Girl’s trip: the Palm Springs edition

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Sometime last fall, I was either listening to an interview with someone who mentioned that they’d just returned from a girl’s weekend in Palm Springs. My initial reaction was to grumpily think “I wish I could do a girl’s weekend in Palm Springs.” Followed by “Wait, why can’t I?” So, I queried my crew of PNW ladies (because, let’s be honest, they need sunshine the most) and everyone was receptive to the idea.

Because I have zero chill and a relaxed work ethic, I immediately sent around a Doodle poll for compatible dates and geeked out on rental house listings. Shockingly, there was a weekend that worked for everyone and direct flights were reasonable. It was meant to be! I booked us a ridiculous house and we were all set.

Before I knew it, February arrived and I found myself flying into Palm Springs. As always, I was horrified by the ridiculous number of golf courses and green lawns in the middle of the desert.

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I got in about fifteen minutes before the rest of the crew, so I wandered around the tiny airport. Like many small southern California airports, this one had a nice outdoor atrium section. Unfortunately, that leads to scenes like this:

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Everyone arrived and we headed to our rental house. It was every bit as ridiculous as advertised, with a beautiful view of the mountains from our own private pool:

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It was a super chill, enjoyable weekend with some of my favorite ladies. We did some touristy stuff: wandered through the neighborhood, took a wrong-way/death march to brunch (sorry again, ladies!), browsed in the cute downtown shops and enjoyed delicious cocktails and Mexican food while watching hipsters and the Olympics at a bar in the Saguaro hotel.

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But mostly, we lounged by the pool and just hung out drinking wine and enjoying the sunshine. It was so exactly what I needed. But Sunday rolled around and we had to return to real life:

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The PNW crew were all on the same flight back to Seattle, which left about 3 and a half hours before mine. We had to be out of the rental house by 10, so we grabbed a quick breakfast before I dropped them off at the airport. Thanks to my friend Google, I learned that there was a community pool not very far from the airport, so I got to enjoy a little more pool time:

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I’ve swum in a fair number of outdoor pools, but this is the first time I’ve seen a locker room that was pretty much open on the top. (God help the drone operator that thinks he’s going to see the ladies locker room of his dreams… ) But it was quite lovely to change in the sunshine.

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Afterward, I had just enough time to do a little wandering around the cute downtown, grab a little lunch and then head to the airport myself. I returned home refreshed and happy to see my boys. Many thanks to my Seattle/Bend ladies for joining me on this adventure. I hope it’s the first of many!

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Powering into 2018

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How are we already two weeks into January? So far the theme of 2018 has been “Oh crap, how am I so far behind schedule?” I’ve been ruminating about the whole start of the year “fresh start phenomenon” and was planning to write a post about it much earlier than now, but hey, better late than never, right?

I LOVE the concept of a fresh start. When I was a kid, I always liked the first day of school because I believed that this would be the year that it all would be different – I’d finally be that good student/popular girl/”insert ephemeral and impossible to attain goal here”. Needless to say, that never seemed to happen and I would remain the same person. (Shocking, I know.)

Fast forward to New Year’s Resolutions. Same idea, but sadder because I should have caught a clue from the earlier lessons. Nope! “I’m going to go to the gym every day!” “I’m going to lose xx pounds!” You name it, I’ve probably resolved it. I think this is why the phrase “New Year, New You” makes me so ragey. Or maybe it’s just because that phrase is so. stupid.

But I can’t help it, I still love that fresh start feeling of January 1. This year, I came across a new (to me) idea that I really love: picking a power word. When I first read about it, I was intrigued and immediately overwhelmed. How could I sum up what I want to accomplish in only one word?

At first, I approached it from a logical standpoint. What are my goals? What do I want to accomplish this year? But that felt a lot like the resolutions and the words that were coming to mind just weren’t resonating. So, I tried to delve deeper – what was underneath all of those goals? And I realized that what I truly want is to not be swallowed by the darkness around me, I want to be happy and healthy and pursue the things that have meaning to me without getting bogged down in the bullshit and distractions that are all around us. And the first image that came to mind was a night sky with a few lonely stars shining bravely.

So, my power word for 2018 is shine. I like it for the above reasons and from the concept of Shine Theory from one of my favorite podcasts. I love the idea that you can elevate others while still trying to be your best self. And it’s funny, since I picked that word it’s been easier to get out for my workouts, make better food choices and, most importantly, to not beat myself up when I fail to do either of those things. I know there will be days where it will by harder, so I’m just going to focus on nurturing that flame inside me and giving it what it needs to burn brightly out into the darkness.

Island style

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The rest of our trip was a delightful mixture of beach time, pool time, delicious food, adult beverages and random adventures. And, of course, plenty of entertainment from this little nugget:

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We went to Lydgate Beach Park with Jenn, Bryan and The Bird while Erin & David were diving. It was a perfect chilling out beach, with a protected area for Amalie (and yours truly) to splash around in:

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I know it looks like Jenn is getting ready to backhand her child, but I swear she’s just putting on sunscreen:

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T chilling on the beach near the “cluck clucks” as Amalie calls them. (Naturally that was their name for the rest of the trip.)

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We left the beach just as dark clouds were rolling in and missed the sudden rainstorm. Instead, we hit up a ridiculously good fish market for poke and ate it on the collection of plastic lawn chairs that they call a bus stop, in between rain showers. It was glorious.

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There was a day spent checking out waterfalls and failing to find a place to hike nearby, so we opted to go for lunch in town, where we saw this super cute little gecko.

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Kind of hard to argue with this motto…

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We rented snorkeling equipment and I attempted snorkeling in this lovely spot:

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But I chickened out and came out earlier than everyone else. We ended up going over to the baby beach near our condo afterward, which was much more successful. A big sea turtle swam right under T, so that was pretty cool. We celebrated with happy hour at a place that had little tiny pineapples in their window boxes:

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Happy hour crew:

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Our last full day at the condo, we went for a morning beach walk and checked out tide pools.

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And said good-bye to our friend the monk seal…

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Then later went to look at Spouting Horn, a cool little blowhole that has a second hole that makes crazy cool sounds. (To go with the exclamations of excitement from the crowd of tourists. OOOOHHH! AAAAAHHHH! It was hilarious.)

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And of course, a last Hawaiian ice. Delicious…

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David took this fantastic shot of the sunset through his spyglass. It sums up our final night well. (And looks like an OP shirt from the 80’s… )

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There are no words for how much I’m going to miss these ladies. We need to put another trip on the books soon!

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We went to an amazing Japanese restaurant before dropping Erin & David off for their red eye flight. (Which was the same flight as Jenn & Bryan, but they opted to keep Amalie’s routine as normal as possible, in the hopes that she’d sleep better on the plane.) It was this crazy big place with all these different sections in it. But it was great people watching and we gorged ourselves on good, reasonably priced sushi and a green tea mudpie for dessert. Then it was back to the strangely empty condo and off to bed before our early morning flight home.

So much has changed since that first trip two years ago, but the fun of these group trips has definitely remained the same. I hope they continue for many, many years. Aloha!

Adventures in Waimea Canyon

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After some nice lazy days, we were up for a little group adventure. So, we decided to check out Waimea Canyon – aka “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” There was a fair bit of driving on some very winding roads, but our first viewpoint was pretty spectacular:

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A nice lady offered to take our picture, so we have proof that we were there:

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There was a guy dressed in traditional native garb, talking about various local traditions and lore. But he was dramatically upstaged by the baby pig that he brought with him for some reason. I mean, I took this picture:

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But this is what made it onto Instagram:

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We stopped in at the visitor center to look up a good hike. The lady who worked there recommended a good route, but also that we should continue up the mountain to the other viewpoints, since it was still clear. She was right, it was glorious:

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Clouds were just starting to obscure the view at the next viewpoint up, so we headed back down to start our hike. We’d chosen a nice trail to a waterfall, described as a moderate 1.5–2 mile hike. It started innocently enough…

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We walked through primordial forests and eventually came out next to the canyon. The textures and colors were mesmerizing:

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The trail turned to volcanic rock that was kind of steep and a little bit scary, given that you basically can just go sliding down into the canyon if you aren’t careful:

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But we all made it down safely and were rewarded with a very pretty waterfall view at the turnaround point:

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Not pictured, the legions of crazy people who thought it would be fun to swim in the freezing cold water. It turns out, that’s not super fun. But watching them learn that definitely is. We had some snacks and headed back.

As we approached the volcanic rock part of the trail, we encountered a fairly large man, with one side covered in red dirt and scrapes with his knee wrapped in a bandana, very clearly in pain. His name was Ron (which would quickly become Big Ron) and he was with two younger men who turned out to be his sons. It was clear that they needed help, and trail karma is a thing, so we stepped up. The menfolk worked with his sons to help get him up the steep trail, while Jenn, Erin and I tried to warn people to get out of their way. It was slow going and stressful, plus Jenn had The Bird on her back in a pack. So, we opted to move further up the trail and figure out a plan.

For context, here’s where we met up with Big Ron, approximately a mile away from the road, over some fairly challenging terrain:

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Erin had cell reception, so she called 911. We decided that the best plan was to get Amalie back to the car before she went into full-scale meltdown mode and then direct whatever paramedics/forest rangers were coming our way. Erin was still on the phone and not confident her signal would hold, so Jenn and I made our way back. Amalie was incredible, largely due to Jenn’s ability to keep a calm-voiced monologue going while hiking at a brisk pace up a hill with a fairly heavy weight on her back.

We made it back to the road. Amalie had fallen asleep on the way back, so we sat in some shade and waited for Erin. She showed up much faster than we were expecting and we discussed what to do next and whether we should drive one of the rental cars down the dirt road and get them closer to the trailhead. I was dubious that either car would make it down there, but thankfully, we heard sirens in the distance before we had to find out.

The sirens belonged to a giant red paramedics pick-up trip, loaded with rescue gear and four ridiculously hunky firefighters and their captain. (Seriously, it was like something out of central casting… ) The captain rolled the window down and asked “Which one of you is Erin?” At which point, Erin went over and gave them the lowdown on the situation. (Which might have included the quote “You guys look MUCH stronger than our middle-aged husbands… ” Amazing.) They headed down the dirt road to the trailhead and we loaded Amalie into her carseat and headed to the nearest town to get some lunch and wait for the boys to text us.

We found a surprisingly tasty taco spot (with glacially slow service) and had some lunch while we waited. Thankfully, it wasn’t too long before they texted and we were treated to a play-by-play of the rescue of Big Ron. It turned out that they were there for his other son’s wedding and (as we’d later learn when Jenn & Bryan ran into him at the airport while waiting for their flight home) he’d snapped his MCL and would need surgery.

He may not have been able to buy us drinks, as we’d often lament over the next few days, but he did give us a pretty fantastic story to tell, so god bless you Big Ron, wherever you are…

Return to paradise

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A while back, there was discussion of a repeat of our awesome trip to Hawaii. Originally, we were going to return to the awesome Lana’i house, but apparently the entire island is closed due the the Four Seasons undergoing some substantial renovations. So, we had to make due with Kauai. (I know, we suffer so… )

We got a better rate for flights if we left on Friday morning vs. Saturday, so we booked a single night at a cute little hotel in Kapa’a. Here’s the view from our lanai:

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The sign for the beach club pictured above:

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We headed into town to grab some lunch and explore a bit. We went to Mermaids cafe at Erik & Nerissa’s recommendation. Should you find yourself in Kapaa, definitely go. It’s insanely delicious. We got to see our first (of many) free-range chickens/roosters, courtesy of Hurricane Iniki.

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Afterward, we wandered around and looked at the shops. We also tried out a local delicacy we hadn’t had a chance to have during our previous trip, Hawaiian ice. I’m officially obsessed:

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Plus, the fruit stand where we bought it was utterly charming:

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While we were sitting out front and eating our ices, the lady delivering avocados asked us how long we were staying and offered us some. We, of course, said yes. Score! This vacation was already off to a fantastic start and we’d been there for about three hours.

We headed back to the hotel to relax for a bit. I mean, you have to take the “Mai Tais by the beach” picture to post on Instagram:

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Followed by the obligatory “we’re on vacation selfie”. I know, we’re the worst…

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Mostly, we just enjoyed looking at this:

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Erin and David had arrived a few days prior and were staying on the north side of the island, so we drove up there to meet them for dinner. Naturally, there were some stops along the way to gawk at the beautiful scenery:

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We had a magnificent sushi dinner, at a place recommended by the friend they were staying with. Then it was off to bed, since we’d been up since 5 am PDT. (Stupid early morning flights and time zone changes… )

The next morning, we went to check out a breakfast place that had good enough Yelp reviews for me to overlook the fact that it was called Kountry Kitchen. (I hate “cutesy” misspelled words in restaurant names.) But it was great, quirky and charming inside:

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With really great food. We split orders of mahi-mahi & eggs and macadamia nut french toast & homemade coconut syrup. So. GOOD.

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After breakfast I made T take my picture in front of the Lava Lava sign:

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Then it was time to pack up and meet Erin & David at the rental car place. They dropped their car off, we added her as a driver to our car, shoved all of the luggage in the back and headed off to lunch and then the condo for check-in. Jenn & Bryan were arriving about the same time, so we text-coordinated and arrived at the condo at roughly the same time.

As usual, we were really roughing it:

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The view from the lanai was especially ridiculous:

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The Bird taught a seminar is how to chillax:

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We took a little evening beach walk and met some local celebrities – the monk seals that hang out on the beach. I particularly liked that they are so lazy that this sign is needed:

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They are super cute though. Like big beach cats:

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And then we finished the evening with lots of wine, laughter and a beautiful sunset:

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Not bad, Kauai. Not bad…

A rebuilding year

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I’m not much of a sports enthusiast, but I’ve always liked the phrase “rebuilding year.” I’ve heard it invoked when a team gets a new coach or a bunch of players graduate or what-have-you and I just really like the idea of it. I’m in the middle of a job search – a process that, for me, requires a lot of reflection as I examine what I want to be doing and how to present my skills, etc. and I’ve decided that 2016 is going to be a rebuilding year for me. I’m cutting myself some slack and just working on making small sustainable steps to change the things that I want to improve in my life. It’s hard work, but feels like I’m on the right path.

Otherwise, life here is pretty great. We spend a lot of time with these goofballs:

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We also added a few members to the “extended pack”. Erik & Nerissa adopted this handsome fellow:

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His name is Finn and while they’re still getting used to having a young, exuberant dog after only having an older dog, I think they are enjoying him. Austin is certainly a big fan:

NewDogPackWe also dog-sat for Todd’s boss’ dog Natasha, a.k.a. Austin’s boss. (T’s office is dog friendly, so Austin goes in a couple of times a week.) It’s pretty crazy watching this tiny thing lay the smackdown on two big dogs. She’s fearless and apparently indestructible:

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She also spent a lot of time stealing bones and hoarding them on the couch

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We’ve also been enjoying our new surroundings. In February, I took a PTO day and tagged along on one of T’s trips down to Santa Cruz. Yes, you read that right – FEBRUARY:

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I’m a sucker for a cool lighthouse:

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There were also these cool things shaped like giant jacks along the jetty. I’d love to know what they were originally:

SCpilingsSCpilings2There have been some lovely hikes:

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And some urban excursions around Lake Merritt (which reminds me a lot of our old neighborhood in Seattle):

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And, of course, lots of culinary adventures. Such as a fancy ice cream place that makes your ice cream to order with some crazy nitrous-using mixer:

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Brunch research (It’s important to know what your options are!)

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And one of my personal highlights was finding this guy while wine-tasting. Meet Clarence, the wine-barfing unicorn. He’s pretty much my favorite thing ever:
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So, that’s my update. We leave for Hawaii in a little over a week, so get excited for a super obnoxious play-by-play of our awesome vacation! 🙂

Home makeover

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The movers showed up as promised on Sunday morning. It was a whirlwind as they unloaded furniture and box after box and hauled all of it into the house. Before we knew it, the truck had pulled away and we were surrounded by all of our crap beloved possessions. Poor Austin was not happy with the drought-proof yard of gravel, so we decided to do a little yard upgrade as our first order of business. We went to Home Depot and got a roll of dog-friendly fake grass. He seemed to approve of his new “lawn”:

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T also hung some lights that I’d picked up on clearance at Target. Our little backyard is a really great space to hang out. I really love it.

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The rest of the week was spent trying to work while unpacking and getting settled in. By the time the weekend rolled around, we decided to take a little break. A while back, we’d put ourself on the waiting list for the wine club of a winery that we’d enjoyed during our trip for Vineman. They called to let us know that we were in on the Thursday before we moved down, so we made an appointment to come pick up our selections in person.

It was a beautiful day. We got coffee and window-shopped in Healdsburg, had a fabulous tasting and bought a bunch of wine:

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It was a great way to spend our first official California Saturday. It was Halloween and we settled in for a quiet evening at home, but were surprised to hear trick or treaters on the street! T made a dash out to the Walgreens for candy and I put out the Halloween decorations that I happened to have unpacked recently. It was definitely impromptu:

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But I have big plans for next year!

The next day was spent giving our house a little makeover. The paint colors were a little too neutral for our taste, so we got clearance from the landlord to add a little pizazz. (Probably more than she was expecting, but we can always paint it back when we leave… ) Here’s the bedroom before:

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And here’s the after:

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It’s a very similar color to our Seattle bedroom and I LOVE it.

The kitchen was a little more challenging. Here’s the before:

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We’d always wanted a red kitchen and this kitchen was a perfect candidate. The problem was that we picked the wrong red initially. It was way too orangey and bright, so we had to repaint it. (Which was tough, because the wet paint looked a lot like the dry first coat, so you had to remember where you’d painted. And apply a lot of touch ups the next day.) But the end result was very cool:

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And I forgot to take before pictures of the paint, but here’s one of the chandelier when T took it out of the box. God bless IKEA…

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But here’s the end result (of both chandelier and painting) Here’s the “closed” position:

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And the alternate “open” position. Isn’t it cool?

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The house has all of these cool little details that I just love. Like the STAINED GLASS WINDOW in our living room:

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And the pretty frosted glass window on the bathroom door:

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And the embossed flower on the closet doors in the bedroom:

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I just love it here. I didn’t really realize how much I’d missed California until we came back. Even our slightly ghetto neighborhood is so friendly and welcoming. (I think I’ve met more neighbors in my first weeks here than we did in three years at our last place.) The light is golden and warm and we have such beautiful sunsets:

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Especially now that the house is under control, it’s really starting to feel like home.