Clearing out Clutter & Chaos

You know how in the show Friends Monica was obsessive about cleaning and organizing, but had that one locked closet where she stashed all of her junk and clutter? That’s kind of what our closet room/storage room has turned into lately (our house has no garage, no basement, no useable attic, and no closets. We have a bedroom designated for all of our storage). Our house is usually clean and organized (despite having a toddler and four furry kids which makes keeping a clean house a lot more work). My one area of weakness lately is paperwork. I had gotten so behind on keeping organized with all of the receipts and paperwork for my business expenses, just shoving things in boxes and drawers to deal with later. As we approach the end of our extension for our taxes, I started going into panic mode recently trying to get everything organized. I quickly realized that this prolonged procrastination of organizing my paperwork made several things go missing.

I decided that it was time to do a major purge on the whole house. I started tackling area by area, as we looked for the papers we needed to locate. Even though things were organized and labeled, it was still neatly organized clutter that we don’t need, taking up valuable storage space in a house with very little storage. This pile in the photo below is our donation bags and boxes that Salvation Army just picked up yesterday, along with all of the paperwork that I still need to organize in a better manner. Luckily, just a few days after I started my massive reorganization/purge project, a 31 day purge project started over at ABowlFullofLemons.net! I have been going to that blog each morning to find a daily theme for purging and organizing, and adding it to my routine. Breaking it up bit by bit has really helped! There is also a great Facebook page set up for the 31 day challenge, where lots of readers are sharing pictures, tips, and more. It has been so incredibly helpful!

I will be doing follow up posts soon, showing some of the changes I have made, and how I am reorganizing everything! For anyone who may have been wondering why I have been silent in the past week…I apologize! I have really been trying to focus on the tasks at hand here. :) I’m finally just about finished with my tax stuff too. :)

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On a side note, I sorted my donation bags and boxes after I took this photo for easier itemization. I even had a few things labeled. The men that came to pick up my donation were super appreciative that my donation was organized. It helps them a lot and it is apparently something people rarely do. It only took a few minutes too!

One Lovely Blog Award – Alicia in Wonderland Blog

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Last week, the wonderfully sweet writer of Making it as a Mum nominated me for the “One Lovely Blog Award”. :) I am incredibly flattered to receive this honor! Be sure to check out her blog here…it is filled with tons of witty and wonderfully honest musings about motherhood.

The Rules for accepting the Award(s):
  1. Thank and link back to the awesome person who nominated you.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Nominate 15 other bloggers and comment on their blogs to let them know. 

It has been difficult trying to think of seven things about me that you may not already know if you read this blog often! I decided to start with some funny facts about my husband and I. :)

1. I met my husband in a dark alley and tried to hit on him.
Yup, and I parked in that alley and ran over to him to introduce myself. Definitely not something I had ever done prior to that day, but I just had to meet him! I was driving one of my friends from work home one evening, and I saw this mysterious man pull up on his motorcycle. My friend told me that was his buddy and his neighbor. I parked my car illegally in the alley and ran over to him. I tried to introduce myself and make conversation (he was wearing my favorite motorcycle jacket made by the company I worked for at the time). He blew me off completely. That night, I had a dream where I saw myself getting married to this man who had so rudely blown me off. It made me pretty angry. We became good friends over the course of the following year though.

2. He later was going to be my pretend boyfriend.
When my high school reunion was getting close, I started talking with some of my girl friends about the fact that I did not want to go alone. I was embarrassed that I been focusing too much on my job and had no good date options at the moment. My friends and I made a list of all of the guys we knew collectively, and pros and cons for each one as a date and faux-beau as we called it. We decided that hands-down, my now husband was the best option for a faux-beau. I asked him if he wanted to pretend to be my boyfriend at my reunion (and on Facebook too prior to the reunion). He happily agreed. The reunion ended up getting canceled, and he was surprisingly really disappointed about it. At that point, I started thinking hey…he’s the best guy I’ve ever met and maybe he is starting to be more interested in me than he was when we first met. I tried dropping hints for months with no luck.

3. Then we became roommates for a little bit and I kept referring to him as my husband when I was asleep.
On the nights when he got home really late for work, I would occasionally sleep walk and ask our other roommates when my husband was going to be home (we had not even gone on our first date at that point and were completely just friends/roommates at the time). I realized that my subconscious mind was seriously trying to tell me something, so I pretty much forced him into our first date. :) At that dinner, he said he did not want to get married any time soon, and he did not like organized religion (he knew me very well at this point lol). A little over a year later, we were married and shortly after that, he got baptized. :)

4. My grandma convinced me to keep dating him.
I was getting frustrated by how much my then-boyfriend-now-husband was against organized religion. It left me in tears on quite a few occasions that I felt like I knew this was the man I wanted to marry but I just did not want to end up with someone that was anti-religion. I told my grandma that I thought I was done with him, and she convinced me to be more patient. She and her friends from church had apparently been saying the rosary for his conversion. I never would have guessed in a million years that prayer would suddenly be answered not long after. One weekend, he took me on a ski trip (most of our mutual friends thought he was going to propose). Instead of proposing, he told me that he wanted to start taking classes so he could eventually become baptized. Even better than a ring. :)

And a few things just about me:
5. I may come across as an extrovert, but I am really a very introverted person.
Back when I was a little tyke in preschool, I was a chatterbox at home, but very quiet at preschool. So much so that the school thought I was mute for a while. As I got older, I started noticing that the more outgoing girls in dance class got all of the best solo parts. I started watching them and trying to force myself to be more outgoing. That became a habit that stuck with me for most of my life. I have come to realize since I met my husband that I am most happy when I allow myself to be comfortable with my introverted self. I need time to relax at home, and meeting new people makes me a bit uncomfortable at first. I often ramble nervously with people I do not know well or people I do not completely feel comfortable around. I have come to the realization that my nervous rambling has been interpreted as self-centeredness. In reality, my chattering is really just my way to deal with that awkward feeling that haunts most introverts. Maybe it is better to just be the quiet one. :) I think there are a lot of artistic people who are very introverted by nature. I know that having alone time (or time just with my husband and son) always recharges my creative energy. My husband and I are both introverts, but we have a very extroverted, social son…we make the effort to meet new people just for him. :)

6. When I was growing up, my life goal was to be a writer.
I wanted to write a fiction novel so bad. I even went to a Young Writer’s Camp one summer. Unfortunately, fiction is not an area where I have ever been extraordinarily creatively gifted. I tried for years to come up with the “big idea” for the novel I wanted to write, sketching out plot lines, but none of them were ever any good. I finally gave up on the idea and started focusing on writing non-fiction. I had so much fun for many years writing for online fashion magazines, attending runway shows and writing trend reports. I eventually gave up on that though since the pay was awful. I knew that writing was still something that I really enjoyed and something that enriched my spirit. For me, blogging is the perfect solution. I get to share stories about our life, but do not have to worry about getting writer’s block and having a lack of creative ideas! With sharing our real-life stories, I get the fun of writing without the stress of trying to come up with the details of a fictional story.

7. I don’t mind if someone thinks I am an over-sharer.
I share a lot of personal details about some our struggles here on my blog. Some people are not comfortable with that. Personally, I look at my blog as a way to document our memories, and hopefully help a few others in the process. If it gives someone else the inspiration to get out and garden, or find a way to find peace with their own personal struggles, I feel like that is worth all of the over-sharing. I only share really personal events when I think it may help someone else in their own emotional and spiritual journey. There are plenty of things from my past that I have not shared (things that make the trials that I have shared seem easy in comparison), and they are things that I probably never will (although who knows, some day I may feel otherwise). Journeys I have faced and personal battles I have won. I don’t like to hash out all of the ugly details here because I like to think of myself as a survivor, not a victim.

Okay, so now on to the 15 blogs that I nominate! Be sure to check them out…they are some of my favorite blogs!

First up is the set of blogs that I have been scouring recently in planning our new tot school homeschooling curriculum, that I mentioned in this post. These are some seriously amazing mamas!
1. http://wildflowerramblings.com/
2. http://teachingmama.org/
3. http://www.andnextcomesl.com/
4. http://www.1plus1plus1equals1.com/

And some more of my favorites!
5. http://8kidsandabusiness.wordpress.com/
6. http://carrotsformichaelmas.com/
7. http://wellnessmama.com/
8. http://timewarpwife.com/
9. http://www.keeperofthehome.org/
10. http://biblicalhomemaking.blogspot.se/
11. http://leaciceraro.com/blog/
12. http://www.abowlfulloflemons.net/
13. http://catholicmom.com/
14. http://www.simplyjune.org/
15. http://www.heynataliejean.com/

 

Wellness Wednesday: Vegan Cold & Flu Blast Soup Recipe

Vegan Cold & Flu Blast Soup - aliciainwonderlandblog

I have been making this soup for years and it has always helped me recover from a cold or flu in a hurry. It was inspired by some of the advice my grandpa used to give when we were sick as kids (my grandpa was a D.O. and an M.D. and preferred to find more natural solutions for illness when possible, instead of taking things like cold medicine). Every time I have gotten sick in the past few years, I have asked my husband to go on my blog, find the recipe and make me some soup. I realized that I have never properly blogged the recipe, and the last thing I ever want to do when I am sick is stand in the kitchen and cook. When I got a particularly nasty cough/cold last week, I made a huge batch of this soup again. This time, I saved some in the freezer and made sure to get a picture so I can finally blog the recipe. :)

Ingredients (preferably all organic):
1 head of garlic cloves
2 yellow onions
3 lemons
approximate 3 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger
4 carrots
2 bell peppers, varying colors
3 long pieces of celery
2 cans of cooked chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans)
1 package of mushrooms
4 tomatoes
leeks (optional)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
water

1. Peel and finely dice all of the cloves of garlic on a head of garlic. I know it sounds like a lot of garlic, but this makes a lot of soup and garlic is great for beating viruses.
2. Peel and chop onions.
3. Place onions and garlic in bottom of large stock pot. Add olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat until lightly caramelized.
4. Juice the lemons, and put lemon juice in pot, along with lemon rinds.
5. Drain cans of beans and add to pot.
6. Add whole piece of peeled ginger to pot.
7. Chop all remaining vegetables and add to pot. Fill up remainder of stock pot with water, and cook on medium heat until vegetables are cooked through (check carrots for softness).
8. Once vegetables are all cooked, remove lemon rinds and ginger from soup. Add additional salt & pepper to taste, and serve.

This recipe will make quite a few servings, probably at least 8-10 servings, which is great for a few days of servings, and freezing some for another time. I like to make sure all of the ingredients are organic so there aren’t any extra toxins for your body to cleanse out while getting rid of the virus in your system. This is a great vegan, gluten-free alternative to homemade chicken noodle soup! It should have you feeling better in no time and it tastes great. If you want to be super organized this fall and winter, why not make a batch now, put it in servings in the freezer, and that way you are already prepared for cold & flu season!

Weekly Dose of Edison: Future Little Chef

This little wooden kitchen is one of my favorite things that we have gotten for Edison. My husband kind of thought I was losing my mind when I said I wanted to get a mini kitchen for Edison to put in our kitchen. For one thing, our kitchen is small. A tiny galley kitchen. It is definitely a one-chef only kind of kitchen, but there was a tiny bit of space near the doors to the patio that could be used. This little kitchen (made by Melissa & Doug) is the perfect size to fit in our tiny little space. Edison loves watching me cook, and having his own space to “make lunch”. He is so funny with his little fake food, and whatever sensory activity I have given him (he had cloud dough made out of flour and vegetable oil in these pictures). I often see him adding things to a pan, stirring, smelling, then adding more of something else…pretty much the exact way I cook since I rarely cook with a recipe. :) The mini kitchen has been wonderful for both Edison and myself. It keeps him occupied and out of my way, allowing me to cook and do dishes without a tiny little guy constantly ending up in my way. :)

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Transitioning from Baby’s Nursery to Toddler’s Room

You may have seen my previous post about our son’s baby nursery design. Now that he is no longer a baby, I have made several changes to his room and wanted to do a follow up post with his updated room. One of the major changes was that I rearranged all of the furniture. I wanted to create a layout that gave him more room to play on the floor. Also, he started climbing up on the daybed to look out the window at the garden. Previously, the daybed was just on the edge of the window, so as soon as I saw him leaning over to look out the window, I started rearranging all of the furniture. We also found two cute rugs at Ikea that work well in the middle for a cozy play area.

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I wanted his toys to be organized and accessible for him, so I got the toy box at Ikea also, and ordered the toy hammock online to hold all of his stuffed animals (how did we accumulate so many of those so quickly?!).
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The picture frames are all empty for now, until I eventually get around to ordering prints (you would think we don’t have any pictures of our son or something with all of those empty frames!). The octopus kite was a cool vintage find in Edison’s favorite color, red. I let him pick out a plant for his room one day when we were out plant shopping, and he picked out a spider plant. :)
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This wall has new items, all crafty things that Edison and I have made together. The weaving was our first craft project together. He handed me nails and helped me make the loom on the back of an old drawer, and helped me pick out yarn from the stash of yarn that I used for his newborn photoshoots.
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These are a couple of activity boards that I made for him. The one on the left is a little magnetic board, that we use with magnetic numbers and letters for learning time. The rest of the time, I keep the letters and numbers packed away since they just end up all over the house otherwise. :) The board on the right is an old cork board that I turned into a fun felt story board. I purchased some felt stickers of owls, fish, bees, and ladybugs at Joann’s Fabrics and then cut out some trees and a pond. I put Velcro on the back of the animals and bugs and Edison loves playing with them and moving them around. Sometimes the fish even end up in the trees. :)
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This branch was another project Edison and I made together. He loves trees, so I took a branch that I pruned from our yard and we covered it with fabric scraps to hang up in his room.
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His cloud bunting is still up, with the addition of a (temporarily empty) frame above it.
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We are still cosleeping at night, but I am trying to encourage Edison to use his crib for naps. He was never a fan of the crib, but since my husband converted it to a toddler bed, he is much happier with it. Edison is an awful napper for the most part, but I was beyond excited a couple of times recently when after playing in his room, he climbed up into his bed on his own and took a nap. :)
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Edison loves to pick out his shoes each day, so I have his box of shoes down low and accessible, along with plenty of books and a few toys.
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This vintage Edison print was an amazing antique store find. :)
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That’s it! I also moved the changing table out of this room, into the hallway near my office for a couple of reasons (first so that my clients could use it without having to go into the the personal area of our house; second since it was not very much fun to play on the floor next to a diaper bin!). Pretty much everything else is the same. I try to keep things organized and keep clutter to a minimum so the room does not turn into a huge disaster. Our bedrooms are so small, so keeping them organized is so important! We may do a decluttering round soon on some of those stuffed animals. :-/

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Letting Go of Worrying What Others Think About Us

Friends and loyal readers, I have a confession to make. I have failed my family in one crucial area ever since our son started walking. I have let what others say get the best of me, usually preventing us from enjoying mass on Sunday, and a few times when our son was having a particularly wild day, we did not even go for fear that we were going to annoy everyone else. As moms, we tend to be the spiritual backbone of our family. As my husband’s Godparent, I feel that responsibility even more so. Yet we temporarily got into a rut where we were just so overwhelmed and I felt like I was failing as a mom, wife, Godparent, and Catholic and Christian in general.

Our son is a very active, chatty, social little guy. He loves talking to strangers, and running up to see new people. He was very easy to keep contained in church before he started walking, and was usually on my chest in the baby carrier. However, once he started walking, he mostly lost interest in being in the baby carrier. He likes to explore, be free, and hates feeling constrained. Our normal parish does not have a crying room, which is nice since it encourages families with young children to sit with the rest of the parish. Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys having a toddler near them in church. After a few weeks with some unfortunately discouraging comments, I was too embarrassed to keep going, so we tried other parishes.

I wanted to go to a church with a crying room, so that I could relax a bit. We tried a church with a very full crying room, but after one week there, my husband and I both agreed that was not how we wanted to raise our son. We could see that the kids (even the older, school-aged kids) in there were just getting into a habit of not paying attention to the mass at all, and were just busy playing with toys and all of the other kids. We tried another church where the crying room was usually empty. That worked for a few weeks, but then our son started to catch onto the fact that we were separated from everyone else. He started beating on the glass walls like he was trying to escape from a cage. All of the normal recommendations that people give about keeping your kids occupied during church were not working for us. Normally, at home or at the library, our son is a little bookworm. He loves looking at books and “reading”, but for some reason had no interest in books at all when we were at church. He also loved his sensory box when we were at home, but would not even glance at it when we were in church. I tried making a few pages for a quiet book for him to use during church, but he had absolutely no interest in it during mass (even though he loved those pages when we were at home). I tried setting aside the special books and quiet book pages so he was only looking at them when we were at church and they would be fun and new to him, but that still did not work.

Then one day something occurred to me. Our son is very sensitive to my emotions. I have spent months being tense on Sundays, worrying that his chattering, whining and squirming was disturbing everyone. I have not allowed myself to relax for fear of bothering everyone around us. Then I read this blog post and this one, and the words of these wonderful, experienced Catholic moms assured me that what we were going through was not unusual. I let go of my anxiety that we were disturbing everyone around us. I started making an effort to stop caring what others say or think about us, both in life and in church. I worked on getting myself into a calm, peaceful place before we went to mass. Guess what happened. Our son’s behavior suddenly changed.

The past few weeks have been wonderful. Our son Edison has been peaceful during mass, has sat quietly with his quiet book, his sensory box, and his big children’s Bible. He has cuddled in my lap and listened to the priest speak. He has loved singing along with the music during mass since he was about five months old, but then a few weeks ago he said “Amen” after everyone else did, and he even reached out to shake my hand during the Sign of Peace. I realized then that maybe I was not doing such a bad job after all.

For some reason, his original sensory box disappeared. I spent days looking everywhere for it, and it was just gone. I figured it was time to upgrade to a toddler model anyway, so I made a new one. I have a little plastic statue of Jesus that someone gave me for my First Communion that Edison loves. He loves saying “Hi Gee!” when he sees it, so I made sure to include that in the new box. :) I also added some latches and other items that were not in the original box.

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I have gone a bit Pinterest crazy lately researching quiet book templates and planning our tot school homeschool room and curriculum (more on that coming soon). I found some great templates for quiet book pages, especially at this blog. I put together a Pinterest board with a lot of great resources that have inspired me with various pages. Some of the pages I designed on my own and cut out freehand, and others I followed a template, or modified a template to my own design. I plan to do a page for each letter of the alphabet, plus some other pages as well, so it is far from finished but it has plenty to keep our son occupied for now. I do not like cutting out letters, so I found some foam alphabet stickers that I hot glued on where I wanted to spell out words.

This first page is a modified version of the felt board that I made for our son’s room (updated room tour coming soon too). I purchased the felt stickers at Joann’s for the ladybugs, bees, and fish, and added Velcro to the back. The rest I cut out freehand. I also did the same for the page with the owls later in the book.

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Around Town: Day Trip to Downtown L.A.

♫ ♪♩ “Downtown” by Petula Clark ♩♪♫

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go downtown
When you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know, downtown
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown
Things will be great when you’re downtown
No finer place for sure, downtown
Everything’s waiting for youI love that song. It always cheers me up when I hear it. I lived and/or worked in downtown L.A. for many years and downtown is definitely one of my places I go when I need some cheering up. The past couple of weeks have been particularly rough for all of us, so yesterday I decided that my son and I needed a day downtown to cheer us up.One night last week, my husband, son and I were out running errands. Edison had been cranky from getting his molars poking through, but seemed otherwise fine. I had him on my chest in the babycarrier while we were running errands, hoping he would take a nap. The teething pain had been pretty extreme so he had gone almost an entire week without a nap longer than five minutes. When we got home, he looked flushed and dazed. I felt his forehead and he was suddenly burning up. We took his temperature and it was 103.5 degrees F. My husband and I went into panic mode. We quickly gave Edison some infant acetaminophen and got into the car to head to the emergency room. The E.R. doctor said that it looked like he had roseola, and the fever should be better in a few days. I was so scared that the doctor was wrong and perhaps something more serious was wrong, like perhaps he had somehow gotten meningitis like I had last year. Sure enough, a few days after our E.R. trip, the fever broke and Edison broke out in a rash, just as predicted. I was incredibly relieved.The teething situation was unfortunately still not getting better though. It seemed like the poor little guy was just miserable, and getting all of the molars cutting through at once seemed to be just way more than he could handle. We had a few nights where none of us got any sleep because Edison was screaming in pain all night, no matter what my husband and I tried. I knew it was his teeth bothering him since months ago, we started the “point at what is bothering you” game every time he starts crying. I started to get concerned that perhaps he had an infection in his gums or something. Yesterday, I took him in to see a pediatric dentist who assured me that he was okay, just in an extreme amount of pain (apparently it is not that common to get all of the molars all at the same time).After we left the dentist’s office, I wanted to take Edison to do something fun. We had both been cooped up in the house for days and were going stir crazy. He still has a bit left of his roseola rash, and although he should not be contagious anymore, I did not want to bring him anywhere with other kids (roseola is primarily only contagious to people ages three and under). Downtown Los Angeles seemed like the perfect adventure. He could sit back and people watch, be entertained, and stay occupied without exerting himself. I was hoping the day trip would keep him distracted enough to keep the screaming at bay. Thankfully, it did the trick. I am grateful that we are only a half hour’s drive from downtown (during non-rush hour times). It is always fun to spend a day there.

I apologize in advance for all of the cell phone pictures. I wanted to take pictures of our adventure, but I did not want to juggle a cranky toddler and my big camera. Edison and I started out going to Grand Central Market. I have actually never been inside of Grand Central Market, but decided to check it out since I have seen a lot of pictures posted lately about it on social media.  I could not find any organic produce like I would have hoped to find, but there were a lot of cute little places that would make some nice lunch/dinner options. I love the new little street parkettes in downtown, like the one in front of Grand Central in the photo below. The city carved out sections of the asphalt, replaced it with outdoor flooring, and put in adorable little cafe tables and chairs with umbrellas and big planters of succulents. They are in various areas of downtown, and free for use for the public. Such a great update for the city!

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Next we went to The Last Bookstore. I love this place, and books always cheer up my little guy. This is seriously the coolest bookstore I have ever seen. The last time I was there, somehow I did not notice this little vault room filled with vintage books. It is tucked behind the children’s book area. I suppose since I was pre-baby the last time I went there, I was not paying too much attention to the children’s book department. :)

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My little bookworm always loves looking at new books! Poor little guy is extra skinny right now from being sick. :( His head appears to have had another growth spurt though, despite being sick. :) aliciainwonderlandblog
Then we happened to find a nice little park in the middle of downtown, even with a nice little play area for kids!
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Since Edison had his first trip to the dentist, I thought it would be fun to show him where his great-great-grandfather had his dentist’s office. Edison is a fifth generation Angeleno…my family (on both my mom’s and dad’s sides) has been here since the late 1800’s! I love our family history in this city. :) The Bradbury Building is one of those amazing places that everyone needs to go check out. The last time I went in there was a really fun day, when my mom and my grandma came to visit me downtown after I got out of work. My grandma showed us around some of the historic buildings, and reminisced about visiting her dad at work in the Bradbury Building, ditching school by taking a red car to go see a movie in one of the old theaters, lunch at Cliftons, and more. My grandma was the best.

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I used to joke that Urban Outfitters should rename themselves Suburban Outfitters since all of their SoCal stores were initially only in the suburbs (that used to drive me nuts when I was in college and wanted to shop there more often). Look at them, proving me wrong! I get so happy every time I see one of the old historic theaters being put to use. It would have made my grandma happy to see them being used again.
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Many memories of working here, running across that bridge on my lunch break to check out some Friday sample sales. :)
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This Zara used to be the Ann Taylor where I worked for years while in college. Nothing against Ann Taylor (I loved working there and it was great shopping for the women who work in the financial district), but this newly revamped 7th & Fig shopping mall is such a great use of space. When I was in fashion school, I actually did a project about how the space could be redesigned to improve traffic (the mall was nearly vacant for a while). Given the proximity to USC, FIDM, LA Trade Tech College, and a few others, the area was in high need for a shopping center that catered to college students. I was really surprised when I walked past the mall and saw a sign that said “Welcome back USC students”, as well as the new H&M and Zara. It looks like the mall executives finally caught on and livened the place up a bit. :)aliciainwonderlandblog
This is just one of my favorite buildings downtown. If you had asked me 10 years ago where I saw myself in 10 years, I would have said living in a cool building like this with my cat Fluffy. :) aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog

Every time I go downtown, I am excited about all of the improvements continuously being made. It is finally starting to feel like a “real” city. In my mind, based on all of the major cities I have been to, a vibrant city center should have the following things:
1. Excellent public transportation.
2. Ample shopping, including grocery stores, a variety of clothing stores, a big box store like Target, and more.
3. Coffee shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars.
4. Movie theaters and other forms of entertainment.
5. Areas to sit an enjoy a cup coffee or just relax for a minute and people watch.
6. Accessible public restrooms.
7. Handicapped accessibility.

For many years, downtown L.A. was lacking in most of the categories on my list except for the public transportation category. DTLA’s public transportation is highly underrated, and I am speaking from experience. If you live and work near downtown, or the surrounding areas (as far away as Hollywood), you can easily exist without a car in Los Angeles. I did for about 10 years. The subway is so fast and clean, and the LADOT Dash buses were my favorite, with a variety of routes downtown.

In the past few years, DTLA has made some amazing improvements in items number 2 through 5 on my list. I am so happy with the changes! There are just two more areas that I feel could still use a bit of improvement: restrooms and handicapped accessibility. Most of the businesses downtown do not have public restrooms, so if you are visiting the area and need to go, you are usually out of luck. A major goal of any city should be to increase spending (especially from visitors and tourists). It is difficult to spend any decent amount of time downtown when you can’t find a restroom. The first time I was in London 16 years ago, there were permanent public restroom booths on the street that were self-cleaning. They were pay per use and it is such a brilliant concept. If the Brits could implement such innovative technology to improve their city (almost two decades ago!), surely we are capable of doing the same now, right L.A.? Furthermore, if the restroom booths were big enough for a mom and a stroller, you would encourage a whole new demographic to come shop downtown! I saw one public restroom booth at Pershing Square, so at least that is a step in the right direction!

Which brings me to the other area needing serious improvement: handicapped accessibility. I haven’t spent much time downtown with my stroller before yesterday, but it brought some issues to my attention. The handicapped ramps on the curb are so infrequent and sporadic. There is a ramp often on one side of the street but not the other. Seriously, how is this even acceptable? How are disabled people in wheelchairs navigating these sidewalks of downtown? I honestly do not get it.

If the city could just make those two more changes, it would be darn near perfect. Thank you to our city leaders and planners for working so hard on making downtown better and more beautiful. The new improved downtown makes me proud to be a 4th generation Angeleno! I even noticed a significant change in the attitude of people downtown now. In previous years, any time anyone said much of anything to me downtown, I got nervous that I was about to get mugged again (it happened a couple of times unfortunately). I grew anxious and worried all the time. However, yesterday, it felt like the whole attitude of the city had changed with the revitalization. Strangers smiled and said hello, and opened doors for each other. I was initially afraid to go downtown with my son, my nice stroller, sparkly wedding rings, etc. Since I had a few scary experiences when I didn’t have any of those, I was a bit nervous to go spend much time downtown now. I am so happy to say that for the first time, downtown felt like a safe, warm, welcoming place. I encourage other moms to bring their kids out for a visit downtown too! Thank you to all of the LAPD officers that I saw all around the streets, keeping our city safe! I don’t know what kind of changes you have made lately, but I definitely noticed a difference.

One last funny story in closing…last year when I got sick with meningitis, my husband took me to urgent care initially. The only urgent care open at that time of night was in DTLA. He assumed he would not need to use GPS since I usually know the grid of downtown streets like the back of my hand. When we pulled off the freeway, our conversation went something like this:

Husband: Where do I turn? Which way is Olympic?
Me: I don’t know! You just exited the freeway into the Twilight Zone!
Husband: What are you talking about?!
Me: I have no idea where we are! Nothing looks familiar! Why don’t you use the darn GPS?
Husband: I assumed I wouldn’t need it since you used to know the area so well!
Me: I don’t know what to tell you. Downtown was not pretty and sparkly when I was here all the time so as far as I’m concerned, we may have just driven to a foreign country. :)

For the record, I had a viral infection in my brain making me loopy, but downtown really has undergone quite an amazing transformation in the past few years. :)