Sunday, January 15, 2017

Dirt Pushing, Barn Raising, and Mid-Life Crisising

Our lower backyard feels like the perfect metaphor for our lives right now: A vast swath of loosely executed, bare bones possibilities. It feels a lot like the headspace Mr. W and I seem to be sharing about our next big life endeavors. Where should we focus? On wine? On writing? On coaching? On opening a coffee shop or launching an app? On kitten rearing? We've spent a lot of time staring blankly at one another across dinner tables and bed pillows lately.

I'm hoping that maybe, if we're lucky, our next big dreams will take shape in tandem with our wily back acreage.

Just as I've been devoting time to self-help books and journal entries to begin carving out the foundation for my next move, Mr. W has been tearing out old groundcover and grading dirt to start reinventing our yard.

I think he's having more fun than I am. I mean, look at that grin. Only a tractor could bring that puppy out, I think.

He worked for days carving out the framework for steps that will lead from our back patio down to the meadow we hope to turn into a relaxing retreat and garden. Thankfully, the much needed rain didn't wash the steps away.

Here's a reminder of what it looked like before:

The slope (which will ultimately hold grenache and maybe some viognier and syrah grapevines) is now pretty much a nice, clean, blank slate.

Everything that was on the slope is piled up in nice, big, dirty blobs of mud and iceplant and debris.

We're nowhere near having the lovely, structured yard we want, but we're making progress.

I never wrote about it, but we also got the agrarian needle moving a bit when we assembled a storage shed in the lower yard back in August. The instructions for the thing make it sound like such a breeze—5 Steps to a Completed Mini Barn.

It was more like 38 steps. Mr. W had to assemble a bunch of individual panels to build each of the 4 walls. Then he and I had to carry them down to the lower yard (they weren't light, lemme tellya). And then we had to unleash our inner Amish farmers to lift the walls and get them bolted together securely—at perfect 90° angles—so that we could attach the roof....which Mr. W did using semi-superhuman strength while I fretted and yelped from the top of a ladder (not really doing anything to genuinely help the process).

When it was all finished, I'm pretty sure I renounced my Amishness as fast as possible and went inside to get a beer...

So that's where things stand with the next big piece of this whole attempt at living the wine country dream life business. Hoping that many future blog posts will include charming and painless recounts about how easily all the rest of it comes together. In parallel with how effortlessly the two of us figure out our middle-aged lives... 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Couple of Midcentury Makeovers

It occurred to me while typing the title of this post that Mr. W and I aren't all that far off from being "midcentury" ourselves. Eesh. Where does the time go? It seems like just yesterday we were dreaming up our ideal midcentury-style house in the wine country and now we've owned this place for four years.

Speaking of which—when we first purchased it and were coming up to work on it on the weekends, we bought a $20 IKEA coffee table to tide us over until we moved our real furniture. That terrible little laminate table survived even after we brought our Hollywood belongings, and in the corner it sat for three whole years, bowing slightly under the weight of the TV, stereo, and various other media components.

Sometimes I would catch myself sneering at it in disgust. It was never anything but faithful to me, and yet, I loathed that cheapie coffee table.

Mr. W promised to build me a custom media console...but he had about 850,000 other projects ahead of it. And then we got a kitten. And the kitten took to climbing behind Ugly IKEA Coffee Table and chewing on all the cords to our various viewing system boxes.

Thus began my renewed crusade to get something else in the corner of my living room.

Mr. W went to work in Sketchup as he likes to do, and drafted some plans...

Execution proved a smidge difficult, as after he applied walnut wood veneer to one side of the actual construction wood, it warped a bit. So I was called into the garage to stand on the wood while he screwed it together. Ah, the life of a DIYer's wife...

Thankfully, he was able to get everything together right and after a couple short weeks, we had an amazing, very authentic-looking midcentury-esque piece of furniture to take the place of Sad, Sad IKEA Coffee Table.

Of course, once the TV was mounted to the wall, I had a funny empty spot next to it that felt like it needed a something sparkly. Not like glitter on a stripper sparkly, but like 1960s starburst clock sparkly—only, without the $100+ price tag. Instead, for a mere $15 at Target I was able to construct my own makeshift burst mirror.

Not wanting to be shown up by Mr. W's redecorating skills, I decided I would also recover the cushions on the cute midcentury chair that sits across from the TV stand. The cover it came with was in ok shape when we first bought it last year...

But after many tooshes smooshing its surface, the fabric finally began to split. So I headed to Joann's, watched some videos on YouTube, and undertook my very first reupholstering project with piping.

I got the job done, but there was an inordinate amount of cursing involved. I may have also punched the sewing machine a few times. Not in like a Fonzie "Eeeeyyy this'll make it start working for me" way but like an "I hate you and want to smash you until you're dead" kind of way... It took a lot of stamina and a lot of wine to get the project done. But I did it and although it's not perfect, it looks just fine. At least that's what the cats keep telling me...


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Hardly Roughing It: Our Second Annual Camping Trip

Quintessential camp beverages

When Mr. W and I first started talking about camping a few years ago, I immediately mounted my high horse and regaled him with stories of my extreme outdoorsiness. I could survive in the desert with barely more than a canteen and a bandana. I could go days without a shower. I'd practically earned a PhD in s'more making. I certainly wasn't Cheryl Strayed, but I had backpacked in Angeles Crest, Joshua Tree (multiple times) and even the Sierras—where it unexpectedly snowed on us in the middle of the night. I pretty much considered myself a camping pro.

So when Mr. W insisted we bring aerobeds and pillows to sleep on last year in Big Sur, my eyes almost rolled out of my head in judgmental disgust. That was way too luxurious for camping. We needed to rough it!

One night in Big Sur, and I decided I'd pack my pillow (like he had been smart enough to do) on our next trip...

Just another spectacular California beach

Fast forward to this week and we had the car loaded for MontaƱa de Oro State Park with everything from the aerobeds to my silk pillowcase-covered pillow, to a down comforter for extra cushion. He had turned me.

When we stopped off at Target in San Luis Obispo on our way, it was only supposed to be for some drinking water to last us during our two-night stay. But the next thing we knew, we were loading a bottle of wine, some extra cheese, and a few random necessities, like vitamin D and cat food, into our cart.

Camp Maris

As we set up our tent, Mr. W used a bluetooth speaker to broadcast Coldplay from our picnic table so we had a work soundtrack. Our aerobeds were inflated courtesy of a power adapter plugged into the Prius. We used a firestarter packet to get our campfire raring for bratwurst cooking. 

Note to other campers: Potatoes on skewers take about 3.5 hours to cook...

We were cheating up a storm. And it only got worse.

I couldn't have Photoshopped this better than it was. Nature. Sigh.

In the morning, we decided to drive into town for a coffee...except the car wouldn't start because we had drained the battery blowing up inflatable beds and charging our iPhones! After a jumpstart from a neighboring camper, we not only headed for a coffee but went BACK to Target to buy a brighter lantern, some more paper plates, aluminum foil, gloves for Mr. W...and a birthday gift for my niece.

People, that is not camping. Camping should not involve two trips to Target and a superfluous bag of candy corn.

Camping is about unplugging from civilization! Communing with nature! Problem-solving instead of running for the easy fix!

The tidepools were like little ocean forests.

The funny thing is, now that we live in the country (yeah, I know, we're 3 years in here) it feels like we're unplugged from civilization and communing with nature and problem-solving A LOT. So maybe it's ok for our camping trips to involve a little luxury and ease.

Or maybe our next trip will involve backpacks and dehydrated dinners instead of down comforters and 3-course meals to make up for our sissiness.

Either way, we'll be sure and document the entire thing on our iPhones so we don't lose any of our technological prowess to actual creative thinking...

I bet that water is about 45°.

Sunsets are for lovers.

I like how the rocks look like stacks of capsized crackers.