La pura vida

Not too long ago, probably back in November, I was at the gym doing some kettlebell swings, when I felt an unfamiliar crack and unsettling destabilization in my right knee and right ankle. I’m no stranger to knee injuries, but that one seemed relatively harmless, as it just felt like my joints cracked when I was standing up. For about 6 weeks afterward though, things didn’t feel right. I had pain all the way down into my foot, and my hip/IT band were tight, offsetting the instability in my knee and ankle. I’m just now getting to a point where there is less pain. The worst was the cold making everything stiff, especially in the middle of the night when I just needed to make my way to the loo with no lights on, but walking was a feat in itself.

I went to the physical therapist (PT) a few days after my injury, and every two weeks since. I call him a PT because that’s his job, but I really chose this place and him due to his credentials in chiropractic care. I had a chiropractor in San Francisco with certification in active release techniques (ART), and found a chain of gyms with professionals with this same designation upon moving to Seattle. For those that don’t know, ART is a soft tissue/movement based massage technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. Once those are loosened, often the movement-constricting issue is resolved, but sometimes a chiropractic adjustment is still needed. Rather than just going in to crack a back or neck with little to no prep work or stretching, the treatment of the soft tissues around the site of constricted movement usually resolves whatever is causing us pain or stiffness. It’s easier on your system and your soft tissue with these techniques. And hey, free mini massages in targeted spots when you go to the chiropractor!

However, the place I found in Seattle near me has a more holistic approach rather than a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am chiropractic adjustment. They provide half an hour of chiro-care time, and half an hour of physical therapy with exercise focused on body areas wherever little nagging pains or tightness happens to be. I have been going every two weeks, 1) because my insurance covers these sessions, and 2) preventive ongoing maintenance means fewer and further between major breakdowns/pains.

In the session just after Christmas, before New Year’s, after my mother and aunt left from spending the holidays with me, something funny happened at the PT. Dr. Donuts, as his name was in school for eating donuts in class, was working out some of my tightness and making adjustments, as he normally does. My body’s response was anything but normal that day.

Maybe it was the stress of entertaining family for the holidays, or the stress of the impending doom scheduled to take over the White House. All of his adjustments tickled, and I giggled. Everywhere he touched me, the stress relief came in the form of laughter. Normally, I crack jokes and make general embarrassing deep, guttural utterances when he adjusts me. That day, my released tension took the form of giggles (much to my dismay.) So much more embarrassing, but very telling about the stress I was holding.

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Luckily, I’ve redeemed myself since, and Dr. Donuts and I continue to have amusing and lighthearted appointments. I’ve noticed many differences for the better just by making sure I go every two weeks. Plus, I feel better about my body when I can move it the way I need to and the way I like. Everybody wins.

I’ve also since been focusing on diet and exercise to build my strength back up after my injury.

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I booked a holiday in Costa Rica at a yoga and spa retreat for a week, and I don’t want to embarrass myself in the 2x-a-day yoga classes. There are half day and full day excursions, as well as 3 healthy meals a day sourced with local ingredients. The package also comes with one massage that week, and my room has a sweet view of the central valley. I plan to hit up Poas Volcano, local hot springs, do a coffee tour through the fields that surround the resort, walk through a cloud forest (skywalk) and maybe zipline between trees, and check out the waterfall gardens and butterfly observatory. Factor in to this that I used airline miles I’ve accumulated to cover airfare, and this is an all-inclusive fairly cheap adventure for me. I’m planning to go by myself at this point, which I’m eagerly anticipating.

It feels good having more travel booked this year, since I didn’t quite make it out and about last year. It was a big year, purchasing a home, moving cities, starting a new job, and all of it required my attention on the homefront. But now that I’ve nested sufficiently, it’s time to get out there and have more adventures, take more pictures, and live la pura vida (the pure life).


Won’t you be my neighbor

Growing up as a young whippersnapper in the suburbs, I had the pleasure of actually knowing my neighbors. As I may have alluded to in posts past, we even had block parties, and built a real sense of community.

In San Francisco, and even in Sydney, I didn’t really know my neighbors. In college, I lived in an apartment that got broken into once, and I began to trust neighbors even less. They weren’t friends. They simply just happened to pay rent and live nearby. It changed a little when I bought a flat with my ex back in 2008, and we got to know the owners of the flat above us. I also got to know the older man who lived next door on the ground floor, since he’d always be outside, chain-smoking his cigarettes, while I landscaped the backyard, painted, or drank my coffee on our deck. Some were annoyances who played thumpy bass, and they existed merely to serve as the subjects of my evil eye and scornful disdain.

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It’s a bit different in the building I live in now. Our fire alarm went off one random day this autumn, and many neighbors bonded while standing outside waiting for the fire department. Our lobby resembled Niagara Falls as the person who owned the apartment directly above it somehow didn’t realize their kitchen sink had overflowed and flooded through. I’d seen some of the people who have apartments on my floor in passing, and I even know some of their first names. One guy on my floor has the cutest cat, and he has a piano in what must be a broom closet, and he plays beautiful music for hours at a time. I say hi to those I meet while doing coin-operated laundry in the basement. In my 10-Q and 10-K posts, I’d mentioned the ongoing rivalry between the grinch who stole neighborly congeniality (the crotchety neighbor) and me. If you weren’t up to speed, the score was 1-1, and I’ve been curious and eager to see what round 3 would have in store.

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This afternoon, we both got off two different elevators at the same time, and I held the door open for her as we walked the same direction down the hall to our adjacent apartments. It was mildly awkward, but I was cordial.

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She invited me in to see her apartment, and so I entered. Besides having a cello, multiple guitars, and other string instruments, she had a middle seat of a van in her living room. Interesting seating option, I commented to her. Her apartment was full of clutter, though mostly organized. She kept the windows closed, and the apartment didn’t seem to get as much natural light as mine does.

In our talks, she expressed that she’s lost 11 people, friends and lovers, ever since 2009. That’s five years of death. I told her I could empathize. As you, dear reader, may have deduced from my explicit mention in many posts, I’ve had my fair share of loss of close loved ones in the past two years. She got to talking about her ex, and the break-up. Turns out crotchety neighbor is a lesbian, too!

I invited her into my apartment after she had done the same, quid pro quo, and all. I wanted to prove to her once and for all I don’t have a subwoofer against her apartment. She ceded that she had been confused when she thought I was being loud, as it was actually the people above her. She almost boasted that she had taken them to court before. A force to be reckoned with, that one.

Her kitchen was dirty; but hell, she indicated she’s been in the building, in the same apartment for 25 years. I’m sure if I lived somewhere for 25 years, I’d look like the Queen of the Hoarders, too. She, too, had seen a mouse in her apartment. We lamented over the sirens that wail down Market Street, and the streetcar that rattles down the tracks all the time except when you need to catch one. She told me she also had a scooter to get around town.

She asked me, hopefully, when she saw my apartment, if I played any musical instruments. I dashed her hopes with a hard no. She asked about the paintings on the wall my father did, and she asked about the huge piece I have by a local San Francisco artist. She asked about the photos I’d converted to canvas for a nominal fee – photos I took in Ibiza, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Hawaii.

It’s funny. She started out writing me a nastygram about noise when I first moved in, and the tension between us had been palpable ever since. In six months, she never said hi, banged on the walls, and then finally worked up the nerve to knock on my door when she thought my bass was on high. I thought she was lonely, and it turns out she truly was. She said she didn’t have many more friends left. I told her, that she can always make new friends.

That is what we did today. The cello-playing, scooter-riding, lesbian and I are now friends. We agreed in the new year, we’d share a coffee or a drink to possibly build some neighborly goodwill. Now that we are on slightly better terms,

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‘Tis the season, indeed.

Leo’s den

I’ve written posts about environments in which I feel completely at home – The room maker, Night blooming jasmine, and The gardens of Kensington Palace. The room maker spoke to locations – a tree house, namely. The other two spoke to dream gardens and outdoor spaces that make me comfortable and at home.

Being in New York this weekend, visiting family, and not having much to do otherwise, has left me with lots of time to watch one of my favorite TV channels, HGTV. I could watch home and garden television all day long. I am not interested in cooking shows or talk shows at all, but give me HGTV and I could easily binge watch all day long.

However, it always leaves me inspired to take on my own projects, and I’m left mentally designing the interior of my dream home as well. I love the various finishes. I’d like to think I’d be a general contractor’s dream. I have a realistic view of renovations, the disaster area that ensues, especially if you live in your home while renovating. I don’t see it as stressful at all. I know very much what I want in my home, and would not have any problem being decisive. I also would pay money for good quality materials and labor.

I’ve been saving money for my dream home, investing in the stock market, and being relatively frugal. Ideally, I’d like to build my own home, and work with an architect to design it to my own specifications, however, I know realistically I would need to buy a fixer upper and renovate to my liking. I’m an elemental person, in that I like using earth, air, fire, water, wood, stone, and metal to create a balanced environment. Even in my apartment now, I have pot plants with earth for plants to grow – plants all over my home are essential. See those other blog posts for plants I like. The view, fans, and the open windows create the sensation of moving air with space and freedom. Candles provide the fire, as well as the obvious fireplace feature. Copper water features would incorporate both water and metal. I also wouldn’t mind an aquarium, or pool, for water, but I know I have to have a hot tub with fairy lights in the backyard. Wood would be present throughout, as I also seem to like a rustic, natural style. Stone would make an appearance wherever possible – geodes, crystals, salt lamps, slate, or other rocks, since I’m a self-identified rock and mineral nerd.

Here’s my ultimate wish list of what my dream home needs to have. It wouldn’t be your typical things like open floor plan, high end finishes, huge rooms, or anything like that. I’m about to be very specific. I’m painting you a picture, dear reader, of the space I’d like to one day invite you into for a glass of wine and a chat. Walk with me…

In the entryway to my home, there would be a modest foyer. Ideally, I’d love a home with stairs and multiple floors. The home I grew up in was only 1 story, and I loved stairs even as a kid. In my foyer, I’d love a nice glossy sealed slate tile floor, with lots of variation and color, giving it a rustic look and being very durable for whatever you may bring into the house on your feet. That slate tile could also be used for any fireplace finishes or kitchen floors, possibly even bathroom floors. I love the look and vibe slate tile provides.

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I also love hardwood floors – I don’t want a speck of carpet in my home. Wood is natural, elemental, and easy to clean. I’m not a fan of bamboo flooring, so I’d have to hand over my greenie card because I’d probably want some kind of wood that isn’t from such an easily renewable source. Being a northern California girl, I’d love beautiful redwood floors, but perhaps Brazilian redwood, rather than harvesting locally. If I can’t get a whole floor of that, then I’d love to work redwood into my design another way. Redwood is beautiful for decks, which is also something I’d love to have.

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Now, I’m a creature of comfort, yet I also know what I find beautiful. I don’t want to waste time describing furniture to you. But, ideally I’d like a comfortable sofa, a fireplace, and big windows with beautiful views (I’m more of a mountain/trees/lake/city view person, than an ocean view person). I love Victorian and craftsman architecture, so wainscoting painted glossy bright white is definitely on order for me. It lightens a room, and the chair rail makes for a wonderful ledge for my thousands of tea lights. My fireplace would ideally be gas, not wood burning. Can I have my greenie card back now, please? The finish on the fireplace could be just about anything – if I find a home with an original stone, or original tile fireplace, I will do my best to restore that. I wouldn’t tear it down just to modernize it. Part of my dream home is being true to the home’s original character. I’ve seen giant stone fireplaces I loved, and fireplaces finished with glass tile… it just depends. I could even bring the slate tile to the fireplace too. But my fireplace would be a focal point of the room, for sure. The coffee table wouldn’t be perfect; it would be one you could set your coffee mug on, or put your feet on, without batting an eye. Therefore, rustic would probably be the way to go there, as well. Nothing with hard edges like glass.

On top of the wainscoting, I love color on the walls. I grew up in a home where my father only wanted institution-white walls, I called them. Or straitjacket white, as you like. When I owned a condo in San Francisco in 2008-9, I painted every single room. I loved it. Bright lemon yellow hallways, to open up the darkness of having a bottom floor railroad flat without a lot of windows. I painted the guest room a soft, slight light blue. I love the light yellow and light blue combos. I’m not much of a warm color person. I actually find cool colors to be warm for me. I’d love for the living room walls of my dream home to be a light steel gray, especially to make the reddish wood floors and slate tile floors stand out even more. I love dark gray and charcoal too, therefore that could easily play into the design as well. There would absolutely have to be a bay window though, with storage inside, and a cozy seat on which I can perch myself to look outside when it rains. Love.

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I also love pieces of art. I have a piece now, done by a local artist in the San Francisco bay area. The story behind that piece was that an artist had his work on show at a restaurant in the mission district called Andalu, which has since closed. Andalu always showcased local artists’ work. I had had two glasses of champagne too many with my dinner for 1 at the bar, and asked the bartender about a piece I liked. He said that one had already been purchased, but he gave me the business card/contact info for the artist in case I liked another piece. I found a second one I liked, and agreed to purchase it. $2400 later, that 6’x6′ piece travelled with me to Sydney, and now is back as a feature in my studio apartment in San Francisco again. This would be in my living room as well. He used only 5 colors of paint, and the canvas is really just plywood. He used water on the plywood before setting a blowtorch to it, which preserved the wood grain in spots, but charred the rest. The blowtorch also caused the paint to bubble, which leads to a lot of texture in the piece as well. I love it.

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So you’ve hung your coat in my foyer, and I’ve walked you through the living room. Now, come to the kitchen. Kitchens aren’t usually my favorite place in any home. I’m not a huge chef. However, I know exactly what I want in there. I need an under-mount double sink with room for a drying rack, nice range stove with a sleek and easy to clean hood vent, a French-door style refrigerator, with the freezer on the bottom, a wine fridge, and dishwasher. Stainless steel would be ideal for the aesthetic for all appliances and faucet finishes. As I previously mentioned, I’m not one for warm colors. My kitchen countertop, and island or peninsula, would be blue pearl granite. I just find it absolutely stunning.

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I love sparkly things, and that counter would make me want to cook things. All the things. I’d love a mosaic glass tile backsplash above that as well, in a fleet blue iridescent color. All the sparkles.

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With all the trim throughout the house painted a glossy white, and with the blue countertops and backsplash, I actually don’t care what color the cabinets are. White would probably go well with the blue, but I could just as easily go for a wood finish as well. Depending on whether the flooring in kitchen was conducive to carrying the redwood floors through, or slate tile, I’d see what went well. I love under-cabinet lighting to light up the work surface, and make the sparklies that much sparklier.

A dining room is a dining room, and I’m not too fussed. You know I like rustic, and comfortable, so I’d be fine with a repurposed wood table, long, or round, and plenty of seating. I’m not one for clutter, so I don’t need tchotchkes, and décor would be minimalistic. Lighting would be good – you need to see what you’re eating, after all.

Moving quickly through the dining room, I’d give you a peek of my master suite. I really only need a queen size bed – a king size bed just for myself would be overkill, and the bedding is that much more expensive. I’d consider a king bed, if I had a partner, to ensure there was plenty of room though. I love down duvets and a few throw pillows, but not overkill on the pillows. I don’t want to spend a lot time pulling them off and putting them back on again everyday. I’d love a bench or trunk to sit on to tie my shoes across from the foot of my bed, but not right at the foot of the bed. No need for a dresser since I’d have a separate closet, which means a minimal bedroom, just how I like it. I’d like matching bedside tables. Ideally, they’d have drawers, so they wouldn’t be cluttered on the surface with books, earplugs, mouth guard, or water bottles. I love my Himalayan rock salt lamp, and I would probably have one of those on each bedside. Lighting in a bedroom should be minimal and soft, and light through the windows should be minimized at night, to allow for a dark sleeping environment.

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After living in so many San Francisco apartments without modern conveniences like dishwashers and laundry, I absolutely need a washer and dryer combo in my home. The closer the closet, the better. In fact, why don’t I just create a custom walk-in closet off the master bedroom, with a center island for folding, cabinets, and shelving? Sounds great. The less carrying around of laundry baskets I have to do, the better.

The ensuite bathroom would also be a key part of the master suite. I’d love a separate tub and glass shower, side by side. Beautiful tile, be it slate, blue pearl granite, or glass mosaic, similar to the other parts of the house featuring those, would make another appearance. A bowl sink resting on a flat surface with a unique water spout faucet would be amazing. The unique the bowl and water spout, the better.

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There would be guest bedrooms and other bathrooms as well. And of course, the outdoor space would be a dream spot too. I don’t think about the rest of the details, partially because those part of my dreams have not yet been realized, but also because they are simply not as important to me. I would definitely want a library as well, for all my books. While I have a Kindle and a growing collection of electronic books, I’ll always want my home to have a library for real books. A quiet place to be alone with my thoughts, cozy up in a comfy chair or sofa, and read to my little heart’s content. Much like a secret garden, I’d love a secret library, where even the door into it is disguised as a bookcase. It would have a beautiful desk and a comfortable chair, and I would also write in there. It would have to have an ergonomic set up to take care of my aching back, and a laptop should not look out of place in it. These are good representations of what I want, minus the tiger rug in front of the 2nd library’s fireplace. Two stories with a whimsical staircase would be ideal, as would be beautiful wood finishes.

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A Leo’s home is her castle – a humble, yet luxurious abode fit for a queen and her subjects (pets). I love being home, and with a bad case of joy-of-missing-out, it has to be the ultimate retreat for me.

I hope you enjoyed your virtual tour through my dream home, but really, I honestly don’t care if you liked it or not. I love it, and that’s all that matters. Come in for some wine, and maybe tell me about your dream home. I might pick up a thing or two I actually didn’t know I’d want either. But sorry, you will eventually have to go home, so I can roll around like a big kitty cat in my Leo’s den.