Sunday, August 26, 2012

Inner-Child Indulgences and Adult Exhaustion

This weekend was a kid extravaganza for Mr. Wonderful and me.

Friday night, we had my cousin, her husband, and their six and four-and-a-half year-old boys over for a backyard campout. We hatched the plan a couple months ago during a barbecue at our house, during which the boys played "paleontologists" in the backyard for hours. They were having so much fun, that when my cousin K mentioned wanting to do a tent-in-the-backyard night, I suggested they come to our house for it. Little did I know that their 10' x 10' tent would just barely fit on our largest patch of grass.

We ate burgers and hot dogs, roasted 'smores over the open fire of our gas stove, and even managed to squeeze in a viewing of Kung Fu Panda. At some point, one of the boys referred to Mr. W as "Uncle Ben."

His name is not Ben, so we all got a huge kick out of this. No idea where he pulled that one from, but we've decided Mr. W should go into the rice business.

Before bed, we inflated two air mattresses and squeezed them into the tent, building a nest of fleece blankies on each. We said goodnight to the husbands, who slept inside of course, and spent a few minutes making shadow puppets on the wall before turning off our flashlight. Then I spent the next 8 hours listening to the neighbor's TV, ghetto birds, sirens, the squeaking of bodies against air mattresses, and, at one point, the six-year-old—who sat up and started talking gibberish about someone needing to "turn off the fan."

I'm fairly certain I slept for a total of 7 minutes.

At 6:30 a.m. when both boys were bright-eyed, bushy tailed, Mr. W came outside and shushed us for being loud. Thankfully, he went back in the house and started making us breakfast.

Several pancakes and bacon strips later, it was time for the visiting clan to pack up and go home. And for Mr. W and me to stare at each other catatonically before taking a nap. We were back in bed by 9:15 a.m.

That night, we were invited to a laser tag birthday party. For a thirty-nine-year-old, naturally.

Neither of us had ever played laser tag before, so we weren't quite sure what to expect. What we got was pummeled by a small army of people under 4 feet tall. A lot of the party guests had brought along their kids so, in addition to lots of ear-piercing screams of joy in the maze's pre-entry room, we also got hit by a boatload of midget gunfire.

Kids are so super sneaky. They'd hide around corners—below our eye level—and blast us like they'd been doing it since birth. High-pitched little ninjas.

Again, we were exhausted when all was said and done.

Although I usually think of myself as a stunted adult, who is still probably about 77.8% kid inside, being around children all weekend made me realize that I am, in fact, an old lady.

I really did adore spending time with all the little ones this weekend. They're extremely entertaining. But I think the next camping trip and round of laser tag will likely involve a Glamp-ground in Washington and maybe laser vests that match our caveman outfits. Maybe we'll even play paleontologists...  

Friday, August 17, 2012

On Being Invisible

 Can you see my reflection in the little circle mirrors? Just barely, right? Kind of like my income.
That's the entryway of the house we're trying to buy, by the way. And the kitchen
we plan to completely gut at some point...

Apparently in the world of finance and home loans, you only count if you have two years of proof that you've existed as a sole proprietor. Eight+ months of freelance paychecks mean diddly squat. Steady monthly income is worthless in the eyes of underwriters.

Oh, the joys of buying a home. 

I asked Mr. W how he was feeling last night and he said he was sick to his stomach. We've been on a roller coaster ride all week trying to get our loan locked down for the house of our dreams in Santa Ynez. Everything seemed to be going swimmingly until our mortgage broker told us my income wouldn't be counted. That I was invisible.

Thankfully, Mr. W (and his queasy stomach) do well under pressure. He went right into problem-solving mode and with the help of a new (perhaps more seasoned) broker, creatively figured out how to convince the underwriters we deserved the loan. I will buy him an economy-sized bottle of TUMs as a thank you.

As he told me when we were buying our house in Burbank a couple years back, "It's not over until the keys are in your hand." So we're trying to temper any excitement we may have had about our offer being accepted. Heavy amounts of stress work wonders on tempering excitement...

I'm also trying not to take it too personally that I'm considered so financially insignificant to the loan officers of the world. Funny how no one thinks you could possibly lose a job if it's with another company but if you're self-employed, you're pretty much destined to be destitute with one false move.

I'm thankful that I have a hubby at my side whose bank statements balance out my invisibility. Because baby, we've got a vineyard to plant and some grapes to ferment!

Please keep your fingers crossed for us. This really is the starting point for our dream life.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hip Hip Hue-ray!

Our garden has made a whole lot of progress in the time since my last post about it. In fact, it's sort of beginning to slip into a late summer, dried, golden place—far away from the green stage it was in for so long. But when I shot these pictures, we were at the height of the rainbow.

With everything ripening around us, we've had some really delicious plates of caprese salad, figs and cambozola with honey, and even grilled butternut squash.

We're trying to enjoy everything in these last weeks of summer, with the intention of digging things up and planting our new, autumn garden soon.

If there's one thing that the garden reminds us of again and again it's that change is inevitable. Right when we're starting to enjoy something, its season shifts. So we better enjoy it while we've got it. And when it moves past its prime or even wilts before its time, we can take it out of the ground and put something new in its place.

These are important things to remember as we navigate our next couple of years. Our housing situation is a bit of a roller coaster, but we're hopeful in the end it will lead us to the colorful future we're craving. And if it doesn't, we'll just try to till the soil and replant. And when the conditions are right, I trust that we'll be able to grow and grow.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Pictorial Recap of the Non-Wonderful That Happens in These Parts

I just wrote a post over at The Path to Wonderful about gratitude and my new outlook on being thankful for EVERYTHING in my life. But I thought I'd expose a little more of the story over here because the pictures are kind of entertaining.

In addition to having a pile of furniture in our living room for the last 3 months (that we will now keep there until we know for certain whether we'll close escrow on the house we put an offer on in Santa Ynez), our backyard is in probably the worst disarray I've ever seen.

And those are the nice pictures of it. There are tools, empty plant containers, dirt and rocks pretty much strewn across every surface back there.

Our kitchen has also been the victim of chaos. First there was the dishwasher, which fortunately Mr. W was able to repair when it stopped functioning....

And then there was the washing machine. I've never seen Mr. W as dirty and greasy as he was the day he worked on replacing the bearings and a corroded spider bracket.

Despite the wonderfulness of the picture above, it wasn't enough—we had to buy a new washer on Sunday. And now that everything is somewhat calm around here, I'm vowing to praise the appliances, the pipes, the walls, the roof. I'm going to try to radiate gratitude so that nothing else falls apart around here before we move!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

House-Hunting Adventures in Santa Ynez


Mr. W and I started off our Saturday last weekend with a stop at Nojoqui Falls off the 101 in Santa Barbara County. Although the hike to the falls was a mere 10 minutes (not as challenging as we thought it might be) and the water flow was only a trickle, we were glad we stopped to explore what may become a nice future picnic spot.

From there, we went into town, enjoyed some delicious wines here, here and here, ate a few good meals and then met with our new real estate agent extraordinaire to check out some of the local opportunities.

This was the biggest and the smallest option, rolled into one. Although the house was only a one-bedroom, one bath, it sat smack in the middle of three acres of land.

It was roomier than we thought it would be and quite charming, but as we walked the property I immediately felt a sense of total overwhelm. Three acres was a lot more than we would probably ever need and even if we parceled off half of the land, we would then have to deal with getting it sold or building a second house on it—all a lot more work than I'm interested in doing (Mr. W is much more lax about this sort of thing).

There was also a dead animal of some sort on one of the trails that made me wonder what had wandered into the yard and eaten it. I'm not the hugest fan of mountain lions, ya know...

We also looked at this one which appears pretty nice from the outside but needed a lot of work inside. An elderly couple had been living there and in addition to being out-of-date, the house just felt kind of sad. It was dark inside, sort of depressing.

I think its yard was only about .89 acres but gazing out on it stirred up that same slightly overwhelmed feeling in my gut. It just didn't feel like the right fit.

And then we looked at this place...

Actually, this house was our first stop. And although we felt a strong pull toward it, we wanted to check out the other two just to be safe. This little mid-century cutie definitely needs some work—a new kitchen, two bathroom remodels and exterior and landscaping updates.

But the moment I walked inside, I just felt a sense of YES.

The one-acre yard is sort of split in two. The upper portion is well-kept and grassy; the lower portion is perfect for veggie and grape crops. Because it's situated sort of on a hill, the views are pretty fantastic. We could see the glider planes flying above Santa Ynez Airport. Right up Mr. W's alley...

I know you're not supposed to get attached to houses when you're looking, but I'm kind of in love with this one. Mr. W and I have had many long talks about it and it seems like we could remodel it in the fall before he heads off on his next movie set and then move sometime (at least, I could move and maybe he could stay behind and live in our guest house here) during his post-production schedule.

I mean, who wouldn't want to live in a neighborhood where you see this while driving down the road?

Yes, I quacked at them out the window and yes they quacked back. They even started to follow the car when we began to pull away. Adorable.

We don't know for certain where in town our home will be, but we do know that we've found the town that feels like home. Santa Barbara wine country, here we come!