Monday, December 24, 2012

Citrus Season in So Cal

I remember once when I was a little girl, my Grandma Hetherington told me that when she was young, she would get something like a book and an orange for Christmas. An orange for Christmas? I couldn't believe my ears. I was shocked that something so invaluable and plentiful—that actually grew on trees—could be considered a gift. Now I wonder if we'd all be better off with small tokens like that instead of the extravagant things we all seem to want and need...

I was thinking about this story when I set off into the front yard yesterday with my fruit picker. If you're not familiar with this tool, it's a long pole with a sort of clawed basket attached to one end. As you can see from the picture above, our trees are ridiculously weighted with oranges right now. And although my picker and I spent a good thirty minutes defruiting, we barely made a dent. I did get hit in the head a couple of times by oranges that bounced out of the basket—I'm sure I was an entertaining sight for any neighbors watching.

Here's what I ended up with after my mini harvest attempt:


I didn't count my fruity booty, but I bet there are somewhere between 60-80 oranges there. And the tree looks exactly the same as when I started. I think its power is so great, everything in the front yard it turning orange with envy.


By far, my favorite pick from the day was this little mangler that looked like a deflated orange balloon. Or... well, we'll leave it at the balloon comparison...

While I was playing farmer, Mr. W was doing his own work with some citrus, making baklava (which requires just a hint of lemon). The kitchen smelled awfully yummy when I came back inside.

And now we get to look forward to having a little bit of this with Christmas dessert tomorrow night:

One of the many upsides of marrying a half Greek boy! And there's something so much more meaningful about a present like this than a new iPad or cashmere sweater. Grandma Hetherington was onto something...

Happy Holidays, blog readers! Wishing you lots of love and laughter and adventure from now into the New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Two Weekends in Santa Ynez: A Pictorial Review

 Look what I made Saturday night!

Before I lived with Mr. W, I remember feeling like his house was a sort of haven. I would come over on the weekends and feel like I was at a mini resort. I wasn't far from home, but I was far enough out of reach that it felt like an escape. There always seemed to be time to read a magazine over breakfast or catch up on my latest novel before dinner.

My new haven is our Santa Ynez house. The drive up the California coast—with the expanse of blue water keeping me company out the driver's side window—seems to slowly, steadily calm my soul. By the time I arrive in our semi-circular drive, I'm filled with gratitude.

I hope this feeling lasts after we move. It's become fleeting for me in Hollywood, and I hope the calm I feel in Santa Ynez doesn't dissolve as our furniture and regular daily life take up residence in the house.

Since Mr. W is in Vancouver, I've gone up on my own the past two weekends to chip away at the seemingly endless to-do list there. It's coming along. It makes me smile bigger every time I visit. Here's a little recap of some of the progress...

 I don't know how the previous owner went about picking the paint colors, but pretty much everything was red or yellow. And let me tell ya, those aren't the easiest colors to cover with new paint. But after who knows how many hours of taping and brushing and rolling, I made it happen.

During one of our first weekends at the house, we went to an estate sale in the neighborhood (which apparently are the thing to do on Saturdays up there—the traffic on that street was crazy) and I developed a crush on these geode bookends. I picked them up for $15.

I felt even better about the purchase when I saw these on One Kings Lane a couple weeks ago:

Our other bedroom at the house feels a lot like my apartment with my old duvet cover on the bed. Mr. W doesn't love the girlie grandma-ness of the room, but I adore it.

A dear friend made us a piece of art for Christmas, and I thought it was the perfect addition to the room, with its fun cheery message and bright paint colors. She made it in honor of Mr. W's scheme to grow lemon trees with the seeds he brought back from our honeymoon in Amalfi.

In addition to picture-hanging, painting, and fire-making, I hemmed all of the curtains, pruned some of the flowers, re-affixed weather stripping to the front door, and taped off the hallway so we can paint it when we go back up after Christmas. There are 8 sets of cupboard/doorway molding in that dang hallway. It took me 2 hours to tape it all. But it's worth it. All just part of creating the dream.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sorry Christmas, You've Been Downsized

I am so behind.

Behind on blogging (I cannot believe it has been almost 13 days since my last confession). Behind on reading my favorite blogs (Hi Nilsa, Sizzle, Mandy, Meg, GH, Lesley, Jeff, Janice, Brett, Chantel, Christine, Autumn, Susie, and anyone else who has posted in the last 3 weeks or so). Behind on my coaching homework and all the big planning and scheming I need to do to start moving the direction I want to go next year.

Even with Mr. W working on a film in Vancouver, I cannot seem to find enough time to get caught up.

Between work projects, house projects, edits to the work projects, fixes to the house projects, holiday shopping and a handful of social obligations, my free time supply is registering a big fat zero.

And that is why I decided to downsize Christmas this year.

I asked Mr. W weeks ago if we could skip exchanging gifts. He poo-pooed the idea. So instead, I took the easy way out with my siblings and siblings-in-law and decided to give them each a weekend at the Santa Ynez house, rather than buy tangible presents. And then I did a large portion of my other shopping from the comfort of my couch.

Also, for the first time in my adult life, I don't have a full-sized Christmas tree. The thought of getting the tree and decorating it felt overwhelming to me. So Mr. W and I went Charlie Brown-style, and picked up a potted, pint-sized fir instead. I kind of like it. And we can plant it in our new back yard after the holidays are over. But it's still a teeny bit sad to look in the corner and not see a 5 - 6 footer twinkling against the Hollywood skyline. In addition to the many balls and baubles that didn't make their way onto the tree, I also left a lot of other seasonal decor in the box this year. I'll call it the bah humbox.

Sadly, I don't want to be a Scrooge. I really want to enjoy the holiday. This is my favorite time of year and it bums me out that so many other things are demanding my attention right now.

Here's to hoping life calms down in 2013. That is, if we all make it past the end of the Mayan calendar next week...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

What We're Making: The Realities of a Lamp Revamp

Over the last few years, I've developed a sort of addiction to DIY and home decor blogs. And HGTV... And magazine articles about home stuff... And fire sale sites like Joss & Main and One Kings Lane...

Addict that I am, it was no surprise that I found myself wanting to try out some of my decorating DIY skills when we got the new house. And after a visit to Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Pasadena, I found a worthy candidate to be my guinea pig. She was only $10 and I thought her cute pineappley middle would look quirky and fun in one of our bedrooms.

I bought her back in September, long before we painted the bathroom tile around the Santa Ynez guest bath shower. So, folks, this was the first time in my life I had ever used spray paint. Crazy, right? 

I am officially a fan. In fact, I've since sprayed the $35 IKEA bed frame I bought on Craigslist (you can see the edge of it in the very top picture of this post), along with the mirror frame above, and a few knickknacks. And I'm not planning to stop there. I find myself continually spying new things I could aim a nozzle at. 

My big lamp plans became a bit foiled when I purchased a lampshade at Home Goods, and it got squished by the bed frame in the back of my Prius. Yes, I put an entire bed frame in my tiny hatchback. And yes, it was totally the previous owner's fault it smooshed my lampshade because he wasn't exactly gentle when he loaded the frame into the car. You get what you pay for, I guess...

Very sad little crinkled lampshade... Thankfully, the crinkles were fairly well hidden by the fabric I glued around the drum.

Now, I've seen lamp redos on sites like my beloved Young House Love, and I think even on Pinterest. And they always look so easy. Like all you need is a glue gun and a good attitude and you'll end up with a professional-looking end product.

Mine may look okay from a distance, but the interior seams are totally uneven and frankly a little ghetto. If lampshades can be ghetto. 

And lookie there, you can see one of the dimples in the shade up on the left. Argh. 

The other funny thing about this whole endeavor—between the lamp itself, the shade, the paint and the fabric, I think this ended up costing me about $36. So really, I probably could have just purchased a brand new lamp that had a perfectly covered shade. 

Live and learn, lamp DIYers, live and learn. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Verbal Ineptitude: Top Hits from the Family

For a long, long while now, my dear mother has suffered from some sort of crossed wire or misfiring connection between her mouth and her brain. When it happens, we think she probably knows what she wants to say, but as soon as the thought reaches her vocal chords, all hell breaks loose. One of the most famous instances of this was the time we were being obnoxious and she said, "You're making the sperm in my neck hurt!" instead of saying something about the bone spur she thought she had in her neck. She definitely got our attention with that one.

Or there was the time when she pointed out the window of our motorhome when we were camping and exclaimed, "Look at the delicate!" It was a swan. I think maybe she was going for pelican or duck...who knows... There was a similar instance when she saw two blimps in the sky at once, and yelled, "Twimps!" But not in that I-just-made-up-a-clever-word kind of way.

It wasn't a huge surprise when, over the years, my sister began displaying similar challenges with her ability to speak. Once when I was a kid and I guessed a Wheel of Fortune puzzle before she did, she looked at me and said, "You snow bitch." We still have no idea where that one came from.

And then there was the one last year when my niece said something about the Macy's in our local mall and my sister said, "When I was a little boy, we didn't have Macy's." No one in the family was aware that my sister had ever been a little boy.

Last weekend, it became clear that my eldest niece is also afflicted by the verbal ineptitude gene. My mom, sister, and I had gone to visit my niece at college to celebrate her 18th birthday. After finishing a nice dinner, something came up about a night she had spent at my mom and dad's house while my sister and brother-in-law were out of town. She was complaining about how awful it was because, according to her, my parents' cats were having sex all night. "They're brother and sister," I told her. "They don't have sex."

She looked at me with a mix of confidence and irritation and said through narrowed eyes, "Cats don't know email."

About midway through the sentence, I think she realized it was going to come out wrong. Apparently she meant to say that cats don't know what incest is, so they very likely could have been trying to mate. But somehow "email" got thrown in there instead. It was fortunate I didn't pee my pants from laughing so hard.

As I racked my brain for additional points of evidence on how this tragic disease has affected my family, I began to think that my brother and dad may have been immune. But on Thanksgiving night when the family began talking about my great aunt and uncle who met and married on a whim a couple days later, my dad said very seriously, "They only knew themselves very long." Pretty sure he was trying to say something about how they didn't know each other very long.

I'm going to keep tabs on the family to see if this ailment continues to get worse. I think my brother and I may be the only remaining Hetheringtons that haven't come down with a serious case.

Mr. W on the other hand may have a related strain. Between the Costco hamburger bun cleavage story, old lady wash cloth face, and the time he told me I looked "good-sized" for my weight, it's clear the synapses don't always fire in his favor. I just hope he doesn't come down with a full-blown oral disability like so many of my family members.

But if he does, I assure you there will be many a blog post documenting his speeches.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

More Moronic Moves and Some House Before & Afters

After last week's unfortunate incident with the nail polish on the couch, I thought my marriage karma had miraculously turned itself around. Mr. W wasn't even really able to pick up my faint smear on the couch, so when we left for Santa Ynez Saturday morning, I thought I was irrevocably back in his good graces.

And then we opened the new faux wood blinds to hang in the kitchen...

As Mr. W pulled them from the box, I said, "I sure hope they're the right size." It was like one of those moments where as soon as you say the words, you know it's all going south. Like, "I sure hope that seagull doesn't poop on me," or "I sure hope the alterations on my dress are right." It's like a done doody deal as soon as you verbalize the hope.

Mr. W carried the blinds to the large kitchen window, and sure enough, they were the wrong size. Not because Lowes had mis-cut them, but because I had mis-measured the window.


We had to go across the street and borrow a hack saw from our darling neighbors so Mr. W could cut each individual slat of the blinds. He was not thrilled with me at this point...

Then I went to work spray painting the frame of our guest bathroom shower—the tile was really ugly and we realized we could just paint it white until we demo the bathroom next year. The spray paint canister was a little different from others I've used recently and when I saw a plastic pluggy-looking thing attached to the nozzle, I pulled it out. Then proceeded to spray giant, unruly drops of white paint all over the inside of the shower.


Thankfully, Mr. W is smart and told me to reinsert the plug—which was actually some sort of spray diffuser—and it was smooth sailing after that.

Seriously, that man is a saint. He even bought me a card for the five-year anniversary of our first date. I do not know what I did to deserve him, but I'm certainly not paying him back very well with all my home renovation disasters.

Here are a couple peeks at some of the stuff we worked on this past weekend. Just in case you were wondering how the future wine-making facility is coming along... (Please excuse the grainy pictures. I think a setting was wonky on my camera. Add it to the list of things I screwed up this weekend...)

The guest bath was a bit frightful when we first saw it...

We think it looks much lighter and brighter and inviting now. 

The retro diner booth and table setup was pretty cute, but I'm partial to the new table and chairs...

I bought the fabric to recover the chairs at IKEA and, although Mr. W thinks it's kind of an "old lady" print, I dig it. 

There's a before pic of the whole kitchen here in case you want a reminder. 

It's really nice to be whittling away at the very long to-do list for the house. By Thanksgiving, we should have the outside painted and quite a few more touches complete on the inside. If only we could go live there now...

Friday, November 9, 2012

When Your Baby Becomes Your Daddy AKA Oooooh Busted!

I'm writing this post because Mr. W is on a plane right now. So I know I can delay my punishment. Here's what happened while he was gone this week...

I was sitting on our relatively new couch, still in my jammies at about noon on Tuesday, when I noticed some very chipped polish on one of my toenails. I went to the medicine cabinet, grabbed the appropriate bottle, and settled back onto the couch to touch up my toe.

Veeery carefully, I opened the bottle, scraped the superfluous polish from the brush, and swiped it across my nail. I thought I had been very diligent about making sure the brush and its wand were free of any extra drips, but all of the sudden, one fell out of nowhere right onto the new couch.

My first thought was MR. W IS GOING TO KILL ME.

In my mind, he morphed from my husband into my father and I knew I was going to be grounded for life for being so irresponsible. It's funny how those moments of spouse-as-parent can pop up in a marriage. I know friends who have worried about minor car collisions because they think they'll get in big trouble with their significant other. I know women who hide shopping purchases because they're trying to avoid a scolding, and men who lie about how many beers they consumed because they don't want a tongue lashing from the Mrs.

As quickly as I could, I tried to transfer the dark pink polish from the sofa to my fingers. I thought if I could work fast, maybe it wouldn't sink into the fabric at all. Wrong... I raced to the bathroom, cursing and palpitating, grabbed the polish remove and a q-tip and returned to the scene of the crime. The polish remover didn't seem to do a dang thing to remove the color from the couch.

Thank God for Google.

I went online, found some tips that involved spraying water on the spot and using a clean cloth to dab it instead of just a q-tip. It seemed to lessen the severity of the spill, although if you look closely, there is still some visible evidence of it. We'll see if Mr. W notices it when he gets home tonight.

I'm hoping he won't. I really don't want to lose my phone privileges for the month...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sweetness Follows

 We thought our butternut squash vine was dried up and done. But in the last few weeks,
it's sprouted new green growth and even some baby butternut buds. I look forward to
roasting it through the winter.

Last week (or rather a week prior to this past Saturday) marked the one-year anniversary of my layoff from corporate America. It's sort of strange that it's been an entire year, yet it feels like it could have been two or three by now. The daily commute to the office feels very, very far away.

Looking back on the last 365+ days, I can see lots of things that have been gained. The main thing lost seems to be income, but right now it feels worth it to have this time and freedom to sort out plans and get prepared for the big next steps. And the bills are still getting paid, just not with nearly as much wiggle room as there used to be.

I think one of the things that has made this whole experience as smooth as it's been was that from the day we found out we were losing our jobs at Yahoo!, I surrendered to the idea and took it as an opportunity to experience something new or grow in some way. (In case you didn't stop by last week, I wrote a post about surrender on The Path to Wonderful.) I tried to accept it as almost a gift—a chance to have free time for visiting Mr. W if he went on location; an opportunity to start pursuing other passions that had been percolating inside me; a shot at proving I was capable of becoming my own "business."

The teeny olive tree in the backyard has several plump rounds of fruit on it
and they've all started to change color. Not yet sure what we'll do with them,
but the transformation is fun to watch.

Yes, I still have to ask Mr. W a million questions about billing and taxes and write-offs. But I'm hoping my sliver of savvy will continue increasing with every passing pay stub.

Some mornings when I'm still in my workout clothes at 11:00, talking to the cats as I check freelance project emails, I wonder if this is really the way things are supposed to be for me. I think back to the free chai teas at the coffee bar and the hushed chitchat with my favorite coworkers. I miss it. And sometimes I think my new routine of sleeping in later and staring at my laptop screen until 11:30 every night isn't great for my health.

But then I choose to surrender again.

I recognize that I'm in the midst of what I hope will be a big shift. I'm working on paving a new career path. And soon Mr. W and I will be settling into a new home. This in-between time is a blessing. A luxury. A chance to turn inward and work on all the details of how we want our next phase to look.

Pardon the blurry shot. Up until about a week or two ago, I thought these were green pepper
plants. After Mr. W told me they were red, I was excited to see one of the fruits finally turning. 

I'm not sure any of it would have ever happened if it weren't for that layoff. I'm not sure we would have made some of the leaps we've made if we hadn't also experienced tremendous, heartbreaking loss this year. You gain a lot of perspective in the face of loss.

I've gained so much since last October 28th, yet I'm not even sure I can accurately articulate it all yet. But I can tell you I appreciate the freedom. The freedom to do my own thing is equaled in value by the freedom I have right now to make mistakes and figure things out.

 We finally picked the pumpkin. Couldn't bring ourselves to carve it, so now it sits
on the back steps waiting for us to decide how to use it. Risotto? Pumpkin pie? A bookend?

Maybe we all have that kind of freedom all of the time. But I'm sure glad I got the kick I needed to finally recognize it, and the willingness to surrender to it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

This Girl Ain't Getting Any Younger

Last Sunday, I ran my 6th half marathon with my beloved friend SBW. As with most of the races I've done in the past, I found myself vowing to never run another in the weeks leading up to it, but as soon as it was done, I started wondering which one I should do next. Especially if I can wear rainbow legwarmers and palm tree earrings again. Rock me Amadeus. Thankfully SBW and I weren't the only two in costume—the 80s aerobics instructor look was actually quite popular among other runners.

The great thing about running with SBW is that she's totally chill about training. Which worked well for me this time because I just couldn't seem to find time to train properly. Normally I try to get in 11-12 miles for my final "long run" but SBW and I only got in 8ish. I think if I could push myself to run more regularly when I'm not training for a specific race, my body might stop being such a train wreck during my 13.1s. But not this time...

Last year when Mr. W and I ran in Healdsburg, my knee went south on me around mile 7. Since then, I've had issues with my achilles (sometimes it likes to pop or slip or do some other funky old lady tendon thing), my big toes have gone in and out of being stiff (one even swelled up after a particularly active weekend of DIYing at the new house), and in general, my body just feels a heck of a lot older than it was when I ran my first race in 2008.

I thought I'd be in decent shape on Sunday because we were doing a lot of alternating between walking and running...and then we hit mile 12. Suddenly my IT band decided to launch all out warfare. I wanted to walk. I wanted to crawl. I tried to find a gait that was less painful. I had warned SBW earlier in the race that if I happened to have any issues with my knees, I might need her to not talk to me (like I asked Mr. W to do last year) and she was awesome about it. As soon as I went silent, so did she, and she only gave me a couple reassuring, "You can make it"s when I let out a grunt or a whimper.

I'm sure I'll run another half next year. Maybe even Santa Ynez. And maybe my decrepit body will somehow regenerate into the 10-minute-mile "powerhouse" it once was. Or maybe I'll just add a knee brace to my sweat band/hot pink shirt ensemble...

Monday, October 22, 2012


When I was a single girl, I often felt like I was living a dual life. I had my apartment, social circle, and niche in my cute little town—then I had the life I lived at my boyfriend's house. For the sake of niceness, let's pretend that boyfriend was only ever Mr. W. 

It was like every weekend I packed a bag and drove 25 minutes away to go enter into my altered existence. In my other house. With my other people. For a long time, this double duty way of operating was exciting. I got to escape to fantasy land four times a month! But after awhile, I just wanted the two lives to become one so I could relax and quit packing and unpacking clothes and all my other important lady items.

Then, of course, I moved into Mr. W's place and missed my cute, girlie apartment for about 4 months. Go figure...

Since we received the keys to our new/future house in Santa Ynez, I find myself feeling again like I'm living a split life. One foot is in Hollywood, enjoying familiar comforts, plugging away at the job that has long served me; the other foot is in Santa Ynez, eager to take a step forward into the realm of wine country life coaching retreats and full-blown backyard farming.

And just like when I was dating Mr. W, every time I have to leave the "other" life, I just want to lie on the floor and have a small crying tantrum.

The new place is just so wonderfulllll...

This past weekend, we went up to work on the house and were lucky enough to get a boatload of help from my parents.

Cute, aren't they?

We didn't just get twice as much stuff done as we would have if it'd been just the two of us. We got about fifteen times as much stuff done. My parents are expert DIYers and almost stubbornly productive. My dad insisted that he had a blast power-washing the house.

However, he was so wet when he finished, my mom hung his clothes on our back fence to dry. Tighty-whites included. Yes Santa Ynez, we are the crazy LA people who put our underwear on display for the entire neighborhood to see...

Here are just a few snapshots of the progress we made Saturday and Sunday:

I'm in love with my new rug. It was a steal on—75% off, plus free shipping. I think she's so pretty, I'd let Mr. W take her on as a sister wife.

My mom did a bang-up job of recovering the light fixture with a pretty, soft grey, brushed silky fabric. She's like a sharpshooter with a glue gun.

We did some work to the bedrooms, too, but I'll save those for another post. Still lots of items on the to-do list, but at least it feels like we're making a dent. The funny thing is, this is all just interim renovating. Sometime in 2014, we'll be gutting the entire kitchen and both bathrooms. But for now, we'll enjoy our seahorses and retro ash cabinets. And maybe we'll miss them when our dual lives reunite and we're finally living together under our new roof.