Aquarium Adventure with the Alameens


The other day I got a press release from the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific saying they were going to have a special Sponge Bob Appreciation Day at the Aquarium. Something about feeling real sponges and a movie about Sponge Bob and the jellies.  I don’t usually pay attention to press releases because I get a lot of them and I hardly have time to cover events anymore.  But when I saw that it was a Sponge Bob event,  I read a little further.

As you probably already know from past posts, I have neighbors who are refugees from Iraq. Everything is new to them because they’ve only been here a few years and they don’t have a lot of money to explore their new country.  Mohammed, the youngest, looooooooves Sponge Bob. Like really, really, really loves Sponge Bob. He’s five.

This last summer when I asked Mohammed what kind of backpack he wanted for school this year he went on and on and on for probably twenty minutes about how he really wanted a Sponge Bob backpack. It was hilarious.  I’m not even a huge fan of Sponge Bob but Mohammed is so cute when he talks, it makes me want to rush out and buy him every single Sponge Bob thing I can find. I shared this with Isabel from Alphamom and she pulled a few strings and got him one to thank him for all the times he’s modeled for me for my craft posts.


So I emailed the Aquarium and got us some tickets. It was best thing ever. It completely blew their minds.

Taking the Alameens (that’s my neighbor’s last name) on a trip is always kind of challenge for me, personally. You can’t just take one of them. You have to take all of them and they don’t always completely understand my schedule the way I do. Let’s just say I think their sense of time is a little more relaxed than mine.  Sort of like in India where you can wait for a train and it will be four hours late and everybody accepts that as fate.  It’s been a learning experience for me.

Through trial and error I have learned to relax my rigid schedule. I have learned to stop trying to micromanage. I’ve learned to step back and watch them enjoy themselves which is actually really enjoyable to me. Because they really, really, really enjoy themselves. It’s so refreshing and humbling for me. I get myself all worked up about getting somewhere and being on time and then I rush, rush, rush through it all. They don’t rush. In fact you can’t force them to rush. It doesn’t work!  They enjoy every minute at their own pace. Mr. Alameen had to buy more memory for his iphone because he literally tried to film the entire aquarium. It was so funny and sweet.


And then there’s these kids. My built-in modeling company. They are so dang photogenic.


They loved the Sponge Bob movie, especially Mohammed. It was pretty fun with real flashing lights and water drips. They’d never been in a 4D interactive movie experience before and it surprised and thrilled them. Bug and I were a little more jaded. We’re so boring.


It was just really fun to see the Aquarium through new eyes and experience the wonders all over again. There were quite a few new features too. I always love a trip to the Aquarium of the Pacific.


Just don’t make me take a whale watching trip again. Nosiree. Bleack!


Then we went home and lived happily ever after in our melting-pot apartment complex.

Sadly, I don’t know how long we will live here together. It’s a stop-gap living situation for many of us, myself included. The rent is relatively cheap but they raise it drastically every year so people are constantly moving in and out. In fact, right now I am living in a little bit of a ghost town because all of my connected neighbors have moved out.  But that won’t last for long.

Mr. Alameen has been out of work for a while and their lease is up in January. He says they will be moving soon. We hope that they’ll stay close but it’s hard to know.  They have some savings but it’s running out.  In his country he was a soldier and a furniture upholsterer, I think. If anyone knows of anyone looking for someone who is good at working with their hands, email me. His English is broken but he gets along.  He was working for a while scuba diving and cleaning the underside of boats but he kept having dizzy spells and had to quit because passing out under water is really scary.

Anyway, keep them in your prayers. They are a sweet, sweet family who has shown me nothing but kindness. They are amazingly optimistic and thankful. I really hope the best for them!



I am so excited that it is finally November. It’s funny because November used to be one my least favorite months. It was cold and blustery and we don’t have any fun fall color out here in California. Everything is just kinda brownish. The skies are big and blue but our leaves are kind of sad. Plus, the month seemed to drag on forever. But now? I think it might be one of my favorite months. Of course there is Thanksgiving to look forward to and the best part of all: PUMPKIN PIE!!  Pumpkin pie has snuck into my life in a funny way.

This morning I was working on this month’s banner (mobile readers click here) and Bug woke up, wandered into my office and said, “Mmmmmmm….pumpkin pie! Let’s have some for breakfast!”  I hemmed and hawed for a while and thought of all kinds of excuses but then gave in because I did happen to have some pre-made pie shells in the fridge that I needed to use up.


I guess my refrigerator is really really cold because when I unrolled the pie crusts they came out in pieces and chunks instead of a nice soft circle. So we squished the pieces into a baking dish and made a rectangle pumpkin pie! Pie bars, if you will.  Then there was too much pumpkin pie filling left over so I scanned my fridge for something else to use and I had some of those pop-out-of-the-can crescent rolls leftover from our little Halloween party (pigs in a blanket, yo.) and we squished those into a pie dish and made:


Pumpkin Glop pie!  As you probably know, crescent rolls bake a lot faster than pie filling so we rigged up a tinfoil doughnut for the edges but when that didn’t keep the crescent rolls from burning, we took the half-baked pie out of the oven, nuked it for a minute in the microwave (to kill any eggs that weren’t cooked) and ate it as is. Glop! With some whipped cream it was a totally nutritious and delicious breakfast. Maybe more delicious than nutritious but I’m counting pumpkin as a vegetable so whatever. It was breakfast with no complaints from the peanut gallery.


Speaking of peanut gallery, how do you like my new GIANT ottoman?  My downstairs neighbor moved out and gifted it to me. It’s huge. It dwarfs my apartment. I have officially left behind my status as a minimalist (who am I kidding, I left that behind years ago) and moved into cozy.  It is so very cozy. You can push it up against my small couch and make a giant bed. It makes me want to cuddle up with blankets and watch movies all day.


I haven’t decided if it’s really “my style” or not. It’s a little more refined than my usual mish-mash of thrift store antiques but it just fits our life. The kids love it.




In the meantime, I’m naming her Elly. Short for Elephant in the room.  What do you think?  Do you think she fits? I have a friend who will gladly take her off my hands if I decide my living room is just too small for such a monstrosity.  Maybe I just need to get rid of all the other clutter! Ha.  Anybody want a giant ampersand?


You know what else is exciting about November?  Secret Agent Josephine in Paris is coming out!!! As in this Friday! I’m so excited.  I’m getting ready for the launch party. I was hoping to have more to show you but I’m running a little behind. The picture above is my bar. To keep costs down I’ve been collecting a couple of bottles of wine a week and I’ve got some little tiny French flags for my cheese plate and some gold tinsel for a photo wall. I’m hoping to make some art prints to hand out to the first 25 guests that arrive.  I’ll show you those a little later this week if my week doesn’t run away from me.  If you are local, please say you are coming! It’s going to be fun!!