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Our Little House in Highland Park

Posted on May 27, 2012 at 1:20 AM Comments comments (3)



We were looking for a little house in the city. We looked for nearly six months and found this fixer upper in Highland Park.  It's tiny- just two bed rooms but the lot is deep.  We have room for a garden.  The street dead ends so it's quiet. 




This neighborhood has a good vibe. There is a decent market, a few hip restaurants, cafes, galleries and shops, and a community garden. Sakai likes the idea of being able to walk to a cool bar.  After living in Santa Monica for nearly 20 years, I like the idea of living on the eastside.  I am ready for new adventures. I am going to be a regular train rider that's one thing I always wanted to do.




Our house was previously owned by one family for three generations; they loved the house but hardly did anything to it. I think the paint is original.  We ripped off the old carpets and found hardwood floors.  Lots of stuff came out of the basement, including a pretty gold ring.  I kept it for good luck.


 


The dining room came with a funky chandelier and ugly arches.



The foundation is off so that's the first thing we need to fix.  House restoration takes time, money and patience.  Thank goodnes Sakai knows what he is doing.  




I plan to make this the soba studio..  I am going to put a lot of work into this space to bring in some light.
I don't have a good picture of the kitchen but it also needs a major facelift.


 

The backyard is ok. There are three additonal units in the back, including a tree house. All unpermitted. We will have to tear them down.




The stairs take you up to the second level patio.
The ugly wheel and the stone fountain have to go. There is a green patch right above the stairs that gets good sun. We  plant to make this my citrus garden.  I want to have a chicken coop someday.





The patio has potential.  Good place to dance and bbq.


    


Here is the tree house.

I think we made a good decision.  It will be awhile before we can move in but I will post something, whenever we make progress.

  

To Do List - A Good Idea

Posted on August 5, 2011 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)


My niece Miki made me this To Do List .  She kept the list in her pocket, and reminded me what was on the list. Miki also offered to do things most children and adults wouldn't volunteer to do - like taking out the garbage bin to the street,  picking up our dog Ana's pooh when we go on a walk, and folding laundry.  Before leaving the house to go to the museum, she was in the kitchen making sure that the burners on the range were turned off.  Her father's a fireman, so she knows the drill.  But Miki is still little girl, and like most little girls, she loves putting make up on, and be girly, too.  Her choice of eyeshadow today was green. Her toes nails were blue with silver sparkles.  At Target, she picked a pair of pink leopard pattern rubber boots.  When she grows up, she wants to be a super model or a wrestler.  Anything is possible.



Tree Swing - Pasadena

Posted on August 5, 2011 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)




Snow Cones Stand - Pasadena

Posted on July 26, 2011 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)


Arman's own design

Wild Flowers in a Copper Vase

Posted on June 7, 2011 at 12:26 PM Comments comments (2)



Sakai wanted a studio in the desert. He liked Tehachapi, which is in the high desert, near Lancaster.  The high desert is cooler than the low desert and the vegetation is different.  When I first went there in April, there were cherries and apples in bloom.  Then I visited again in May, and I saw lilacs and wild poppies blooming everywhere. The area is known for the wildflowers and oak trees.  

When we sold our house in Santa Monica in April, Sakai decided to pursue his idea of a studio in Tehachapi.  He(we) bought a horse ranch in Cummings Valley.  No horses though. Everyone thought it was a crazy idea.  I thought it was crazy, too. And still wonder if it was.  But I am slowly being converted because the valley is so beautiful.  

I will be blogging about our ranch more.  I picked some wild flowers that grow on our ranch. The only flower whose name I know is the purple and lavendar lupine.  They look nice in the copper pot in my office in Pasadena.
Maybe this dual life will work after all.  

Baby Owl

Posted on June 7, 2011 at 1:43 AM Comments comments (4)



There are many birds in Pasadena.  I've already blogged about the hummingbirds and wild parrots. This morning, Sakai brought back a rare baby owl from his walk.  Apparently, it fell from a nest in the palm tree on El Molino Street, a beautiful street with lots of trees.  The baby owl looks like a stuffed animal, a gray marshmallow -soft and warm; it was clucking its beak to say something. It looked so sad.  It must be a couple of weeks old. I tried to give it water and chopped meat but I was not very successful.  

This baby owl was so wise already. Look at its eyes. I wanted to do everything I could to get the owl back to the nest - so it can reunite it with the mother owl.  I called the  Humane Society in Pasadena for advise. They told me to bring the owl in but and they will see what they can do.  Then I read a website on wild owls and it said, it's best to leave it where we found it.  It's a wild animal after all.   What can we possibly do?  So after some talk, we decided to put the owl where it was.  

I realized how close we are to the wild, even in the city.  We see wild birds everyday, but it's when you encounter something so precious and delicate up close that you know we have to take care of our planet more.

Lemon Tree - Pasadena

Posted on June 5, 2011 at 4:10 AM Comments comments (0)



I never thought I would miss a month of blogging but I did.  How time flies when you are busy.  We sold our house in Santa Monica and moved to Pasadena.  We bought a ranch in Tehachapi. Then I travelled to Japan for two weeks, and to Portland to attend Sakae's graduation and to Seattle to see Sakae and Bina's apartment.  It's been a physically demanding six months.  I caught a really bad cold in the middle of all this, so it didn't help.  But I am feeling much better now.

I love the view of the lemon tree from my office in my new house in Pasadena.  The tree entertains me all day. Hummingbirds and squirrels visit. The fruit is good.  I make lemonade. I want to make a lemon poundcake, soon. These lemons are not too sour. 

  

Frog day afternoon - Pasadena

Posted on April 28, 2011 at 3:26 AM Comments comments (0)








Pasadena - Our new comfort zone

Posted on April 24, 2011 at 1:59 AM Comments comments (0)

Ana exploring the new neighborhood 

We've now been in Pasadena for two weeks.   I've been very busy unpacking our stuff, organizing our finances, making soba for a charity, and going to traffic school, and monitoring my mother's condition in Japan.  Life has been pretty intense but I cannot complain. We have a new home in Pasadena and we are more relaxed than we have been in a long time.

First the good news.  My mother beat the odds and got her lungs back.  She is breathing normally again and checking out of the hospital today.   When my sister Fuyuko told her that I moved to Pasadena, mother's eyes opened wide and she smiled. She loved living in Pasadena.

 As expected, we had a bumpy start  with Kinchan. We tried to keep her inside but she is an outdoor cat. She snuck out and went missing for awhile.  I went around the neighborhood looking and asking my new neighbors if they had seen a gray cat but no sight of Kinchan. I checked the website of the Humane Society of Pasadena and found a very similar gray cat posted on the lost cat list.  I was pretty sure it was Kinchan.  I went down to the Humane Society to see. Unfortunately, it looked like her but it was another cat.  Poor thing, it was very pregnant.

Even though many changes were taking place at home, I went to the westside to attend a charity event in Culver City, and stayed with my old neighbor, Ellen for  the night. I didn't want to take a chance driving at night on the 110 freeway.  

My old house in Santa Monica was intact but had a strangely different feeling. The garden was well tended and cheerful.  The grass looked  greener.  Ellen said they have a gardner working on it twice a week.  The old English rose bush was blooming.  So were a few of the beared Irises. The climbing rose would be next.  I know the cycle of this garden by heart.  I wanted to step in and smell the old rose but a young guy came out of the house, and that sort of put me right back in reality.  I sold the house.  It was no longer mine.  So I said goodbye to the house once again and left.


When I got home, Sakai told me that Kinchan resurfaced this morning.  I reunited with her later in the evening, after the house painters left. Kinchan was very hungry and very happy to see me. She followed me around all day.

Bird in a tree - somewhere

The big old trees in Pasadena invite all kinds of birds  - what fascinates me most are the wild parrots!  Apparently, there are hundreds of them in this area. Legend goes that a pet shop in Pasadena caught on fire and the owner of the shop released the parrots and they went wild. I never paid attention to trees and birds in the city as I have in Pasadena.

The old California bungalows are also attract the eyes.  A lot of social activity happens in the front lawns of these homes.  Children play hide and go seek, sell lemonade, run around in their bathing suits.  Grown ups read the paper in their front porch and practice golf.  It reminded me of the early days in Santa Monica. I remember there was a pair of wild ducks that would hang out in my old neighbor's front yard during the spring time.  The neighbor would put a tub of fresh water and food out for the feathery couple.  I loved that they made themselves at home.  Pasadena feels that way.  I am an older bird returning to Pasadena after 35 years, and finding my comfort zone.

Dog meets Dog

By the way, I got a call from the Humane Society today. The gray cat I inquired about had kittens. The lady asked me if I wanted to adopt a kitten.  I wish I could but not now.  Maybe later.

Our House - Santa Monica

Posted on April 16, 2011 at 4:04 PM Comments comments (2)

Ana looks in.
 
I am having moving pains but the time has come.  The escrow agent says it's a common symptom when people sell their homes. On top of that, my mother was hospitalized for pnemonia.  My sister called from Tokyo to explain mother's condition.  We may have to put her on life support because she was having trouble breathing.  But my father did not want to hook mother up on machines again.  Not this time. Mother was too fragile, and has been in a nearly vegetative state for more than 2 years.  "It's time to let nature run its course," my father insisted.  We all agreed.
"You don't need to come back to Japan,"  Father said to me on the phone. He said the same thing when Japan was hit by the earthquake and tsunami less than a month ago.  I am five thousand miles away from Japan. It was difficult to drop everything and be in Tokyo - not in the midst of what's going on at home.   "The best thing you can do is to keep on doing what you are suppose to be doing," Father said, and assured me that my brothers and sister would help him. The next 24 to 48 hours were critical.  I might miss saying goodbye to Mother but I would fly in later for the funeral.  It was a sad decision but I was relieved that my father felt strong enough to come to terms with mother's life. Though, I prayed that mother would somehow bounce back on her own.


The patio

I know mother would be happier if she saw that I didn't interrupt my schedule.  I had to do the final cleaning of the old nest.  There is an old Japanese says,  A bird never leaves a messy nest. behind.  

Clean house, move, and make soba. I am doing a charity soba event in two days. Part of the proceeds go to the sake brewers who suffered damage from the earthquake and tsunami. There are over 200 sake breweries that suffered.  I kept our kitchen active till the very end, though I did most of the prep at Breadbar the day before the event. 

During the final two nights in Santa Monica, we pulled the mattress off the sofa bed and slept on the floor.  I accidently packed the blankets and pillows and moved them to the new house in Pasadena so we had a couple of nights where we were sleeping with nothing but a sheet, and pillows made from rolled up jeans.   



We managed to get everything out in time.  We didn't even need to leave anything in the garage.  It was a miracle we found a nice pet friendly house in Pasadena to move to in such a short amount of time.  We were ready to live in a motel for awhile  if worse came to worse.

An empty house takes on a different feeling.  The rooms echo, and it is not the same as it was when we had all our artwork and furniture.  Even KInchan and Anachan noticed; they followed me around everywhere  to make sure they didn't get left behind.



We were supposed to have a final happy hour from 5-7 on the 11th with our neighbors but we cancelled because the new buyer wanted to move in at 6pm, and the agent said they were going to show up no matter what. We thought we had until midnight, but apparently not. I was upset that she was rushing us out.  She was as anxious as we were to be in her new home.  

As I did the final walk through the house, i got a little emotional.   I thought about our son Sakae when he was younger. All the sleepovers he did with his friends; once I had about a dozen kids over for a slumber party.  I thought about Sakae practicing his oboe in the back room.  Our dog, Stinky.  His ashes are buried under the persimmon tree. I walked through one room to another, recollecting memories.  It was then that I found a little metal pin in the shape of a heart in the closet. I knew it was my mother telling me, "Don't forget your heart." I thanked her for the reminder.

I wrote a note to the buyer and wished her well. To love and enjoy living in this house, as much as we did.


So here is a goodbye to the skies of Santa Monica

 

to the apricot tree that gave us so much fruit.

 

Sakai stood in his studio and looked once more at the work of art he created. It was as if he was saluting it goodbye.   If I were to give this art work a title, it would be, "OUR HOUSE".

 



 
Kinchan said goodbye to the vegetable garden.




I said goodbye to the happy sun, which made me smile each time I looked at it.  It was a souvenir  I brought back from Sicily.




Thank you House for sixteen great years.  We leave as Shirley Temple and Morrie did before us.  With love and hope.


Our House in Pasadena

Posted on April 6, 2011 at 10:48 AM Comments comments (0)



We don't start the lease on the house in Pasadena until Wednesday, but I took my succulent and flower pots there and brought Ana along to show her the new place. 


Pasadena is a familiar place to me. I grew up here in the seventies. My family lived on Hill Street, which is not far from here. I went to Blair High school and Pasadena City College. This is where I learned how to speak English.

The house we rented is the funkiest house in the prettiest neighborhood in town.  We will be here until we find a permanent home of our own. I can't wait to rediscover Pasadena.

What attracted me most about this house is the Ginko tree.  Mark, the 82 year old manager said to me, "The tree is divine."  and it is.  It invites you right into the garden and makes you feel at home. The owners of the house love this tree so much, they don't let the gardener touch it. They have a pruner from the Huntington Library that comes to take care of the tree. There are also lemon and orange trees and a nice vegetable garden that the previous leasees left behind.  The neighbors old trees are also present. The trees create a cool shade in the garden. The transition from Santa Monica to this house is going to be almost effortless because of these trees. 

The house is an old California bungalow. It's getting a coat of paint right now. Mel's lovely wife picked the color.  Mel also put these plastic planters up on the balcony. When he visited Switzerland, he saw homes with bright geraniums pots hanging from the windows.  He wants us to plant geraniums in these planters and give the house a cheerful look.  The house has three bedrooms.  The parquet floors in the living room are coated with shiny varnish. It supposedly keeps the pet urine from damaging the hardwood floors.  I don't care much about the way the floors look but I will cover them with my kilims.  The kitchen is tiny.  There is no range, no fridge, no nothing. Just cabinets.  I have to go shopping for appliances.  My soba table will probably have to stay outside.  







Earthquake in Japan - Santa Monica

Posted on March 16, 2011 at 10:12 PM Comments comments (2)



Stone Vase  with Poppies

My friends Keiko and Taku Shinomoto who own Tortoise in Venice are trying to help in their own way by donating s percentage of their sales this month to the eartthquake victums in Japan.  Keiko and Taku were both in Japan when the earthquake happened, and they are heading back to LA this week, if they can get on a plane.  

Sakai donated this stone vase to the cause.  I will make soba and do what I can to help in the relief effort.  Doing things for the people you love is a good thing in these challenging times.  

Tonight, Sakai and I met with our real estate agent and checked the inspection report of the hosue.  When this paper work is done, and escrow closes, our house will be sold.  After our meeting, I made pasta with left overs from my soba event - a medley of spring vegetables and shrimp.  The cat and dog were spread out on the coach like always.  We talked a lot about life after this house.  We are still not set on where to go next.  Sakai is looking at properties in the high dessert.  I am thinking about going back to Japan for awhile.      

Cicadas - Santa Monica

Posted on March 14, 2011 at 2:36 AM Comments comments (1)



It takes time to build a house.  This corner of our garden took years.   I used to go to the south of France every year on business and bring back these cicadas. One for each visit. They are suppose to bring good luck to a house. Each cicada is hand painted. I have one that sings.  I could have collected a couple dozen of these figurines over the years  but some years I didn't buy any.  i gave away a few. I have ten on the wall. That's plenty. 

I grew up listening to cicadas sing in the summer time in Kamakura.  Most of them sing so loud, they can be a nuisance. But there are small cicadas that sings a melancholy song. Whenever I heard them sing, I would pause to listen.

Hoh shih tsuku tsuku tsuku 
Hoh shih tsuku tsuku tsuku 

Cicadas spend most of their lives underground as larvae; then they come out of the earth to mate .  The songs we hear are their mating songs.   

On this wall, there is also a rusty chain. It belonged to our dog Stinky.  He died about 8 years ago. His ashes are buried in the garden.  

When we leave this house, this corner of the garden will disappear and someone else will fill it up with new memories.


Cherry Blossoms on Roof Top - Santa Monica

Posted on March 9, 2011 at 10:18 AM Comments comments (0)


Blossoms on the Isuzu

The cherry tree in the driveway is the first cherry that blooms in our front yard.  We have three cherries.  The one that blooms first is the smallest.  Small, because it doesn't get as much sun as the other trees. Still, it gives gorgeous blooms.

The bees and the birds love the blooms.  This is the time of the year that I have rare bird visitors.  They come to pick the cherry blooms.  I don' t know if they are sucking the honey or  are just having fun.  I like bird watching but sometimes it is annoying to watch a bird pick one blossom after another.   I tap on the window and shoo it away.  

Patient Dog - Santa Monica

Posted on March 9, 2011 at 2:33 AM Comments comments (0)


Studio - Santa Monica

For Ana and Sakai, the day starts with a walk down to 12th Street and back.   Sometimes, they go on a walk before the sun rises.   Sakai has his cup of coffee and a little time in the studio before the walk.  Ana knows the routine. Sometimes, Ana doesn't  want to go for a walk. She starts the walk but then turns around and tries to head home.  This morning, she sits quietly and waits. Decision is hers. 

Our home in Santa Monica

Posted on March 7, 2011 at 11:09 AM Comments comments (0)



We sold our house in Santa Monica yesterday.  Maybe the white rabbit I saw in Whittier brought us luck.  I can still remember the first time we saw the house, walked into this living room and felt the light of the space. I  knew instinctively that we could make this house our home.  The year was 1994, the year of the Northridge earthquake. The house was damaged from the earthquake, and yellow tagged. If you put a marble on the floor, it would roll from one end to the other end of the house.   It took us a year to fix the house and make it liveable.  Our son Sakae grew up in this house. Walked to Lincoln.  Took a bus to Samo.  Then he left to go to college.  Now he is grown up and ready to take flight. 

I have until Aprill 15 to enjoy this house.  Everyday, I will share what I loved about this house.  
Sakai made - the sculptures, the stone vase, most of the furniture.  Our old  funky couch is from Ikea. The slipcovers have gone through the washer countless times.  Some of the wine stains just won't bleach out.  But it's okay.  Ana, our dog loves this couch.  She curls up on it every night but with the preparation of the sale, she has been told to sleep outdoors. She is such a good dog, she didn't cause any trouble.  Maybe she will get to sleep on the couch one more time before we move out of the house.

Spring Garden - Santa Monica

Posted on February 27, 2011 at 11:04 PM Comments comments (0)




Home Life - First Cherries - Santa Monica

Posted on February 16, 2011 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)


BESs



The cherry trees are beginning to bloom.  I don't want them to bloom too fast.  Their blooms are known to come at once and fall at once.  Our house of 18 years is going up for sale in a couple of weeks.  It is a sad but positive transition in my life.  I have never been more attached to a house than this house.  Our house was our art.  We fixed it up nicely. Then lived in it.  We never finished the restoration work like the fireplace or the kitchen walls but for many years, it served us well.  Before I start looking back, I still want to enjoy the beauty of this house, especially the trees we planted in the garden.  The cherry trees were the first to plant.  They came from Washington State.  These trees remind us of the cherries in Japan when they bloom.  Now I am thinking of moving to Washington or Japan or both. But for the moment, I would like to enjoy my trees in Santa Monica.




BESs

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