Saturday, April 26, 2014

Guess What? Chicken Butt.

When I got laid off from my first advertising gig, I took a few months off before looking for another job and worked as a nanny for two-month old twins. Their awesome mommy ran a tight ship and we kept a feeding/diaper change journal, in which we wrote down every bottle, every pee, and every poop. I'm sure they'll love reading that when they're eighteen...

Never since then have I been so focused on someone else's bowel habits. Wait, scratch that...I guess I've spent months monitoring the litterbox comings and goings of my geriatric cat. But I had no idea that Mr. W and I would be on chicken butt watch every day this week. The things he neglects to tell me....

One of our new girls had what appeared to be "pasty butt" the day after we got her, so I Googled it and discovered that they can die if their little tooshie holes get plugged and they aren't able to poop.

And thus began a journey I never imagined Mr. W and I to be taking of downy-feather butt cleaning with warm water and q-tips and many long moments of observation to make sure our girls are going as they should be.

If Mr. W had told me I might have to clean little butts, I'm not sure I would have agreed to adopt the chicks. But now that we're here, there's no going back... This may be our closest voyage into parenthood.

Much like with the babies I nannied for and my four nieces when they were infants, I'm totally captivated by the chicks. Everything they do is fascinating and adorable. Mr. W and I have been sitting side-by-side on the guest bed next to their pen watching them for hours since they arrived. They're growing up so fast, it almost makes me misty-eyed.

If you follow me on Facebook, you already know where we netted out with their names, but in case you were wondering, I rallied hard and had to resort to bribery (I can't tell you what...this is a family blog...) to get Mr. W to concede to the names I fell in love with. As far as I'm concerned, there's just nothing else that would have been appropriate to name them. Well, maybe Sandy, Rizzo, Frenchie, and Jan would have been okay, but now that I've met the girls, their coloring is just too perfectly aligned with their namesakes.

Here was my first bargaining chip:

And here are our lovely ladies:

You guys, I am IN LOVE.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Turning Thirty-Eight (and Forty)

The day before my 38th birthday, I cut out of work early and drove down to Santa Barbara to do a little shopping and run some errands. As I wound down the curves of the San Marcos Pass, a familiar song came on the radio. Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten"—which was the theme song from the terrible reality show, The Hills.

When I stayed outside of London with Mr. W in 2009, I watched The Hills every day, longing for California sunshine instead of the summer gloom that hung over our flat. I couldn't help but smile at the silliness of the memory as I drove along with the California coastline in my sights. So much had changed since that summer.

I was turning 38, I was married, and as I was cruising down the mountain toward one of the dreamiest cities I know, Mr. W was en-route to our new house and new life to—finally—begin permanently living with me again. I was suddenly struck by the image of us driving toward each other, like two lovers running across a crowded airport after having been apart for too long. I couldn't help myself. I started to overflow with gratitude and cry.

Natasha's words rang out from the radio, "Today is where your book begins. The rest is still unwritten."


I enjoyed some fruitless shopping on State Street and then Mr. W called and said he was close. We decided to meet at a Mexican restaurant for some tacos and beer. I felt like the luckiest girl ever. Getting my husband back (and celebrating with chips and salsa) was the best birthday present I could have asked for.

We spent the next day puttering around the house and tasting wine at the Santa Barbara County Vintner's Festival. It was a great way to ring in my 38th.

Four days after that, Mr. W turned the big four-oh, so we took off on a roadtrip to see part of the country he had never visited. I grew up taking summer vacations at Lake Powell every year, so Southern Utah and Northern Arizona have always held a special place in my heart. Traveling through them with Mr. W made that place grow even larger.

We started off with a birthday dinner at some dear friends' house in St. George, Utah. Then we headed to Bryce Canyon for a day, Zion National Park, Lake Powell, the Grand Canyon, and finished with a night in Flagstaff. It was a whirlwind trip with lots of driving and new step records on our Fitbits that left our feet aching, but we had a great time.

Bryce National Park

Hoodoos in Bryce Canyon

Selfie amongst the hoodoos

Emerald Pools Trail, Zion National Park
Lake Powell, Arizona (and Utah)

Antelope Canyon, Lake Powell

The Grand Canyon, to which no picture can do justice

Now we are back home and the life we've been dying to live—the one of home renovations and small-scale farming and chicken raising and wine drinking—will finally start in earnest.

The book is about to begin.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Weedwacking and West Nile Disease

Something has taken up residence in my stomach today and has forced me to be couch-bound with a cold washcloth on my forehead for most of the day. No, I'm not's not that kind of stomach bug...

Naturally, I decided that I probably contracted West Nile or Lyme Disease or some other bug-born illness from doing too much yard work and cleaning the garage (to make room for the new kitchen cabinets coming). Mr. W insists that I just have a wimpy immune system. But I don't know how that could be when this body kicked so much butt over the weekend.

On Saturday, Mr. W taught me how to use the weedwacker, and I took our side/garden yard from this:

To this:

It was sort of like vacuuming, but it smelled like green smoothies. My biceps vibrated for about 3 hours afterwards, but I felt so cool and accomplished, I didn't mind the pain.

I will say I wish the yard still looked like it did when Mr. W covered the ground with straw. But this whole country living thing is really just an ongoing battle between man and nature. We can't always win.

The good news is, the side yard has seen some exciting action over the last couple weeks. Our planter boxes sent up some teeny baby asparagus sprouts (which sadly we cut off because Farmer Maris said we had to).

And the strawberries are starting to flower.

In spite of being on its last legs, the little tree near the chicken coop has also produced some fruit. We're not sure whether they're apricots or peaches, but we'll take whatever we can get. (Isn't baby fruit just the cutest?)

The coop itself is also coming along very nicely—which is great because our chicks arrive in about 2 weeks. We just need to finish getting the metal siding up and construct the outdoor run and we'll be good to go. I'm sure Guinevere, Rosalind, Vivian, and Cecilia will be very comfortable there. Especially if Mr. W builds them a chicken swing.

In the lower yard, we planted enough to feed an army this summer. A variety of tomatoes, peppers, and squash, plus pumpkins, corn, and cantaloupe. Feel free to come over for dinner at your leisure...

Want to read about the Zen of gardening I recently discovered? Head over to The Path to Wonderful