A little oasis

August means long summer days, a slower pace, warm sunshine, and keeping cool. I was inspired to update our small outdoor space, and managed to create a sweet little oasis for us to kick back and relax, sip a cool beverage, and float our cares away.

A couple comfy chairs are great for sipping a cold beverage while enjoying the sunshine. I love the modern shape of these — style without sacrificing comfort.

Our biggest update is this small pool that packs a big punch. This is the deepest inflatable pool I could find at or under 6 feet in diameter, and it is big enough for me to float in on this without touching the edges or the bottom. With my eyes closed, I could be anywhere from Hawaii to Bali.

Our hammock we bought years ago is still going strong, and we love to hang out (wink wink) and relax. This one doesn’t take up much space, and it is sturdy enough to allow two adults to lounge together.

A ceramic stool or two can be versatile as well as beautiful. These make a ideal spot for your aforementioned cool drink, magazine, or in a pinch, extra seating.

A mosquito net over our little pool gives a dreamy cabana feel, plus it keeps the bugs away. A set of solar string lights makes it even dreamier at night.

Leaf-print outdoor pillows make our outdoor space feel extra tropical.

And some beautiful planters make the perfect finishing touch. What would an oasis be without greenery? I love the sophisticated shape and subtle geometric designs on these.

Go forth, relax, and have a great weekend!

Five fun decor items: birthday edition

This weekend is my birthday, so just for fun, I thought I’d share some of the home items I’ve had my eye on lately. Our house is an eclectic mix of 19th-century-Paris-apartment-meets-relaxed-California-chic vibes, and here are five things I have or would love to have in our space. We are home these days for work and play, celebration and everyday alike, so we might as well make it a place we love to be.

We have been home SO MUCH in the past several months that a new couch has become a necessity. Our old one is cute but not all that comfortable for the long haul, unfortunately. This beauty, the Maxwell from Interior Define, was customizable in so many ways — fabric, cushion type and fill, size, legs — everything! I can’t wait for it to arrive. And besides their lovely furniture offerings, their customer service staff has been nothing short of amazing.

I ordered this chair from CB2 about a million years ago (you know, back in February), and it finally arrived a couple weeks ago after a pandemic-related delay. It is super comfortable, and I love the look so much! It’s the perfect addition to our mix of dining chairs.

EQ3’s adorable Bingo Bango Bongo stools are all finally in back in stock, and they are on sale to boot! Bingo has had my heart for months, so you’d better believe I ordered it as soon as I could. Indoor or outdoor, stool, side table, plant stand, alone or as a set — these earthenware beauties are super versatile. Decorative AND functional.

This burlwood cabinet in CB2’s newest catalog had me at “hello.” I have zero need for a new cabinet, but if I did, this would be at the top of my list. Curvy edges with that gorgeous texture and the brass accents? Hel-lo. I’ll just lean here and casually sip a cocktail, thankyouverymuch.

Lastly, I am intrigued by this year’s pleated lamp shade trend. These gorgeous shades from Danish shop LeKrazyHorse are beautiful, come in amazing colors, and they offer pretty much any size you might need. New shade = easy way to snazz up whatever lamp you’d like to give a bit more personality. Bonus: this vintage Mads Caprani lamp is AMAZING.

I ❤️ Atelier Stella

studio photos by Fiona Murray

Our next featured maker is Atelier Stella, home of the sweetest ceramics you ever did see. Stella Baggott established her unique ceramics business in 2012, and all her creations are hand built, sculpted and pinched with love. She credits “Cornish, Italian and Swedish potters from the 50’s and 60’s” as influences for her stylish designs, and there is not a single piece that I would not love to bring home!

I was lucky enough to snag a couple of her pieces when she collaborated with West Elm and also Anthropologie a few years back, and their little smiling faces bring me joy every time I catch a glimpse of them in my living space. To me, her pieces mix dreamy neutrals and organic shapes with just the right touch of whimsy. Luckily for all of us, she has begun to ship out her beautiful ceramics again after a brief pandemic hiatus, so shop on her site to your heart’s content. Any of her little works of art will brighten your day.

The vase and candle I have are both sold out, but here are a few of my favorites currently available on her site. Act quickly if you see something you love, as her pieces are made in small batches and change regularly.

Flora vase in white
Double wave candle holder in terracotta
Mini rainbow pot in white

Enjoy, wear a mask, and stay well!

Fuck the bread

I read an excellent piece by Sabrina Ora Mark back in May, and it resonated with me. Her piece, Fuck the Bread. The Bread is Over., is a rumination on this bizarre moment we are living in, on motherhood and identity, on self and work and obligation and fulfillment. I’ve been thinking about it often lately, as the pandemic stretches and contorts time and the realities we are facing draw in ever-sharper focus.

“I’ve wanted a job like this for so long, I barely even know why I want it anymore. I look at my hands. I can’t tell if they’re mine.”

If there is anything I think I am gaining from quarantine, it is perspective. I’ve been considering my future, what options I might have, what contentment looks like — and those answers are becoming simpler. I used to think I had found my dream job. And for that self in that time, maybe I had. But now, like Mark, I barely know why I want that job anymore. The days I spend here at home working, one after the other? I no longer feel like those hands are mine. In some ways, they are not. I am just going through the motions. I began thinking that my depression had reduced me to this — a shell devoid of motivation. The couple hours I spent doing my own creative work on a day off recently were a revelation in that regard. I felt more vivid and engaged than I have in a long, long time. There is more to this life than “getting this bread.”

What does it mean to be worth something? Or worth enough? Or worthless? What does it mean to earn a living? What does it mean to be hired? What does it mean to be let go?

“I can’t pinpoint what this lesson is exactly. Something about identification and possession. Something about buying time. As I empty the bags and touch the moss, and the leaves, and the twigs, and the berries, and a robin-blue eggshell, I consider how much we depend on useless, arbitrary tasks to prove ourselves. I consider how much we depend on these tasks so we can say, at the very end, we succeeded.”

I am so lucky to have my health, and a kind, healthy husband, and funny furry pets to keep me entertained and grounded. I want more time for these things that matter. Really matter. Life is too short to waste on miserable, interminable days that are dictated by people without my best interests in mind. I want to carve out time for real engagement, and for the things that remind me that this life has so much capacity for joy and fulfillment. I want to feel as though I have intrinsic worth. I shouldn’t have to earn the right feel alive.

“But also I wanted an office with a number…. I wanted the whole stupid kingdom. “And then what?” says my mother. “And then nothing,” I say as I jump off the very top of a fairy tale that has no place for me. “You’re better off,” says my mother. I look around. I’ve landed where I am.

I like it here.”

In the coming weeks and months, I am hoping to land someplace new. Someplace where my days can be more “mine.” Days when I can stop just existing and start living again. Days when I can enjoy some contentment. I don’t know what that will look like yet, which is scary. Terrifying, really. But I will never know if I don’t make the leap. And who knows? Maybe, just maybe, I can fly.

Wonderful small things

This is becoming a year of wonderful small things.  The big things have been overwhelming, to say the least: we are still in the middle of a worsening pandemic, our government continues to make our country a hateful and divisive place, Black Lives Matter is still not considered a universal truth, police brutality is an ongoing issue… there is so much for us to cope with.  To remind myself that it is still worthwhile to get out of bed every day, I am trying to remember the small things.  This way I will always have something to look forward to, to enjoy, or to revel in.  A particularly good lunch.  Snuggles with my pups in the morning.  The way the light filters into my bedroom on a weekend afternoon as I lay down for a nap.  A package out for delivery.  It’s these kinds of tiny daily joys that help me keep perspective, and keep me fueled to keep fighting for a better world.

Each time I venture out to Trader Joe’s for much-needed groceries, I buy a bunch of silver dollar eucalyptus leaves. I love having fresh greenery in my home, and it feels like a luxury even though it only costs $4. Plus, they last forever compared to cut flowers!

The new perfume I ordered arrived this week.  ‘REPLICA’ Lazy Sunday Morning is a unique scent that somehow perfectly captures the feeling of fresh crisp sheets on a breezy, sunny morning.  I sampled this perfume on my last outing with friends before the pandemic really hit, so it carries thoughts of dear friendships as well as idyllic lazy mornings.

Also, I was so happy to receive the Rain + Bow necklace I ordered a few weeks ago.  It is weighty and so well made, the packaging was so sweet with it’s little extras, and it is a wonderful daily reminder that I am always in the process of overcoming.  Also I am thrilled that a $10 for every necklace sold is donated to Mental Health America.

Be well, stay safe, and don’t forget to wear a mask. We’ll get through this. Little joys are there for us to find, even though it may seem bleak right now.

dusk

indigo 2020, Charla M. DelaCuadra

 

dusk

 

the slightest hammock swing 

is enough to let me touch 

the shaded velvet of the night sky encroaching so softly 

upon the world 

and my being.

the earth tucks in for slumber 

deep and tranquil 

the way I yearn for my heart to also 

be at rest.

 

how beautiful contentment looks 

from this sleepy in-between place 

full of promise and possibility. 

wistful fingers reach for it 

just beyond her grasp. 

“If only,” she whispers. 

and the first star whispers back.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

Blushing

Something about the start of a new season always gets me a little restless and a lot inspired, and lately I’ve been drawn to all things blush. It just feels so summery to me — bright, quirky interiors, sun-kissed cheeks, cotton candy, sandy shores, Popsicle-stained lips, juicy watermelon… I could go on and on. Here is some blush-hued inspiration for you going into the weekend, while I ponder what little rearrangements I might make around the house for summer. Enjoy!

Via: vtwonen oliver bonas coco kelley glow recipe my scandinavian home (x2) milk decoration michael godmer home designing lonny glossier sarah sherman samuel via sfgirlbybay

Wow, No Thank You.

via samanthairby.com

Somewhere between two days and two months ago (time has basically ceased to have meaning or proper flow these days, amirite?), I had the privilege of enjoying a conversation between Samantha Irby and Jia Tolentino. My Jia fangirl status was cemented a while ago (as exhibited here and here), so it was extra fun to hear her interview an author live. And someone as hilarious as Samantha Irby? Thank you, Free Library of Philadelphia! Razor-sharp wit combined with the intimacy of a chat between friends made for a delightful listen. I hit “purchase” on Irby’s most recent book before the chat was even finished.

Wow, No Thank You is one of those books that manages to deal with racism, classism, sexism, sexual orientation, body issues, and and number of other -isms with such a deft and humorous touch that you don’t even realize it isn’t pure brain candy until after you’ve put it down for a bit. Irby is hilariously blunt, occasionally raunchy, and always painfully, amazingly observant. Why do we women feel pressured to buy cream specifically for our necks? If your family never had the privilege of owning a house, does gutter maintenance magically find it’s way into your conscience when you sign a mortgage? Are Hot Pockets and self-care really mutually exclusive? Why waste energy on that person who hates you, when they realistically would add nothing of value to your life even if they did like you? Can anyone utter the phrase, “are you familiar with my work?” without feeling painfully awkward about it? Questions and answers to laugh at and ponder and nod along with abound in this collection of laugh-out-loud essays. Irby also provides an excellent annotated playlist, for those of you hungry for late 1900s nostalgia mixed with a heretofore unmatched level of hilarity.

In a nutshell, Samantha Irby is one funny lady, and you should buy her book immediately. “Because we live in a fiery hellscape,” to quote her directly, and we need all the clever hilarity we can get. And this hilarity even comes with a dose or three of contemporary awareness, so you can feel virtuous while you indulge. You’re welcome, and enjoy.

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Gravity shifted: a woman on her father’s suicide

Almost 2 years ago, my very dear friend Catherine lost her father to suicide. Ever since then she has been adjusting to her new normal with a quiet strength that has left me in awe. Recently she reached out with some reflections and insights she’s gained in the months since his passing, and has kindly consented to me sharing her story here. I hope you find her grace in the face of trauma as inspiring as I do, and perhaps some of you can find solace in knowing you are not alone. Thank you, Catherine Wehrey-Miller, for your courage and generosity.

My life ended on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 at approximately 8 PM.

At that moment, I was born as a version of my prior self, forever living in a world where I now say, “My father put a gun in his mouth and ended his life.”

One of my first reactions was hating him for making this part of MY story, part of who I would be, forever a person whose father killed himself. I fought my new life and my new narrative for so long. I wasn’t ready for my former life to be over and my new one to begin. I survived trauma in the past and never felt as I did at that moment; I previously went to therapy, learned from my trauma, and moved on. But the suicide of a parent is different. It is described as “a personal and interpersonal disaster.”1 The word “disaster” is a strong one. It conjures up images of earthquakes and fires, chaos, destruction, and ruins.

Now, almost two years later, I know that my father’s suicide fundamentally changed me. My center of gravity shifted in a big way. What I thought I knew, I realized I didn’t. My whole life now feels like one confusing reality of “did that really happen?” I will be forever asking, “Why?” “Why did he do this?” And who was he, really? Did I ever really know him? 

I can’t watch a suicide by gunshot on TV or in a movie anymore. I have to look away. It’s unfortunate that it took this experience for me to realize that far too many suicides are shown in the media. They hurtle me back to that moment when my mother called me and said, “He’s dead. He shot himself.” 

I now have an utter loathing for anyone who carries a gun or believes in his or her inalienable right to own one. My depressed and disturbed father walked himself into a store and bought one. He kept it in the glove compartment of his car, took it out to the desert and just… spent time with it. Like bonding with a dear friend. And I never knew.

I’m suddenly more preoccupied with death and have an intense need to identify what happened to my father after his heart stopped beating. I want to know if he suddenly became nothing, a complete ceasing of his mind, body, and soul. Did he wake up in another place, a lit world where that light engenders an astounding happiness that we cannot even begin to fathom?

I’ve retreated into myself because no one close to me has lost a parent to suicide. My shell is my usual friendly, contented self… and I am content with most things. I have a wonderful husband and friends, a roof over my head, and a paycheck that allows me to travel. 

But underneath, I am an intrinsically different person. I am a human being no longer standing upright, but forever slightly lop-sided, slightly off balance. I view people differently, tolerate less bullshit, and find it difficult to forgive and forget. My frequent anger and frustration have developed into something not wholly like everyone else’s. It’s more introspective and has a certain degree of beauty, because it’s filled with a love towards my father that can’t go anywhere. My love is trapped inside me where it fuses with anger and grief to produce something new that will never quite be familiar to me.

With this second life comes the necessity to familiarize myself with the unfamiliar, find balance in my off-balanced reality, and engineer something brand new from the ruins of a disaster. Dad, whoever you were, wherever you are, I hope you’ll be proud.

1 Shneidman, E.S. Foreword. In: Survivors of Suicide (Cain, A., editor. , ed.). Springfield, Ill.: Charles C Thomas, 1972.

Essay and graphic courtesy of Catherine Wehrey-Miller. You can follow her journey at Memories of Dad.

We are not free

Image: REUTERS/Darren Ornitz

This week has been hard.  Another man is dead for the crime of being black.  George Floyd was killed by a police officer, and Minneapolis is reeling, seething, hurting.  A CNN crew was arrested and detained last night by Minneapolis police as they reported on the protests, despite their every effort to cooperate and do the right thing.  How can we be the home of the free?  It is not freedom if all of us cannot walk safely.  It is not freedom for our press to be locked up without cause.  It is not freedom to be killed for the color of one’s skin.

This is so beautiful and so heartbreaking.  Thank you, Keedron Bryant, for sharing your song.

Here is a guide to white privilege by courtneyahndesign, with some small ways to be a good ally.

And here is a statement by Barack Obama, who said so eloquently what we all need to hear: