in the LINE app in lots of clever and cutesy ways. 

These figures, known as LINE Friends, were created by a South Korean artist named Kang Byeong Mok and they are insanely popular among LINE users all around the world. 

Now, if cute lil digital stickers are so appealing, what if they were adapted into plushie pillows and toys? And sure, they can be sold online, but what if there were pop-up stores, placed oh, so selectively and fleetingly, at the toniest of upscale locations around the globe, where these adorable fuzzy creations might be sold?

Thus the LINE Friends Pop-Up Store was born. 

* * * * *

But I've skipped over a key subplot in this story.

Just a few months before that Japanese earthquake and tsunami hit, over in South Korea, a new musical act was just beginning to come together. Though they were known by a handful of different names at first, these seven young men of humble origin soon unleashed themselves as BTS, and began to shake the world.

Defying easy categorization by any conventional labels - hip hop artists, K-Pop performers, boy bands - BTS quickly broke out of those old molds and established their music as broadly influenced, and their lyrics unusually outspoken on controversial topics of personal and social commentary: coming-of-age issues, mental health challenges, and the journey of learning to love yourself. Within a few short years, BTS had garnered a devoted and loyal worldwide fandom know as their ARMY, and commanded global attention. 

Now comes the pure branding genius. The great minds at LINE Friends invited BTS into a collaboration whereby each of the seven members would develop their own cartoon figure, and their menagerie - plus an eighth character designed to represent the ARMY - would be sold alongside the LINE Friends products as the BTS21 line. 

All that remains to be told is that my daughters joined the ARMY early on, and over the years on our trips to South Korea (where my third-born lived for two years), I have visited several of the LINE Friends Pop Ups in Seoul and experienced first-hand this international phenomenon with astonishment and respect. 

So, as our travel plans for San Diego were coming together, and my ARMY daughters heard about the new LA pop-up, it was quickly determined that we should pop in. Here, then, are a few scenes from our visit.

^ Meet the BTS21 cast of characters, as presented on the upper wall between the yellow palm trees, 
from left to right:

Mang the dancing pony
RJ the alpaca
Chimmy the playful puppy
Van (behind) the space robot
Tata a heart-headed alien
Cooky the rabbit
Koya the sleepy koala
Shooky (behind) an actual cookie

The shelves below our heroes are filled with plush pillows available for purchase. My daughters already own many.

^ An LA backdrop available for taking photos with a gigantic Tata.

^ The BTS21 line has morphed into countless products: tote bags, zippered pouches, phone and air pod cases, lanyards, key chains, planners, backpacks, and on and on.

^ For the first time ever, I buy myself a little BTS something. After much mulling I decide on a plush Chimmy keychain - he's the yellow puppy and I think he kinda looks like he's wearing a lil space suit, so that apparently that makes him my favorite. But I spend most of my time staring at this wall and loving the mix of color, shape, and graphic styles. 

^ Chimmy and me, safe at home. 

* * * * *

Now I've come to the end of the story about my visit to the LINE Friends Los Angeles Pop-Up Store.

And now, even if you didn't know before, you know. 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Balboa Park On A Lark

After a few days' cavorting around my newly adopted home away from home, I decide to reach out to my former-Washingonian and native-San Diegoan friend, Liz. 

I regret that won't have time to meet up with you, I preface, but just want to let you know that I'm in your beautiful city and I'm thinking of you. 

Little do I know in that moment that I am corresponding with San Diego's most informative and influential travel advisor.

But I soon find out, because Liz responds with several comprehensive and poetic descriptions of the best of the best San Diego landmarks, on and off the beaten path. In particular, she urges - no, she INSISTS - that we really must make time in our schedule for Balboa Park.

* * * * *

Balboa Park. 

Many years ago, though long after my first, ill-fated sunburn trip to San Diego, I'd heard about Balboa Park: 

Balboa Park is a must-see cultural gem of an urban park.

Balboa Park is a historical treasure, the site of the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition, which celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal and gave San Diegoans a good reason to get their park ready for the party.

Balboa Park is the beating heart of the city, San Diego's version of the Seattle Center, only fifty-plus years older and done up in Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, rather than Space Needle-centric Mid-Century Modern. 

I've dreamed of seeing the place for a long, long time. 

I got close to Balboa Park back in 2012 when I breezed into San Diego for a quick, spontaneous visit on the way home from dropping my fourth-born in Tucson, Arizona, where she attended university. But this time, my priority was to spend quality time with our sweet family friends, the Millers, and so my 24-hour flyover was devoted to viewing the kids' LEGO creations, munching pancakes, and getting reacquainted with the pets.

Balboa Park would have to wait. 

* * * * *

So it is that on our last evening in San Diego, while we soak in the sunset and watch the sea lions play in the falling darkness, I mention these messages to my third-born. As the birthday girl, she is calling the shots on our agenda and her original plan is for us to leave San Diego bright and early next morning, and spend the day in Los Angeles. I'm not trying to rock the boat, I tell her, but Liz says Balboa Park is a jewel. 

Hmm. My daughter takes this information under advisement and mulls the options. And a few hours later, she proposes a change. As long as we are in San Diego, let's do San Diego right, she opines. Let's take the morning to explore Balboa Park, and visit LA another time. 

And that's exactly what we do. Thanks to Liz's detailed notes and exquisite recommendations - only a tiny fraction of which we are able to put into play - we get at least a glimpse of what Balboa Park has to offer.

* * * * *

With zero game plan in mind, we drop the car near the Natural History Museum, which looks like it could use a full day of its own for proper exploration, and notice the iconic fountain to our left. Let's save that for last, we decide, and veer right instead. 

Now properly strolling on El Prado, we enjoy the already-busy Saturday morning vibes and look for whatever might capture our interest.

^ We are suckers for a long reflecting pool. Filled with water lilies? Yes, please. 

^ Closer inspection reveals that this is the Botanical Building, sadly closed for renovation but still worthy of our attention.

 ^ Overgrown tropical specimens reach out toward the sunshine from within the lathe walls and we are charmed.

^ I walk around and around and around the Lily Pool, looking for the best angles and most interesting compositions of light and reflection.

^ Turns out there are no bad angles.

^ And I feel like a modern day Monet.

^ On we go. Next feature of interest is a giant explosion of purple bougainvillea. I mean, how could we not be hypnotized.

^ Photos do not do it justice.

^ But you know, we keep trying anyway.

^ Takes us several minutes to recover from our flower-induced trance to notice yet another example of the sublime Spanish Colonial Revival architecture to which the magnificent blossoms cling.

^ From our viewpoint above, we gaze down onto the Japanese Friendship Garden, and mentally set aside another full day for adventuring through this masterpiece. Can't wait to explore every single one of those winding pathways and trip-trap over each and every adorable footbridge.

^ Slowly but surely we wander our way to what surely must be the heart of Balboa Park. The California Tower (left) and the California Building (right) are key features of the California Quadrangle which form the main entrance to the park. I think this would all make a lot more sense to me if we had entered the park through the front door, so to speak, over the Cabrillo Bridge and along the proudest stretch of El Prado. But we have apparently parked in the backyard so our perspective is a bit topsy turvy. Next time, we will know better. 

^ We turn around and slowly retrace our path back toward the fountain, freezing in our footsteps as we pass the sculpture garden at the Museum of Art. Just beyond the railed fence is a tantalizing collection of outdoor art - my favorite - but one must enter the courtyard via the museum and we don't have time for that. Sadly, we press on. Happily, we soon come across this red beauty in our path and feel just a teeny bit of satisfaction. Love the bold color and geometry against the classical architecture. 

* * * * *

Before we know it, we have come back to where we began. Circling the fountain, we revel in the fine mist on its leeward side and the gentle grace of the arching water. We are almost back to the car. 

To be sure, we have barely scratched the surface of Balboa Park, and I'll be studying Liz's notes for hours while planning my triumphant return.

But it's okay. Balboa Park is clearly a delicious banquet of dishes to be savored and enjoyed at leisure, and I'm happy that we have finally begun.