The Russells Were Here (Or a Photo Journey With My Family)

Last week my mother and her sisters were in LA. This means lots of music, dancing, and (free) wine.

In addition to having our own impromptu dance parties for no apparent reason, we also went to the Vibrato Jazz Club in Bel Air for dinner.

Sparkly people listening to jazz.

Here we are all sparkly and listening to music.

And we saw Pink Martini at the Hollywood Bowl.

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We may or may not have made some snide remarks about our neighbors drinking shitty Chardonnay because we are bad people.

But we’re not so bad that we didn’t get up for church in the morning… even if we looked like death.

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In our defense, it was kinda windy that day and it was also that kind of bright and hazy that makes you go all squinty.

We also hit up the Lora Schlesinger Gallery at Bergamot Station for the Adonna Khare exhibit. She happens to be married to my former coworker, and she’s beyond crazy talented. I can’t even…

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These Adonna Khare originals are charcoal pencil sketches. I mean…

And we almost bought everything at the Gallery of Functional Art because, well, look at it.

Margaret Dorfman vegetable parchment bowl on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Who doesn’t want this Margaret Dorfman bowl? It’s made out of carrots, people!

Sharan Elran steamer light on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Or this Sharan Elran light made out of steamers?

Ted Swiet 007 Lunchbox light on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Or my absolute favorite? This 007 lunch box lamp from Ted Swiet. It is beyond…

We ended the week with a dinner party at my place.

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This photo was taken with the iPhone 4. That’s why it looks like garbage. Laura Palmer lurking above my head agrees.

Hosting my family for dinner meant that my new vacuum saw lots of action ‘cuz I can’t have three neat freaks saying stuff about dog hair….

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This is my Dyson Animal, Higgins. He was an early birthday present from my mother. I am in love.

So, anyway, that’s all from me for now.

I’m off to crank up the Craig Morgan and light the grill for dinner with my long lost Gillian. She’s finally back in LA after making a movie in Chicago for absolutely ever….

Have a great weekend!

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Am I Over Thinking Food? (Or I Go Paleo. Sorta Kinda.)

So, you might have noticed I’m super hard on myself and I tend to over think absolutely everything.

And all of this thinking? Means it’s difficult for me to make a decision. Because there are so many possibilities.

And possibilities? Means I could be wrong. The “what ifs” and the possibilities can make you mad if you’re not careful —  particularly if you also happen to be a perfectionist — because you want to make THE PERFECT CHOICE.

But what is perfect?

Can I even define THAT?

This fascination with possibilities combined with a need for perfection has manifested itself in some problematic ways for me over the years.

For example?

I’ve messed with my “diet” 92 different times.

I bought into the low fat craze.  And the low carb craze. And the starve-yourself-on-25-points-a-day Weight Watchers craze.

Then when I found myself miserable, obsessed, and heavier than I was before I started worrying about any of it, I threw it all out the window and just ate what felt good to my body — and didn’t feel like excess or depravation. I found that over time the excess weight just naturally came off when I stopped over thinking it.

But all of this “listening to my body” has meant that my weight fluctuates within a small range constantly throughout the year. And this makes me crazy. Because I can’t shut off my head, and because I absolutely need to figure everything out, I recently decided it was time to check my “go with what feels good” against some nutrition theories. I wanted to see if I could stop this cycle of OHMIGODIHATEMYJEANSANDMYLIFE to EVERYTHINGISAMAZINGIAMWONDERFUL every six months or so.

I started doing research on the Indian philosophy of Ayurveda as well as the blood type diet to see if my cravings were aligned with those philosophies. Then I read up on the Paleo Diet because it was very similar to the diet recommended for my O+ blood.

And here’s what I discovered.

Most of my cravings were spot on. My body was actually leading me in the right direction. My cravings, the overlap of the Ayurvedic diet and my blood type diet, and the cravings I had as a kid are all fairly well aligned with one another. It turns out I probably had it right when I was a kid and not worrying about how I looked.

What I needed then is what I still need today: rigorous exercise, tons of fruit and vegetables, and a lot of protein.

The reason I haven’t gone fully Paleo or anything else is that I recognize the danger for me in adopting an extreme position. In the first few weeks of my research, I caught myself starting to worry about going out to dinner with friends. I would look at menus in advance to make sure the offerings were in line with my new eating habits. I was starting to get irritable, and I was telling my body what it needed instead of calming down and listening to it, so I had to take a step back from the “perfect” ledge.

So basically after all of my research, I have decreased salt, gluten, cheese, and sugar, but I’m not cutting anything out completely that I really, really like.

Because truth be told?

I’d rather die than forsake my whole milk lattes.

So anyway, I’m decreasing some stuff and I’m also changing the ratios of the things on my plate.

And now my Mexican food looks more like this:

Healthy Nachos from Dogs Dishes and Decor

These “nachos” are primarily comprised of oven roasted vegetables, homemade salsa, and hormone free chicken cooked in lime juice and jalapeños, served with flax seed tortilla chips, a dollop of refried black beans, and a bit of cheddar jack cheese.

Than this:

Big Juan on Dogs Dishes and Decor

This was Big Juan. My San Diego skiing buddies and I ate him at Big Bear last spring. He epitomized excess. And he was delicious.

There’s still room in my life for a bit of Big Juan every once in a while, though, because life is just too short for too many rules.

New thing I’m over-thinking now? Is that maybe my body doesn’t really want to lose that seven pounds I think it should and that’s why it keeps coming back….

Or… it could be that the weight tends to fluctuate with my erratic work schedule so it could just be stress screwing with my metabolism…

GAWD.

Please shut off my head.

If you want to read more about Ayurveda, you can check out Deepak Chopra’s site here. The test to determine your type is here.

For information on the blood type diet, check out Dr. D’Adamo’s site, and for information on the Paleo diet, see Dr. Loren Cordain’s site here.

Where I am Now (Or Hollywood Isn’t Done With Me Yet)

I have been sick of my neighborhood since 2011. I can’t rationalize a move at the moment financially, so I’ve stayed in Hollywood despite a strong desire to flee. The problem is that I have been so frustrated by my fiscally responsible choice that it has been clouding my enjoyment of my neighborhood. I’ve shut myself off from seeing the good things it has to offer because I’m mad at myself for staying. Inspired by my Saturday wandering in the South Bay, I decided it was long past time to look for inspiration in my own backyard — time to stop looking for the reasons to hate Hollywood and find the reasons to love it instead.

So this morning I went for a walk. A long walk in my own neighborhood.

I started taking pictures of the things that caught my eye.

Like this entryway.

Hollywood Hilly entryway on Dogs Dishes and Decor

The contrast of black and white makes me happy. I envision tall ceilings, a grand piano, and dramatic pinks behind these doors.

The amazing thing about my neighborhood is that a chic, sophisticated sort of place like that is across the street from this.

Hollywood Hills architecture on Dogs Dishes and Decor

This place reminds me of my houses in Ann Arbor. Only there’s no sofa on the porch, the paint’s not peeling, and no one is sitting on the roof.

And those structures? Are just down the street from this.

Mid century Hollywood architecture on Dogs Dishes and Decor

These steps make me want to sip a martini. They’re all kinds of mid-centuruy amazing. Also? That wacky ceramic cat climbing the side of the building makes me laugh a little.

And check out this Knights of the Round Table action a little further up.

Camelot inspired feature on Dogs Dishes and Decor

This is some bold stuff here, guys. Bold. It makes me want to watch Monty Python.

I’m not so sure Palm Springs Meghan is entirely at home with this eclectic mess coexisting on one street.

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She wears whale sweaters from J. Crew and takes golf lessons.

It might be OK for Halloween Anika.

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She thinks it’s OK to bring an owl puppet out in public.

But what do I think about it all?

I think it’s where I live for now. And it has been a good place for this guy.

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We’ve had a lot of amazing hikes here.

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And I’ve had a lot of epiphanies here.

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So the thing is? I accept that it’s where I live now.

It’s not done with me yet.

I haven’t learned all it has to teach me. And when our time is over, I will move on to the next place… and be open to the changes it makes in me.

Is It My Birthday YET? (Or Meghan and I Plan ANOTHER Party)

In case you don’t remember, I went a little mental before my birthday last year. I was having this meltdown because I felt like many of my best friends were gone, and I was trying to have the PERFECT Peter Pan party. I was freaking out I didn’t have Danielle to do my flowers, Nicole to make me cocktails, and you should have seen the panic I had over the melting mascarpone frosting on my strawberry cupcakes! If you missed that mess, consider yourself lucky.

See, I sort of lost sight of what was actually important as I’m wont to do. I often get so wrapped up in perfection that I take all of the pleasure out of the process. I have always loved my birthday, but not for the reasons you might think. It’s not about people celebrating me. It’s about having all of the people I love in one place.

This year I caught myself complicating matters again. I was devising a plan that involved ocean kayaking, a beach potluck, and a Sunday brunch at Shutters. I was trying to pick out the perfect Paperless Post invite for the occasion and realized I couldn’t even explain the weekend without multiple invites, linking it all to eventbrite, etc.

When your party is too complicated for Paperless Post?

It’s a problem.

So, I put a pin in the plan and put everything on hold until something less complicated inspired me. Saturday I was feeling like I needed a change of scenery so I headed down to the South Bay. I’m trying to write something that has been hard to make sense of because it comes to me in pieces. I knew I was trying too hard to force it, so I figured I’d head to the beach and wander without a plan. I decided to let life unfold and just inspire me.

And that’s when I had this lovely, magical day. I started taking pictures of things that moved me.

Like chalk drawings.

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And houses.

South Bay architecture on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I love the New England look of this house. I imagine eating lobster rolls and clam chowder on the patio of this place.

South Bay architecture on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I love the stone work on this house. It almost feels like it belongs in Texas. Like you could host amazing football parties here, complete with some serious barbecue.

I wandered all of the way up to Manhattan from Hermosa taking photos and thinking. I even got a pic of the original Beverly Hills, 90210 beach pad.

Beverly Hills 90210 House on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Like, Donna Martin lost her virginity here and stuff.

The wandering continued for a long time until I came upon an absolutely massive house that caught my eye. It wasn’t the size of it I loved so much as the lines — and the stone work.

I had to keep backing up to get the entire house in the frame. I kicked off my flip flops and kept taking steps backward, trying to get it to fit.

South Bay architecture on Dogs Dishes and Decor

All I could think when I saw this house was, “This place is perfect for massive family dinners with friends, complete with dart tournaments and impromptu dance parties on the patio!”

I heard a voice behind me say, “Sure, take a picture of my house.”

“It has such great lines!” I replied excitedly without looking back. I got the shot and finally turned to face a group of men sitting on towels and drinking beer. One of them brought his phone over and asked me to take a picture of the group for his daughter. “She’s in New Hampshire this weekend. I want to send her a picture of the guys.”

“That’s sweet,” I said as he handed me his iPhone.

I took a few photos and they invited me to sit with them. They offered me a beer — and a chair. It was draped in a navy and yellow striped towel with the name, “Caitlin” embroidered on it.

“I’ll be Caitlin today,” I said as I sat down.

“That’s my daughter’s towel,” the man with the iPhone told me.

“Yesterday I was Meghan.” I said as I took a sip of my Pilsner Urquell.

We talked for a long time about architecture, writing, economics, my complicated feelings about Ayn Rand, and everything else. “Meghan, what do you do?” One asked. “My name’s not really Meghan,” I said. “It’s actually Anika.” This led to jokes about how I didn’t look like an “Anika.”

“My mom wanted to name me Meghan,” I explained. “I use it at coffee shops when I don’t feel like spelling my name. I actually went by Ana for a while in college because I got sick of being different. Then I realized I wasn’t me without a weird name, so I went back.'”

See, in some ways I am Meghan. She wears Ralph Lauren, serves on the advisory committee for a sorority, and she likes pearls. She wants to sell real estate and join a country club. And in others, I’m Anika. She goes to Furthur concerts, studies Ayurveda, and has been know to lay on the floor listening to Purple Rain on repeat while trying to write really gut-wrenching stuff. I mean, I have had my nose pierced since I was 19 and I still can’t decide if it’s really ME or not. I’ll take it out for years at a time and then just put it back in for no reason.

At my 25th birthday party, one of my more sensitive and artistic friends from college was taking in the chaos all around. There were former football player/frat boys doing shots from an ice luge and a super drunk reality TV personality eating dip straight out of the bowl with her hands. He turned to me and asked, “How can you be friends with people like that and someone like me?”

I shrugged, but he continued.

“I mean, who are you more yourself with?”

“I’m myself with everyone,” I replied.

It’s true. I am. And as I make my birthday list this year, I’m thinking about the great diversity among my friends. The only thing some of them have in common is me.

And yet?

What they also share, what I can say without a doubt, is that they are all people who have done what they said they were going to do more often than not. People who listened. People who cared. People who stepped up for me when I needed it. People for whom I have done the same.

So, I’m going to bring them together this year for whatever unfolds. I’m getting a hotel room in Hermosa and inviting everyone to come down and hang out when they can. My friends with kids can bring them in the afternoon. My single friends can come later and hit up a few pier bars with me. Anyone who doesn’t feel safe to drive can crash on my floor. It’s going to be SIMPLE.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t created a Pinterest Board for my birthday. I mean, I’m still ME.

And I love my friends. For who THEY are.

By the way? That big house did not belong to the guys. Some billionaire owns it, and it’s sitting empty in the wake of his divorce. It makes me really sad it isn’t filled with fun-loving people coming together for a really good time.

My Psychedelic Menagerie (Or I Want to Redecorate My Living Room)

My living room evolved over time and ended up kinda loud. There are a lot of birds and bright colors. Basically, it looks like a psychedelic menagerie of sorts.

Every time I try to photograph the elements, I end up with a dog in the picture.

Living room decor from Dogs Dishes and Decor

I was trying to take a picture of the entertainment center. Pay no mind to the crooked, off-center deer head. That situation was remedied with a hammer, a hairdryer, and a pack of gum. No, really….

Antropologie run on Dogs Dishes and Decor

This was an attempt at photographing my rug. It looks like my spaniel is using it as a Slip ‘N Slide.

Anthropologie Lamp Shade on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I was trying to take a picture of my lampshade, and my dog sat up. (I ultimately put it on a different lamp, but it started here.)

Anthropologie pillow on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Here’s my throw pillow up close. Albus is very into it.

You can sort of see the elements in context from this angle:

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Again, a dog in the photo. I think he’s angry he doesn’t receive royalties for appearing on my blog.

And this angle:

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I am in desperate need of a new couch, but I have been putting off the purchase. I also need to reposition the Beymer prints, but I have one more to frame, so I haven’t bothered….

So, anyway, that’s my living room. And even though it’s not quite done, I find myself restless and wanting to redecorate. Not because I don’t like the room but because I also like these rooms:

Mary McDonald on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I mean can we talk about this wall by Mary McDonald? Source

Caitlin Wilson Anchors Away

Remember when I said I was obsessed with Caitlin Wilson? Well, these are her Anchors Away pillows and I need them in my life. Source

Annsley Interiors on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I live for this room by Annsley Interiors. Source

I’m thinking of moving toward the beach in the next year. Maybe that would be a good excuse to overhaul my aesthetic.

What do you think?

This House Needs a Hug (Or I Want to Fix Everything)

You know that scene in Dirty Dancing where Johnny says to Baby, “I’ve never known anyone like you before. You think you can make the world better. Somebody’s lost, you find them. Somebody’s bleeding…”

“And I go get my daddy.”

That’s kinda how I am about my friends. I want everyone I love to be shining, and smiling, and stuffed to the gills with fancy cupcakes. Sometimes I even call my daddy when I don’t know what to do….

And it’s not just my friends. I’m also like that about architecture. I see a house in need of help and my mind starts racing with ways to give it a hug with a hammer and some nails.

I want to make it better. I want it to have a family.

Don’t you?

Spanish style home

Hang on, sweet Spanish style home. There’s hope for you yet.

You could look more like this:

Home by Koffka Phakos Design on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Koffka Phakos Design. Source

All it would take is a little paint, some love, and a whole lotta landscaping. I mean, a little grass and some color contrast go a long way.

Don’t you agree?

Happy Birthday, ‘Merica (Or This Patriot’s Digging Red, White, and Blue Decor)

I got up at 6 this morning and went for a five mile walk with the dogs because I’m mental like that. While wandering down La Cienega, I saw these chairs. They were staring at me like brightly colored candies in this window, and I was like, “Yes, please. Get in my life.” Since I have absolutely no place to put them, nor would they match any furniture I presently own, I photographed them instead.

Erika Brunson chairs on Dogs Dishes and Decor

I mean, just LOOK at these Erika Brunson chairs! They’re all crisp and sharp. And delicious.

As I imagined some sort of scenario in which I had an actual need for these chairs, I realized that I have been seriously neglecting the décor part of Dogs, Dishes, and Décor lately. And given that today is Independence Day, I figured I should make some attempt at being patriotic, so… here are some rooms I love that are giving a nod to Old Glory.

You might be taken aback by the understated nature of these rooms, especially when you compare them with those bits of Pepto pink perfection, but I’m nothing if not full of surprises. (And contradictions.)

Red White and Blue Decor from Dogs Dishes and Decor

OK, this is coral, but it’s close enough…. Source

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Lynn Morgan Designs. Source

Red White and Blue Decor on Dogs Disehs and Decor

Micky Hurley, Designer. Source

seaside ocen blue

Micky Hurley, Designer. Source

Happy Birthday, ‘Merica. I’m putting on my navy and white bikini just for you.

#0fftothebeach