Friday, August 22, 2014

One Year In

This week marks the one-year anniversary of my move to Santa Ynez (Mr. W's came later, of course). This is the furthest I've ventured from Los Angeles in all my 38 years, and the longest I've ever stayed away. In college, I lasted only 7 months in Orange County before moving back to my hometown to be near my boyfriend and finish out my education with a 45-minute commute.

It still feels a little strange to be away from LA. Over the past couple weeks, I've had to make trips down, and the same sense washes over me as I coast into familiar territory: I'm HOME. Memories sit on street corners. Comfort creeps in as favorite friends and restaurants and shops come back into my field of view. There's a lightness in knowing that I can run any errand in a few minute's time.

Mr. W gives me a hard time because I still say "When we go home," when I'm talking about trips south. "This is your home now," he reminds me.

And it sort of feels like home. The routine of our days, the hills outside our sliding glass doors, symphony of crickets, creaking of the mid-century floors in the hallway—it all feels right and relaxed. The cats stretch out in patches of sunlight on the living room floor like they've been living here for years. And when I wind my way up highway 154 from Santa Barbara, snaking through San Marcos Pass, past Lake Cachuma, and the stretches of green fields, I feel a strong sense of Peace. And Possibility.

Just not yet Home.

In spite of the foreignness that still lingers over our adorable town, we're very happy. We love what we have discovered here so far.

Every person we've met has been great. Our neighbors couldn't be more wonderful. The friends we've been introduced to are exactly the kind of people I'd order to have in my life. I've even really enjoyed my recent dentist and dermatologist appointments. And don't get me started on how much I love my vet.

We have so much space here—enough for a dozen fruit trees and a flock of chickens and trucks and RVs in the driveway. We have a farm stand up the road from us with fresh organic produce available 24/7. There's a cheese shop in town that not only has some of the most delicious dairy products around, but also one of the sweetest owners ever. I love that we recognize clerks from the hardware store when we're out to dinner. And that people wave at one another when they drive past each other on our street.

The Santa Ynez Valley is truly an incredible place to live.

And it irks me that somewhere with crumbling freeway pavement and too many strip malls and teeth-gritting traffic feels homier than it does here. I really cannot wait for the day when that switch flips and the windmills of Solvang and vineyards of Santa Rita make me feel more at home than the bright lights of Hollywood.

Until then, we'll keep feathering our nest. Making it more and more our own. Connecting with people in our community. Learning the land around us.

Building our home where one didn't used to exist.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Magical Journey Through Kitchen Renovation Land

Hey kids! Want to go on an exciting adventure? Through the swirly-twirly-gumdrop forest of kitchen renovations? YES! Well, come on! Climb aboard and I'll take you there!

We'll begin our journey in one the scariest parts of the land: Asbestos Alley. Be sure to hold your breath while we're going through here or ya could come out the other side with permanent lung damage!

Moving right along, we'll go through the tunnel of wonder to visit Dining Room Depot. Here you can easily grab a soda or stick of string cheese while you sit at your makeshift day-job desk. Maximum convenience.

Down river in the Wine and Coffee Shire, you'll see a shiny array of appliances all stacked together like something out of The Jetsons. While brewing espresso, you can heat up a bean bag to put on your rotator cuff that's sore from swinging a sledgehammer. Feel free to pour yourself a glass of grenache there, too!

In Guest Bedroom Gorge, you'll find a handy knife block station right underneath the blender and east of the dried pasta supply. I can't think of a better assortment of items to make visiting guests feel welcome!

Linen Closet Landing offers just about anything you might need to dine, bathe, or season your favorite meal. I think the collection of Kate Spade plates and Riedel wine glasses really enhance the sheet sets and wash cloths—don't you?

Our final stop is Hold Your Water Hollow. Once used as a bathroom, this cozy little plot now serves as a kitchen—complete with a state-of-the-art toaster oven, big smelly trashcan, dish washing sink, and dish draining bathtub. Hand soap is still available in these parts, but showering and all other business (#1 and #2) has been relocated to Dustville, formerly known as Tiny Bathroom Cove.

Unfortunately the bridge to Master Bedroom Mesa collapsed under the weight of about 14 giant boxes of kitchen stuff that is now residing in the closet, next to nightstands, and under a desk. Access to this region is strictly limited to the two crazy people who created this mess...

That concludes our journey through Kitchen Renovations Land! I hope you had a good time. And although I don't recommend trying to turn your estate into a setup like ours, I can say that cooking rice a crock pot and using a wok on top of the BBQ is easier than you might think. So maybe it's not so bad after all. Have a great day and keep your steam engines chugging. 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Farming Is Hard...Unless You're Not Trying

We did get one little pumpkin this summer and the tomatoes have been slowly rolling in—along with a mystery gourd we think was an unripe spaghetti squash.

Way back when Mr. W and I were starting to dream about moving to Santa Ynez, we thought we'd come up here and start a mini farm, maybe raise some goats and grow grapes so we could make cheese and wine and be happy homesteaders. It all seemed SO easy. And now, I laugh at that memory.

The gigantic garden we planted back in April has mostly become a weed conservatory, with only a few veggies holding their ground. Our kale was infested with aphids in the spring and now has white flies. The corn got some sort of fungus, so out of about twenty stalks, we got two edible cobs. All of our melon plants died and we think the local deer munched down most of the squash. Our tomatoes are just starting to ramp up production and summer is nearly over.

We thought we were going to have fruits and veggies coming out our ears, but it turns out this whole farming thing is harder than expected. Which is funny because in Hollywood, it always seemed so easy.

But of course, like our rogue tomato that took over the backyard down south, we have some volunteers that have popped up and are doing great. Why is it always the stuff you don't plant that seems to thrive? It feels like a dating analogy: As soon as you stop trying, everything falls into place...

We didn't plant these, but they're growing like weeds! They must be ten feet tall now.

The spaghetti squash that ate the side yard.

We've talked about taking a different approach to large lower yard garden next year—putting up deer fence and laying down weed block fabric before we plant. But maybe we should just haphazardly throw seeds around the yard and let whatever wants to grow, grow. Or we can always just visit the farmstand up the street....

These girls are growing like crazy, too. We're hoping in the next month or two they'll start to lay for us!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Good Reason for Vanity

When Mr. W and I got serious about renovating the main "seahorse" bathroom in our house, one of the first things he did was get a cost estimate for a new custom vanity. The existing vanity had been built with the house in 1959 and didn't reflect the more modern aesthetic either of us prefer. However, the estimate for a new one didn't reflect the spending habits either of us prefer: $2800. Twenty-Eight Benjamins for some nice wood and nails. No thank you.

I immediately went into creative problem-solving mode and suggested that we try prying off the rounded drawer fronts to see if we could somehow create flush-front drawers with the existing vanity structure.

Bingo. We got one of the fronts off and suddenly our vanity future was clear. We would make the drawers flush with the frame, remove the cabinet doors altogether and turn it into an open-front style that was half wood veneered, half painted. I immediately went online and started shopping for cute chrome baskets...

After stripping the paint from the old vanity (and yes, it was good old lead-based so we have to take the paint chips to a hazardous waste facility), we painted the interior with a custom mix from Dunn-Edwards, and then had to figure out how to attach the walnut veneer whilst keeping the grain intact across the drawer fronts. It made my pits sweaty just thinking about it.

But Mr. W is like a wood veneer savant. He somehow cut every hole perfectly and when it came time to contact cement that veneer paper to the actual wood, he matched it up like a Shadchan setting up a life-long love affair. Amazing feat, let me tell ya.

He finished the interior sides of the cubbies with walnut veneer tape and then stained it with a natural wood stain and a satin poly finish.  

Look at that gorgeous grain!

He also veneered a shelf to match. And he's currently working on a wood frame to go around the mirror.

Yes, a couple of the seahorses survived the reno!

Even the cats dig the new setup!

In case you want one more comparison, here's a little before and after action:

We are so happy with how it all turned out. And the seahorses don't seem to mind it either.