Look Ma', No Cash!

Life, The Arts, Fashion and Food on a Budget

Season’s Greetings!

Season's Greetings!

From our weird little family to yours…Season’s Greetings! (photo courtesy of Lemon from the Shmister Christmas)

An Announcement About The Puppy

Officially as of today, the Puppy is no longer the Foster Puppy, she is now Our Puppy.

We’ve had her for so long now, she really has become part of the family and we couldn’t see anyone else giving her the home we were already giving her.  So we contacted The Bill Foundation, who we’d been fostering her through and they replied that we’d been such good Foster Parents that they were waving their adoption fee!  Welcome home Puppy!

Do you think she knows?

Do you think she knows?

We will be celebrating by getting her some new dog tags with our information on them. Our little created family just keeps growing.

We’ll Ride the Ferris Wheel in the Fog (A Wolf at the Door: Part IV: Part III?!)

So after the carousel and after the beach, we finally ended our evening on the ferris wheel,

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The Santa Monica Pier Ferris Wheel is the only solar powered ferris wheel in the world! That’s its solar panel in the picture above.

By the time we were finished waiting in line, fog had engulfed the entire pier.  This led to a very surreal a beautiful ride, and of course, pictures.

DSCF6951 DSCF6948 DSCF6949 DSCF6950Here’s the thing about riding a ferris wheel in fog: Your only frame of reference are the lights from the buildings around you, which in our case was an amusement park. I love the fog, I love how it swallows and hides all but lights and in our setting the lights were all bright and candy colored and magical.  At the very top, the fog was so think, we could only see the lights dispersed into neon clouds.  It was all at once disorienting, frightening, exhilarating, breath taking, and beautiful.  That’s a lot of emotion to feel at once and I get positively giddy when it happens to me.  I’m not one for adrenaline rushes from roller coasters, but give me an existential stumbled into a foreign world adrenaline rush any day.

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We left the ferris wheel and the pier, fog damp and hungry. By the time we got home, The Wolf had started composing a song, from which I stole the title of this post. We snuggled up and dozed off, knowing the next day would be The Wolf’s last day in town.

Battling Poseidon and Taking Pin Ups (A Wolf At The Door: Part IV: Part II?!)

Where last we left our heroes, The Wolf, Gibby and I had just ridden the last ride at the carousel. Then it was time for some beach!

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Why do I love this pier at sunset so much!?

Why do I love this pier at sunset so much!?

We headed down to the sand in time for sunset and I was going to be damned if I wore my swimsuit to the beach and didn’t get some pin-up pictures. The Wolf was happy to oblige, but first, he had some wave battling to do…

I do not claim to know his motives, but I think the pictures give you a good idea of the epic/Caligula style battle that ensued.

DSCF6806 DSCF6805 DSCF6809 DSCF6808…Or not…

After he got that out of his system, it was my turn to get some pictures. Finally, you get to see the swimsuit in action!

Tada!

Tada!

And these gorgeous shots!

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And some sweet cuddly photos with Gibby.

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The setting sun began to give way to fog, so we gathered our things and headed to the pier, to end the evening atop the ferris wheel.

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Last Carousel Ride of the Evening (A Wolf At The Door Part IV:Part I?!)

We packed so many things into The Wolf’s second to last day in town that it’s going to take three posts to cover it! Granted mostly photo heavy posts.

After The Wolf had read my post about taking my Gramps to the Carousel he could not leave town without riding it himself.  I had work that morning, so we headed to the pier in the early evening. Making it just in time to ride the carousel, enjoy the vintage Soda Shop, and then pile on for the last ride of the evening.

After Gramps’ visit, I did some research on the carousel.

Scenic artwork on the top skirt of the carousel

Scenic artwork on the top skirt of the carousel

The carousel was built in the 1922 on the Pleasure Pier. I am happy to report that my Gramps was correct in his thinking that it was featured in “The Sting”(I think I inherited  my love for movie trivia from him). In 1990, the carousel was moved inside the Hippodrome.

It has 44 hand painted horses.

Photo by The Wolf

Photo by The Wolf

One Goat.

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And one Bunny.

Shirt and skirt thrifted during our Joshua Camping Trip.

Shirt and skirt thrifted during our Joshua Camping Tree

The magical music is provided by a real working calliope.

Our first round on the carousel, I took the bunny, Gibby took the horse next to mine, and The Wolf rode a horse just behind us, and took control of my camera gifting me with these beautiful, if overly romantic shots of Gibby and I.

Such a charmer

Such a charmer

You'd think we were in love or something...

You’d think we were in love or something…

I regained control of my camera in time to get these “action” shot of The Wolf on his horse.

"Some day they're going to erect a statue of me in this town"

“Some day they’re going to erect a statue of me in this town”

"CHARGE!"

“This thing has breaks, right?”

We then headed to Soda Jerks for shakes and to await last ride.

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Soda Jerks moved into the Hippodrome in 2010 and is a wonderful ode to old fashioned soda shops and the memories of the owner’s grandfather.

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It takes its cue from the carousel and is set to reflect the 1920’s, right down to the uniforms of crisp white shirts and pants and black belts, shoes and bow ties.  All the fixtures are from the 20’s through the 40’s and the ambiance of siting at a marble counter on a bar stool with your shake, listening to the calliope and watching the carousel go round and round is enough to make any vintage lover misty eyed.

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Not to mention how tasty the shakes are…

I actually managed some rolled bangs!

I actually managed some rolled bangs!

We finished our shakes just in time for last ride. The Wolf took the goat, Gibby the horse beside him, and I took a horse just in front of them for some more photographs. Can you blame me?

DSCF6788 DSCF6791 DSCF6790I adore my silly silly boys.

As the carousel was winding down, one of the operators hopped on and asked me about why the last ride was so important to me. She remembered me from when we brought Gramps.  I told her about Grandma and Gramps always riding the carousel in whatever town they were in and how after I had taken Gramps on this carousel I decided it should be a tradition for me too. And what better way to make a tradition your own than to make sure you catch the last ride of the day? She smiled, and said I and my family and friends were welcome any time. Apparently, the sight of grown “adults” laughing and joking and singing on a carousel is something they don’t see every day…

How very disappointing.

We left the carousel just as they started locking the doors and headed to the beach to catch the sunset and some waves.

Empty Bookshelves (A Wolf at the Door: Part III)

After our amazing night meeting Neil Gaiman, it seemed only fitting to take the Wolf to The Last Bookstore. This time, I came prepared with my camera, so this will be a picture heavy post.

We started out on the main floor, where The Wolf went straight to the Philosophy section.

I love Gibby in the background of this shot.

I love Gibby in the background of this shot.

Gibby found himself a book of interest and settled into one of the many very comfortable chairs set up around the store.

Note all the chairs you can see in this one picture alone.

Note all the chairs you can see in this one picture alone.

I took the opportunity to take some pictures of my favorite architectural elements of this place.

Book Sculptures!

Book Sculptures!

Bike tire chandeliers and Grecian columns!

Bike tire chandeliers and Grecian columns!

Tentacles!

Tentacles!

We then headed upstairs to the book labyrinth, where there are many awesome book art structures and little inventions.

I would not mind having flying books in my next home…

I would not mind having flying books in my next home…

Like this Jangleodeon with fantastic “Don’t Touch” sign.

 Nothing like the threat to be singled out to keep the urge to touch at bay.


Nothing like the threat to be singled out to keep the urge to touch at bay.

And the urge is strong…

And the urge is strong…

The Wolf enjoyed some local art

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Then, onto the Labyrinth!

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Which was strangely empty….

Turns out The Last Book store is currently organizing the Labyrinth by subject, a monumental task that I am very excited about. In the meantime, they still have some wonderful Ombre shelves and piles of books to search through.

I couldn't resist…

I couldn’t resist…

 I love this book tunnel

I love this book tunnel

And I love the lights. Who doesn't want a book fort?

And I love the lights. Who doesn’t want a book fort?

And I found a neat Jules Verne looking contraption.

Looks like it will be part of the science fiction section, good call!

Looks like it will be part of the science fiction section, good call!

So many buttons…

So many buttons…

All in all, it was very interesting to see the Labyrinth so empty, I can’t wait to see what it will be like once it’s all organized and overflowing with books once more.

My boys always carry a little Rosencratz and Guildenstern with them...

My boys always carry a little Rosencratz and Guildenstern with them…

“You Have A Little Fish” (A Wolf At The Door: Part II)

The main reason we had The Wolf come visit us when he did (hint: read Part I) was because our favorite author, Neil Gaiman was doing a signing for his new book “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”.  Putting on our best duds (I bought my first vintage reproduction dress for the occasion) we very excitedly grabbed our books and Gibby’s ukulele, and headed to the Alexander Theater.

Billboard, you are falling flat on full illumination

Billboard, you are falling flat on full illumination

The theater is a stunning location that I am glad is currently being restored. We checked in for our special reception tickets, received our copies of “Make Good Art” and “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” and waited to enter the theater.

How cool is this exterior?

How cool is this exterior?

Gibby managing to match his bowtie to his hair, and his shirt to his ukulele. Man’s got class!

Gibby managing to match his bow tie to his hair, and his shirt to his ukulele. Man’s got class!

The Wolf is soooooo excited!

The Wolf is soooooo excited!

It struck me as lovely that there were all sorts of walks of life in line for the event. Doctor Who Shirts on twenty somethings, white haired and elegant women, men in ponytails wearing Super Kabal shirts, and fellow vintage enthusiasts in lovely circle skirts and bow ties.

Finally we entered the theater for the reception where there were tasty curry sandwiches, wine, fruits and cheeses. We nibbled our tasty food and sipped the wine, listening to people around us talk about their favorite works and other times they’d seen the author.  At one point a fan approached us, asking if we were characters from one of Neil’s  books she had yet to read. We took this as a good sign.

As we stood in line to enter the theater house a voice behind us said “There he is!” and sure enough, there was the back of Neil’s very distinctive head of hair.  He was already surrounded by fans and at first I thought, “Let’s not rush him,” but when I saw that he was taking pictures with people (which he was not going to do during the signings) I rushed over with my camera and my little plushie fish, the boys in tow.

Did I say plushie fish? Yes, yes I did.

After meeting Amanda Palmer in March (yes, I need to blog about that too) and giving her a little hand made gift, I decided that I would do that for every person I admired when I got a chance to meet them. Since I was having Neil sign “Smoke and Mirrors”, I decided to make him a gift from his story “The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories” which features a koi called Princess that magically bore the lipstick print of a forgotten silver screen star. I made the fish from felt, colored it with watercolor pencil and a bit of gold eyeshadow, and placed my own lipstick print on the fish. I gave her little button eyes, a reference to “Coraline” a book I purchased at the same time as “Smoke and Mirrors”.

The group around Neil was about six people deep and just as I was about to think I was never going to make it to him, Neil called out, “I’m sorry, but I need to get a drink before I murder someone” and promptly made his way to the bar, right where I was standing. He received a glass of white wine and a bottle of water and as he was talking to a fan about Doctor Who, I saw his eyes flick to the fish in my hand. The conversation ended, and he turned immediately to me and said,

“You have a little fish,” with a smile on his face.

“I have,” I said, and told him it was Princess. He took it from my hands, exclaimed excitedly about the lipstick mark and assured me it would travel on the tour bus as a mascot with a knitted Idris and two knitted Cthulhus. Gibby took this wonderful photo:

So damn happy.

So damn happy.

After that amazing encounter, we entered the theater house, getting to sit in the third row and I was able to stop fidgeting enough to take pictures of the stage.

 Such amazing details!

Such amazing details!

Can't wait to see this space fully restored.

Can’t wait to see this space fully restored.

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Neil Gaiman took the stage with Geoff Boucher and together had a brilliant conversation about writing inspirations, how to enjoy success, and the difference between writing with a cat in the room vs. writing with a dog. You can watch the whole amazing thing here. Go on, I’ll wait right here while you do that.

I found the entire thing just as inspiring and invigorating as the first time I read my first of his books “Neverwhere” and as insightful and beautiful as when I first read the introductions of “Smoke and Mirrors” (read more about that here).  It’s a frightening thing, to meet and listen to one of your heroes. You risk them falling off the altar you build for them. I try to always remember that the people I am inspired by are just that, people, but there is always a risk. I’m happy to write that Neil Gaiman remains very high in my regards. Someday I still hope to manage to have a cup of tea with him, a proper British one. I’ll learn how to make it, if that’s what it takes.

It came time for the signing, and the boys and I got to show off how prepared we were by already having post-its in our books with our names properly spelled written on them.  We got in line, Gibby first, then The Wolf, then I. Gibby actually jumped the line a little bit, and The Wolf chastised him accordingly.

Gibby pouting and The Wolf’s admonishing finger in frame.

Gibby pouting and The Wolf’s admonishing finger in frame.

Gibby had gotten Amanda Palmer to sign his ukulele when we met her in March and Neil singed on the side of the ukulele, just below Amanda’s signature.

The assistants also noticed how Gibby had dressed to match his ukulele

The assistants also noticed how Gibby had dressed to match his ukulele

Then The Wolf had his favorite volume of “Sandman” (“A Doll’s House”) singed and was excited when Neil skipped over the customary signature page in favor of making a small doodle over Dave McKean’s  artwork.

From what I’ve seen, this is an old and loving Feud.

From what I’ve seen, this is an old and loving Feud.

And then it was my turn.

When we were in line, the assistants had us stack our books on top of each other, so that Neil could sign the book, push it forward gently, and then sign the book beneath it. This is a great way to keep a line of people moving, however my book’s binding had given up the ghost ages ago. This lead to my book being signed, and given the gentle push where it promptly split into two large chunks. At first this went unnoticed, and Neil began to sign the second half of my book. His assistants stopped him, and I began to gather the fragments of the book, explaining that I had read it to death. This was his reaction:

You can see the pieces of the book in my hands

You can see the pieces of the book in my hands

He stopped everything and said “That’s AWESOME!” and as I finished tying my book back together “Oh, those are my favorite to sign.”

I cannot tell you how happy this made me. I can only describe how I skipped down the steps of the stage, up the aisle of seats and out the door of the theater. In two small separate moments, I had been given the opportunity to show someone I admired how much his work had meant to me. I don’t know if he’ll remember me. I don’t know if he’ll connect that the girl who gave him the fish was the same girl whose book fell apart from love, but I hope so.

We left the theater, got to pick up a cd of “Evelyn Evelyn” a gift from Amanda Palmer herself and stopped to take some pictures in front of the theater.

My swanky boys and their loot

My swanky boys and their loot

  I am wearing the poppy dress from Betty Page Clothing, hair flowers I made and two of my grandmother’s petticoats.


I am wearing the poppy dress from Betty Page Clothing, hair flowers I made and two of my grandmother’s petticoats.

Oh, and back seamed stockings from American Apparel

Oh, and back seamed stockings from American Apparel

Aren’t Gibby’s shoes amazing! $7 at Goodwill!

Aren’t Gibby’s shoes amazing! $7 at Goodwill!

And in case you needed further proof that Gibby’s hair matched his bow tie perfectly…

I think turquoise should be his go to color, thoughts?

I think turquoise should be his go to color, thoughts?

We then headed home, listening to “Evelyn Evelyn” and all having separate “Did that really happen?” moments. It’s for that reason that I love having this blog. Yes, it happened and if I’m very very lucky, it will happen again.

How A Book Can Save Us (No bullet stopping required)

I was talking to a coworker about my excitement in meeting Neil Gaiman and how the book I was having him sign saved me as a teenager when a customer piped up,

“Saved you? What did it stop a bullet”

Not all of my customers are great. I knew the argument I wanted to make would not be appropriate in that setting, so I said nothing.

But it’s still bothering me, so I wanted to tell you an important story:

When I was in High School, I wasn’t the best at maintaining a social life. I had friends at school, but I didn’t really hang out with people unless I was invited out. I’m still working on this trait, but it was very pronounced in High School and this combined with insomnia and health issues led to some very hidden bouts of depression.

When I was 16, I met a girl, Absinthe, who was an aspiring writer, like me. She loaned me a copy of “Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman, and something inside me woke up. I delved deeper into my writing, so inspired by this author who wrote about magic worlds just hiding beneath the “real” one.  For my birthday, Absinthe gave me “American Gods” and on a trip to New York I bought “Coraline” and, most importantly, “Smoke and Mirrors”.

“Smoke and Mirrors” is a collection of short stories and poetry.

It changed the way I wrote. So many short stories I wrote during that time carry the same themes, or were inspired by a story. For the first time I started writing prose poetry, and I’ve never gone back. It changed the way I talked to people about myself and how I saw the world.

There is an introduction to each story and poem at the start of the book. Reading those introductions exposed me to Neil Gaiman’s personal sense of humor, and showed me that even a talented and amazing storyteller like him could get writer’s block, could be dissatisfied with a work but publish it anyway because it was “done”, could be told by editor after editor after publisher that something wasn’t good enough only to have it be published ten years later and win awards. I learned that his amazing stories and characters came from the same places that mine did. Somewhere inside, and mysterious, and something external and magical. I learned that I could be magic just by how I saw the world.

There were nights throughout High School and College that I couldn’t sleep due to loneliness and self doubt. There were times I stayed awake for days, content with nothing and unable to connect with anything or anyone. And I would read “Smoke and Mirrors” and a story or poem would speak to me and tell me that somewhere at sometime this faraway British writer had felt or thought something similar, because here was a character saying it or feeling it and here was a whole beautiful prose poem about that one thing that was keeping me up. I read the book so many times that the binding came apart. A friend bought me a fresh copy, but in the end, I gave it away. It wasn’t the same book that had made the journey with me, that had sculpted me as a writer, a storyteller and a human being.

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That’s the book that saved me. That’s the book I took with me when I met Neil Gaiman.

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Treasure Hunting and The Pier (A Wolf At The Door: Part I)

After much plotting and scheming and a very substantial bribe (see Neil Day), Gibby and I were able to talk The Wolf into visiting us in L.A.  Our first day together, the theme was get cool stuff to wear throughout the week.  First we went to Ross. Surprising, I know, but a coworker cued me in to the fact they were selling proper bow ties (read: Not pre-tied).  We found a bowtie that matches Gibby’s currently  turquoise hair and The Wolf’s very first bowtie, a red plaid cotton lovely. Next, we took him to Jet Rag, an awesome two story shop full of vintage goodies.

Bear with me as I try to learn how to use the camera I got from my brother’s lovely fiancé.

Bear with me as I try to learn how to use the camera I got from my brother’s lovely fiancé.

Inside the store is separated into men and women’s clothing, decade, and in some sections, even color. The Wolf headed straight for the western shirts.

I told you they were arranged by color!

I told you they were arranged by color!

Meanwhile, Gibby had an eerie feeling that the hats were getting jealous of his Panama and quietly sneaking up on him.

Don’t look now…

Don’t look now…

We found a great 30’s style coat for Gibby and I was able to get it half off because it needed some repairs on one of the arms and in the back panel.

Next we headed to The Wolf’s favorite store, Necromance to meet up with his sister, Disney Girl, and adorable nephew, Stormageddon.

Need a two headed pig in a jar? How about Victorian Mourning lockets? They’ve got it!

Need a two headed pig in a jar? How about Victorian Mourning lockets? They’ve got it!

Necromance is one of those odd little shops that everyone should visit at least once, should they come to L.A. It has everything from taxidermy bats to secret society robes from the 50’s to black facial tissues for your all Gothic Elegance themed bathroom.  The Wolf was gifted a neat t-shirt from Disney Girl and I gifted him with a pair of sunglass pince-nez as a good luck charm for his novel. Disney Girl picked up a beautiful jeweled beetle pin that I may have to get a twin of next time I’m there.

Then off to the Pier!

Santa Monica Pier has become a favorite destination for Gibby and I. It has a large beach, a wonderful boardwalk filled with fried food, fair rides, and buskers. We started by visiting the first ever Hot Dog On A Stick.

Oh, yeah, the boys have matching hats.

Oh, yeah, the boys have matching hats.

This location intrigued me because it was somehow out of time and space, given it was demolished back in 2011.

Is there such thing as a Ghost Hot Dog Stand?

Is there such thing as a Ghost Hot Dog Stand?

We each got one of the three lemonade flavors they had to offer. Cherry for Gibby and I, Lime for Disney Girl, and Classic for The Wolf. We sat on one of the low walls and enjoyed our hot dogs on sticks.

I am wearing one of my favorite of my Grandma’s dresses and The Wolf is wearing his T-Shirt from Necromance.

I am wearing one of my favorite of my Grandma’s dresses and The Wolf is wearing his T-Shirt from Necromance.

Stormagedon missed out on the dogs, but he did get some quality Uncle Wolf time.

Adorable family is adorable.

Adorable family is adorable.

Then we hit the boardwalk. The day was over cast, which made for some fun “god rays” pictures.

Puuuurdy!

Puuuurdy!

We enjoyed looking over the grey water at the end of the pier, where people were fishing and a busker performed on a keyboard.

My handsome boys!

My handsome boys!

My handsome boys!

I got a smile out of Stormageddon!

I got a smile out of Stormageddon!

Then The Wolf insisted I relinquish my camera so he could take photos of me and Gibby.

Hair flower made by me.

Hair flower made by me.

Hair flower made by me.

Disney Girl and The Wolf got a very generous funnel cake which Gibby and I helped with before they succumbed to sugar rush. The overcast day started to turn to a chilly sunset, so we made our way back down to the beach. A lovely end to a lovely first day with our dear friend…

See you soon

Happy Fourth!

I hope everyone had a fun and safe (if not entirely legal) Fourth of July!

Shhhhh!

Shhhhh!

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