Moroccan meets Modernism in Palm Springs [pt 2]

Previously, I shared a few things that caught my eye when wandering around the Moroccan side of Korakia Pensione’s boho luxe grounds. With our 50 hours for Palm Springs fun trickling away, Mr Vix and I decided to carve out time for both the Palm Springs Art Museum and more enjoyment of Korakia’s offerings…and add “desert hike” and “see more modernist buildings” to the vacation still-to-do list.

Sometimes I enjoy visiting places without much—or even any—idea of the area’s past or present. It’s rare that my ignorance leads to bliss, of course, but arriving oblivious and leaving with only a narrow, impressionistic view can add up to a delightfully uncomplicated experience.

In general, though, I’ll take more information before I travel somewhere over less. Novels set in the region, memoirs or art by those who’ve called a set of geographic coordinates home, non-fiction accounts of long-gone or recent happenings…they all add flavor to the pot and make me feel a bit more connected to where I’m headed.

Before arriving in Palm Springs for the first time, then, how could I resist brushing up a least a little on the glamour and grit associated with the locale?

I couldn’t. Bravely disregarding fears that my cardigan-filled closet and default hankering for context have pushed me from “fuddy-duddy tendencies” into flat-out “dud” territory, I started digging.

One of my finds was the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation website; another, a hearty 1999 Vanity Fair article chronicling much of the area’s initial claim to fame (both celebrity and architectural).

Even haphazard and cursory research on Palm Springs makes it obvious the area keeps large chunks of itself tucked away for those with insider access. Luckily, it also offers plenty to those who come with more curiosity than connections.

From our room at Korakia we were able to wander by accessible modernist landmarks…

Seen close or from afar, it’s no mystery why E. Stewart Williams’ design for Coachella Valley Savings and Loan #3 (currently housing Chase Bank) is one of Palm Springs’ modernist landmarks

…enjoy the cultural bounty offered up to the public by passionate collectors and/or high net worth individuals…

Studio glass artist Christine Cathie’s O-Void (Pale Aquamarine) at the Palm Springs Art Museum

Studio glass artists at the Palm Spring Arts Museum: L, from Bella Feldman’s War Toys Redux series; R, Dante Marioni’s Reticello Acorn and Leaf

…and explore the art museum’s elaborate and oops-photography-prohibited “Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography 1945-1982.” The incredibly voyeuristic show positively seethed with wholesomeness and artifice, haughtiness and exhibitionism, serenity and foreboding.*

Naturally I was in love.

A passing, non-flash glimpse shot of photographer Jane L O’Neal’s work as seen in the Palm Springs Art Museum’s comprehensive Backyard Oasis exhibit

Back at Korakia, I was just as seduced by the artificial waters found on the property’s Mediterranean side as I was by the representations I’d seen in the exhibit. [And my ancient Blue Lagoon silk maxi dress felt it had finally met up with its long-lost twin.]

Korakia’s Mediterranean pool and my (now-THIS-is-how-you-should-treat-me) ancient silk maxi by night

Detail of Korakia’s Mediterranean pool, where I nabbed solo time in the heated saltwater for swimming/relaxing both mornings of my visit (which led to my companion nabbing this shot)

The aforementioned seduction didn’t prevent me from leaving the enchanting saltwater pool behind to further enjoy more of the grounds, however.

After hours spent focusing my eyes and brain on museum objets and their backstory, Korakia’s just-stimulating-enough interplay of texture and pattern with open space and solid shades practically begged to be of service.

Or as Mr Vix put it: “Nice bocce court.”

On Korakia’s Mediterranean side, my companion triumphed at bocce while my perimenopausal panther print dress and I enjoyed how texture and pattern were mixed with open spaces and serene stucco facades

Indeed, indeed. If trying to resist the pull of nearby water is on one’s list of priorities, though, may I recommend wearing something other than an inexplicably appealing jaguar totem dress?

Next: Part 3 of Moroccan Meets Modernism in Palm Springs, in which I make a few connections between the desert’s natural and artificial forms 

*PSA: Go context-free and download a PDF full of “Backyard Oasis” images or read’s short, illustrated interview with exhibit curator Daniell Cornell

A decades-long holiday love story, told in lights

For at least 26 winters and quite feasibly more than 40 of them, a small one-story house in a modest PNW neighborhood has transformed itself and its adjoining lot into something rather extraordinary: an homage to every archetypal creature and candy ever deemed part of an American Christmas.

It’s a story of obsession overlapped with devotion, one of tradition entangled with change.

From nestling each item into its perfect spot in the ground to creating just the right rooftop tableaux, it takes months to execute the intricate winter wonderland.

It’s a job the sons who grew up in the home now carry on in memory of their late father. It’s a job marveled at by scores of children and adults who have chosen to make it part of their holiday tradition (and perhaps met with less enthusiasm by those on the same street who must endure the traffic).

And what of the results?

Depending on the viewer’s preferences and emotional state, they may be deemed wondrous, excessive, overwhelming, or delightful—or a mix of all of the above. Coincidentally, this mirrors how many in the U.S. feel about holidays (both observed and experienced).

Should you or yours be experiencing any calendar-related angst, here’s hoping that one family’s sprawling take on seasonal greetings lightens it…and/or magnifies your feelings of good will toward others.

And if you’re the type who revels in the holidays, know that in at least one tiny corner of the universe you’ve got plenty of reindeer, snowfolk, candy canes, nutcrackers, penguins, santas, and lots, lots more to keep you company.

In a neighborhood of modest homes, a house with a double lot means plenty of room for plastic reindeers to leap through the night

Illuminated glass-block snowfolks light the way to the home's front windows, where holiday displays entice....

...while the latticed bower--topped with a peppermint garland--leads visitors to the adjoining lot's displays (if approximately 100 feet of lighted promenade didn't do the job already)

The home's wreath-encircled front windows turn into displays, such as this village scene complete with moving train

The breadth and depth of the adjoining lot permits penguins to play with deer, santas to mix with bears, and every bush and tree to serve as scaffolding for lights

Even if the house and yard could be mapped in 12x12 foot increments, it seems certain something would be overlooked

A giant candy cane serves as sentry for the 1-story house and its nutcrackers, artificial snowfolk, giant candy canes, garlands, lighted bushes and trees (and lots, lots more)

Stand in one spot and look up, and your eyes will be filled...then move a foot and look down, and you've found additional vignettes

A last glimpse from across the street, athough the scene extends a bit more than my camera's eye captured

This post dedicated to Paula of Paula’s Diary, who shares her love of holidays—and her life in and around Vienna, Austria—with her lucky readers.

Vacationing like the other half lives [pt 2]

Previously, I detailed how stays in residential studio apartments suit my alignment with Garbo’s philosophy (“you cannot have a vacation without peace and you cannot have peace unless left alone”) and the realities of having champagne taste on a beer budget. I also shared my most recent find—a free-standing apartment overlooking LA’s South Bay coastline—and some of the wanderings outward from such…wanderings I continue to loosely document in Part 2.

Despite pre-trip weather reports that assured me Los Angeles had had its fill of massive storms and would be back to postcard-perfect during my stay, I’ve found that meteorologists go to extreme lengths to keep people from becoming despondent about extended periods of depressing weather.

Especially when said weather is due to hit during a holiday season.

Naturally as a cynical, seasoned-enough Oregonian I knew better than to trust the LA forecasts. Once rain gets a hold of an area, it doesn’t like to leave, dig? Which is why Mr Vix and I boarded our flight with raincoats, wool hats, and layers galore—plus resolutions to be stalwart should we encounter an unceasingly cold and damp Southern California climate.

[Too bad the latter went right out the window during a Day 1 stroll that was interrupted by blustering gales and pelting drops, but hey: at least we gave it a shot.]

We also gave going home smarter a shot, too, before we realized we were subconsciously going to great lengths to avoid anything that involved a serious indoor time commitment—like museums—in order to maximize time under sunny or dry-but-overcast skies.


Now I know Part 1 shows and tells what we discovered when climbing UP, but rest assured we also made time to look down.

Whereupon we encountered stonework both rustic and saucy…

In Southern California, stone often takes center stage

…a few rather unexpected neighbors…

In some coastal LA areas, noisy peacocks are pissing off their human neighbors (but they sure bring the pretty)

and vintage architectural details I decided to take as forshadowing.

After hours of torrential PNW-esque rain, the sun came out and we jumped out of the car to explore a bit of the Laguna Beach area on foot...which made us feel luckier than this LA building

As with every trip to Southern California, I was having a blast and dreading the day I’d have to leave.

However, I have to say that WERE I to pack up sticks and relocate there, I’m a little worried I could become a horrible namedropper. Because after I wrote about my love of the costumes on “The Closer” and the man behind the scenes, Greg LaVoi, took the time to thank me, I proceeded to tell everyone how nice he was. And when he went on to email me with some of the show’s locations, a reminder of his favorite LA source for vintage clothing, PLUS general sightseeing tips, I couldn’t wait to tell MORE people.

Clearly, I’m neither jaded nor aloof enough for livin’ la vida LA.

But so what? With Greg’s email burning a metaphorical hole in my pocket, I took my hayseed self and Mr Vix off to LA’s “Miracle Mile” to eyeball some of the city’s architectural history and peruse a temple to vintage clothing I’d read about for years: The Way We Wore.

La Brea Avenue's "The Way We Wore" Vintage is a favorite of LA costume designer Greg LaVoi...but the staff was super-friendly to a nobody (and alas, "no-spender") like me

The store, source of many of Kyra Sedgwick’s “Brenda Leigh Johnson” pieces, was unbelievable; to try to stay focused amongst all the big and little items calling my name, I set my sights on looking for 40s-era jackets. Between the helpful staff and the owner, Doris Raymond, I felt like a damn celebrity myself.

Alas, to fit me properly the jackets in stock would have all have required the dreaded Shoulder Width Surgery along with other less invasive nips and tucks; I appreciated Doris’ agreement that I’d have to be willing to commit to significant tailoring charges back home.

While I left the shop a bit wistful and empty-handed, the loitering Mr Vix emerged triumphant—to his delight, Doris put him onto her favorite place for grilled-not-fried fish tacos, thus keeping him on track for his daily fix. As a non-fish-liker, I don’t begin to understand his ranking system, but I CAN say that Kings Road Cafe Rosarito Beach Tacos settled into the top of his chart. [I’m able and more than willing to vouch for the steak version, though.]

Before we got to the tacos, however, we had a little light stalking to do…

LA's historic "Miracle Mile" packs a lot of deco, revival, and streamline moderne goodness into a small seen in some of its residential examples

Holiday happiness hits LA's historic Miracle Mile

…and we were only slightly embarrassed to grab photos of ourselves in front of “Brenda and Fritz’s” duplex.

YEAH I went by The Closer's "Brenda + Fritz" duplex...and while I'm not swaddled in as much cashmere as Kyra Sedgwick's character tends to be, the scarf is my little in-joke

Of course the next day we were back to business as usual: soaking up color-drenched ambience. And more tacos.

Color blasts in Silver Lake (L) and a Huntington Beach taquería (R)

Some of Silver Lake's smaller homes make a big impression with bold shapes and colors

A Silver Lake shop was full o' spices that entices

Clockwise from left: A Silver Lake abode is far from color-shy; a classic 50s pairing of turquoise and red still turns heads; a lemon-peel house stands out against a blue blue sky

While I had about 2,947 things I wanted to see and do down south, Mr Vix and I are very spontaneous vacationers. Which means I can’t wait to go back and randomly cross more of my “wannas” off my haphazard mental list. Til then, though, I’ll just continue to make do with a little California dreamin’….

A relative's holiday gift of lightweight wool hails from Italy but contains a bit o' California Blue

PSA: Don’t miss the virtual tour The Way We Wore owner Doris Raymond offers on her website…or this LA Times feature on her big January 2011 sale


Vacationing like the other half lives [pt 1]

For the unabashedly shallow such as myself, having champagne taste on a beer budget often triggers heartbreak, greed, and temporary conversion to Marxism.

Refreshingly, however, tales of time spent in plush hotels or resorts rarely bestir my darker emotions. Of course I’m envious that people are ON the vacations themselves. But while I can and will admire larger-scale luxurious accommodations from an aesthetic standpoint, I’m always shocked that folks don’t see how such structures tend to attract the wrong sort of element…the human element.

Now as someone who skews cantankerous even on good days, I’ll cheerfully admit that I’m generally fed up to the back teeth with people breathing my air (let alone requiring my input or patience) by the time I’m slated to get away. Staff, guests, random visitors: whether it’s all or none of the above under discussion, the thought of being unable to escape from depending on, interacting with, or seeing others makes me cringe.

My god, a vacation shouldn’t be like everyday life!

As a result of my oft-fluctuating tolerance for others, MY ultimate luxury is being alone—or with a desired travel companion—in a beautiful-to-me setting that lets me forage-and-feed for myself. Sure, my inclinations require me to forgo room service and other potential indulgences. But give me a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed, a bathroom that functions, a back-to-basics kitchen, and windows that contain views of more things than people, and I’m ecstatic.

But then a favorite childhood/forced-communal-life activity was locking myself in the bathroom with a book to get some mental and physical space, so I get that I’m a little…high-strung. I understand others might be less averse to sharing their vacation time with strangers, and I don’t expect to sway anyone from their preferences toward my Garbo-esque desire for privacy.

Even if my side can suuuuure be pretty:

Ringing in 2011: For $125/night all-in, this super-private studio apartment gave me---and Mr Vix---charm and a spectacular view of the South Bay (Los Angeles) coastline

And/or visually stimulating. And/or serene.

My past studio apartment successes include a ~ $100/night Arsenale-area find in Venice (IT) and an $85/night place on a 3-acre upcountry Maui fruit farm in the vicinity of Oprah's Hawaii spread

I have to admit, however, that my most recent vacation rental upped the fabulous, darling! quotient quite a bit. Luckily, having the stylish Ms-69ish-going-on-16 (aka The Gilded Lily) deliver Mr Vix and me to the airport prepped us for leaving the mundane behind in exchange for hot-tub-overlooking-the-Pacific hedonism:

(L) Ms-69ish-going-on-16 (aka The Gilded Lily) models her ski bunny chic after delivering us to the airport; (R) the owner's house was below the rental, and its outdoor, ocean-view hot tub was ours to use...a welcome treat post-sightseeing and on NYE

Leave it to the PNW-ensconced Ms Lily to capture a certain segment of the LA style zeitgeist with her ski bunny chic—a look I soon saw on many a woman bravely navigating 55-and-sunny temperatures.

During our bon voyage moment, Lily had ordered me to enjoy the hell out of myself while gone. So I proceeded to carry out her directive by doing lots of nothing and at least a few wee somethings.*

Since Mr Vix and I couldn’t help but feel that we should live up to our living quarters, he and I decided to gallivant in the hills with Los Angeles at our feet…

While the sculptural Griffith Observatory puts its focus on the stars above, LA shines below

…though we also made sure to have a night on the town where the focus was on coastal curves.

On the Santa Monica Pier, everything sparkles---including amusement park rides and coastal curves

While those adventures were wonderful, our taco consumption was spiking wildly and we were doing an awful lot of sitting; it started to seem prudent to think of our arteries. Alas, having been spoiled by a few days of solitude, the idea of exercising cheek by sweaty jowl with the masses seemed rather…common.

The solution? We opted to climb 4 of the many “hidden stairways” tucked into LA’s city neighborhoods and coastal regions—as well as a muddy-from-unusual-rains trail that lured us in with the promise of ocean views:

(L) A fast-moving Mr Vix adds another set of tucked-away stairs, this time in Pasadena, to our wanderings; (R) a short-but-rather-steep hike in Temescal Gateway Park eventually rewards with ocean views

The trail’s viewpoints were definitely superior to those of a gym…

As we tromped up the trail, the sun set on houses and ocean

…and the hidden staircases were a voyeur’s delight.

A Palos Verdes-area stairway gives glimpses of a rather unusual yard

Feeling there was something to be said for flatter zip codes, however, we made sure to explore notorious, multifaceted, irrepressible Venice Beach by day after having walked the Venice-Santa Monica boardwalk at night.

Winter foliage on one of Venice California's famously lush, traffic-free walk streets

If only I could bottle that blue: Winter sun shines on the architecture and art of Venice (CA)

I mean my Persnickety Bohemian side would have RAGED had I dared to skip Venice Beach. Especially as I’d packed my two peeeeenk Missoni fabric-by-the-yard skirts knowing I’d be in boho’s beach blanket bingo backyard!

Unfortunately, even drenched in color and pattern I skew more “uptight broad wearing clothes borrowed from groovy goddess-type pal” than anything else. Ms Madeline (who kindly allowed me to share a few of her South of France photos here) gave me the rose/grey/black velvet scarf several years ago. Having known me for nearly three decades, she understands I’m happiest when my more free-spirited side gets the attention it deserves, and I try to keep her gift in frequent rotation as a reminder of that.


When in Rome/SoCal beach towns: Indulging my Persnickety Bohemian side with pattern, texture, and another of my Missoni-fabric-by-the-yard skirts

Truthfully, it WAS a little nippy for a SoCal winter, and my coat was usually buttoned...but how could I resist showing slivers of my Barely Boho outfits, comprised of scarves + two peeeeenk Missoni-fabric-by-the-yard skirts?

As the clock started ticking down on my time away and I started to ruminate on all the places I wouldn’t get to see, my Awww Ya Big Lug Boots (happy to be part of my Barely Boho outfit) gave me a swift kick in the caboose. They were thrilled to have the chance to heel-ball-toe their way down new streets, rejuvenated and ready for action; shouldn’t I be focused on enjoying the same? Touché, boots, touché.

Next: Part 2 of Vacationing like the other half lives, in which I see too many gorgeous vintage clothes and houses to handle

* Due to having to spend a portion of the trip traveling to/from family, I decided not to even TRY to see if two of my favorite bloggers, La Belette Rouge and Une femme d’un certain age’s Deja Pseu, just MIGHT be available to meet during my vacation. I hope to rectify that another time!


I can’t help but respect those who keep their internal sandbags filled no matter how grueling their life experiences. Especially since there’s no denying I could benefit from exhibiting greater resilience when events fall with a thud on the less-than-stellar side of the line.

Despite my admiration, however, it’s harder for me to connect with people who simply close the door on disappointments, hardships, and catastrophes before marching onward toward the light.

Instead, I prefer those who’ve found a way to both integrate and acknowledge their sorrows and setbacks. While it’s more and more common for our bodies and souls to undergo challenges, I’m unequivocally drawn to that tiny federation who finds neither shame nor joy in displaying the scars of their misfortunes.

…it’s tempting to grind down the telltalle marks of life’s struggles to mere etchings, but I can’t help but see the benefits in bearing witness to unhappiness, frustration, and trauma…

(top to bottom: Directional in San Francisco; meditative at California’s Boomer Beach; inspirational in rural Oregon; educational on Hawaii’s garden isle)