Del Boca Vista vs. mid-century modern

In May, Martin and I met my mother, Uncle Joe and cousin Ali in Palm Springs. It was the perfect combination of poolside lounging, eating, hiking, tennis playing, scoping out real estate of the rich and famous, visiting art galleries, hiking and riding around under the beaming sun, top-down in Joe’s convertible.

(There was also a now-classic line from my mother. Driving by the massive wind farm outside of Palm Springs, she asked, “What makes them spin?” and then wondered if they were solar powered.)

But one of my favorite parts of the trip was finally getting to see Joe’s condo, which is by far the most fabulous condo in the history of fabulous condos. He bought it 5 or 6 years ago, gutted the whole thing (minus the fireplace) and rebuilt it with bold, bright mid-century colors and modern concrete floors throughout.

OK. So you know how you always want to see before-and-after-photos? (C’mon. You do. Everyone does.) Well, staying with Joe was like a real-life before-and-after. Martin and I crashed at a condo two doors down, which belongs to an old lady who now lives in a nursing home. The two units had the exact same layout and the exact same fireplace. Aside from that, they could not have been any more different.

It was like mid-century modern meets Del Boca Vista. Behold:

And a few shots from the trip:


Our trip to Omaha, in doodles

Lately I’ve been documenting our adventures using my favorite iPad app, Paper by FiftyThree. It started with our honeymoon in Hawaii. I decided to sketch moments and memories, sometimes in real time, but most often after the fact using photographs. (I have a few more drawings to do for that sketchbook — but I’ll share it here when I’m finished.)

These sketches are from our recent trip to Omaha to see Martin’s family and watch Notre Dame in the BCS Bowl Game with them. (Nevermind the Fighting Irish’s dismal performance or the Manti Te’o fake dead girlfriend fiasco — we are still fans.)

The high noon sun beat down on the Great Plains as we made our descent into Omaha.

Grandma Gert has a new iPad. She uses it to play pinochle. Occasionally she attempts to use the internet.

Martin’s Aunt Kathy and Uncle Jerry let us use their season tickets to the Creighton Bluejays at CenturyLink Center. My first NCAA basketball game!

The Jays won, handedly.

Grandma Gert gifted us a jar of her famous plum jelly, this batch made by Martin’s aunt.

Martin’s parents bought him a new sweatshirt for the big game. This is the design on the front.

Every time we come to Omaha, we make a pilgrimage to Upstream Brewing in Old Market.

This is Old Market, my favorite part of Omaha. It’s all cobblestone and red brick. You can almost imagine how this former industrial/wholesale district must’ve been bustling with horses and buggies and Model T’s.

Our mothers do so much for us


Two minutes after Martin’s mother dropped us off at the airport in Omaha, Martin realized he’d left his wallet (and his ID) at her house.

He called her and shortly thereafter she was zooming her way back home, a good 20-minute drive from the airport, to locate the wallet and bring it back to us. We checked my bag and printed our boarding passes and nervously kept our eye on the clock. We had only so much time before our flight.

Forty minutes later, she was back, and we zipped our way through security with plenty of time to board. In all, she’d spent one hour and twenty minutes that day driving to and from the airport.

“Our mothers do so much for us,” Martin said to me.


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The sweetest little thing

Martin’s grandma is wonderfully adorable. At 91, she’s sharp as a whip and still makes her famous homemade loaves of bread and jams.

Watching her play with her new iPad is so charming. She is a whiz at her pinochle app, but anything beyond that is a little confusing for her. She doesn’t really understand the difference between reading email and reading Facebook. She doesn’t know her passwords for anything. But she swipes and pokes and tries really hard and it is so cute.

The other day, she and Martin and I were sitting on the couch. Martin was using my iPad to look up the seating chart for the basketball arena the family was heading to the next day. His grandma kept craning her neck to see what he was looking at.

Then she tried to find it herself on her own iPad. She opened up Safari, clicked on the Google search bar and typed “Sports.”

So darling.

Family vacations always lend themselves to stories

My mother complained at the dinner table during the Family Vacation that my blog has an entire section dedicated to making fun of her. While this is somewhat true (there is indeed a category called “My mother”), my intention is not at all to make fun of her. Except sometimes.

She is a wonderful woman—smart, strong, resilient. She’s dealt with more incredible strokes of bad luck in one lifetime than any human being should ever have to endure—and she’s done so with grace, determination and infallible bravery. The older I get, the more and more I appreciate who she is (side note: perhaps not surprisingly, this corresponds directly to the rate at which I become more and more like her).

So, I am saying this for all of the blogosphere to know: I love my mother dearly, even when she nags me about dating a man with tattoos on his arms or about giving her grandkids (not with Tattoo Man, though, unless he gets the tattoos removed, do you think he’d ever consider that, Laura?) or about buying a house or whatever else adult thing I should be doing but am not.

That said:

We watched the Oscars together as a family. Since most of us save for my fabulous Uncle Joe had not seen any of the nominated movies, commentary revolved around outfits, Joaquin Phoenix (“But why did he go on Letterman like that?” my mother demanded), quality of acceptance speeches (“Thank your f-ing wife, you bastard!” my uncle yelled), and how awkward it must’ve been for Jennifer Aniston to do her schtick with Brangelina sitting so close to the stage.

Then, of course, there was the whole “is that movie worth seeing?” topic, and my mother’s report was that she had read the Reader and didn’t like it, but that she’d heard the movie version has more sex in it so it might be better, and that Slumdog Millionaire was great and definitely worth seeing.

She then proceeded to give us a plot synopsis of Slumdog. And by plot synopsis, I mean she revealed the entire movie. It went somewhat like this:

“It’s about a kid from the slums who goes on a game show to win money so he can win over a rich girl. So he—”

“Don’t tell us what happens,” I said.

“I won’t. So he [insert entire middle of the movie here] and then at the end he [insert ending here].”

“Mother! You just told us what happens!”

“It’s still worth seeing!”

So sometimes I do use this space to make fun of her. But I love her nonetheless.

Welcome to my first podcast ever!!!

Two summers ago, while I was home for my grandmother’s 90th birthday party, I interviewed my Aunt Joanne telling the story of fulfilling (albeit briefly) her lifelong dream of working in a bakery. Now, mind you, when she took on her Saturday shift at the retail shop of the Balthazar Bakery—a high-end wholesale bakery that supplies bread to many of the top New York City restaurants—she already had a demanding full-time job as executive director of a mental health association.

In the background you’ll hear me, of course, plus Carole (who has known me since I was the size of a Cabbage Patch Kid and frequently comments on this site under the handle Malahat Sunset) and my mother, who is doing dishes and periodically chiming in from the kitchen sink.

The clip is a little over 14 minutes long—I know! I know! That’s sooooo long!—but I promise I’ve shortened it a LOT from its original state. So think of this not as a quick YouTube break but instead like a segment on This American Life, minus all of the production value, musical interludes and the famous Ira Glass cadence:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(click the greenish button above to start)

Possibly the cutest thing I’ve ever seen

I dare you to show me something cuter:

I flew down to San Diego for the weekend to celebrate my cousin Marisa’s daughter Leah’s first birthday. She is so flipping adorable, it’s kind of ridiculous. Such a good kid, too. Here she is with my Uncle Joe, his new puppy Ajax and yours truly:

As is always the case when the MDIC family gets together, there are stories to tell. Stay tuned. In the meantime—happy birthday, Leah!