Monday, April 24, 2017

More Usable Space and a Whole Lotta Redwood



When I first moved in with Mr. W 6 1/2 years ago, I remember being mildly horrified by the lack of storage space in his house. Where would I put my wrapping paper supplies and Rubbermaid tubs filled with old photo albums and collection of board games? Of course, I made everything fit by forcing Mr. W to rearrange and purge his belongings. {Sneaky brilliance}

In 2013 when we moved into our Santa Ynez house, we were both delighted by how much space we were gaining. We'd be able to fit every last Halloween costume, piece of scrap wood, and superfluous blanket and bedpillow. We never dreamed we'd fill it all, but fast forward 3 years and we were starting to burst at the seams. Between Mr. W's supply of RC helicopters, my mass of hoarded wine bottles for Etsy projects, every power tool known to man, and the real elephant in the room—an airplane Mr. W is building from scratch—we needed more room.

The most logical place to expand was to make over the one part of the house we pretty much never used: the breezeway.


Though it had a cute set of furniture on it like a little kitchen-adjacent lounge in which to drink martinis and read the evening post, we never, ever spent time out there. It was really just a dumping ground for garden tools, chicken feed bags, paint cans, or whatever else we didn't feel like putting away in its proper spot.

So up went a removable wall, and in went Mr. W's makeshift workshop space (allowing me to finally start parking in the garage again...) We're still working on the curb appeal here—we're midway through stripping and staining the beams by the front door so they tie into the new more modern panelling. And I'm sure there will be some further tweaking after that.



We bought a new garage door, too, which we both really dig.



I think once we get the kinks figured out, it'll all look really nice (except the hideous driveway...). And it's great that Mr. W has spillover space for his aeronautics endeavors now.

RIP Carrie Birdshaw :( :(




So now you may be wondering where the cute set of patio furniture went. Behold my friends, the recently added crown jewel of our backyard: Prince Pergola.



We knew we wanted to erect some sort of sun shade feature in the backyard and after seeing this beauty on Fixer Upper one night, Mr. W concocted a perfect design for it. We brought in some pros and it was up and casting shadows in about a week.

Fixer Upper inspiration pulled from Instagram



I swear it has changed the entire house. It feels like an extension of the living and dining room, which is exactly what we wanted. At least 3 times a week, I'm outside on my laptop working from the "outdoor office" soaking up some vitamin D. It's truly fantastic.




These guys like it too. But only from afar.


Looking forward to having some nice red Sangria under those gorgeous red beams this summer. Cheers!



Thursday, March 30, 2017

It's All Just Happening Too Fast


In less than two weeks, I'll be turning 41. It's been a whirlwind of a first year in this new decade, and I find myself wondering lately if anyone else gets the sense that the world is spinning faster than it used to. As we get older, does everything start to come flying at you at more and more of a breakneck pace? Like a hailstorm in a tilt-o-whirl? Or the scene from I Love Lucy where she's working in the candy factory, trying so desperately to "process" all the chocolate until she finally just has to start stuffing it all in her mouth to keep up?

I knew this past week was going to be busy because my boss was on vacation. And I was having oral/sinus surgery. I didn't know I was also going to have unexpected houseguests for a night, witness the highs (and some drama) of watching an important project launch after months of hard work, plus spend several days caring for a sick, beloved pet chicken who ended up dying. 

Tilt-o-whirl hailstorm.

I think sometimes I forget that life is always a rollercoaster. It's like two weeks of calm give me amnesia and I suddenly don't remember that I've had two cats die and two new cats arrive in the span of 8 months. Or that I got a new car but also may have to get new foundation supports because part of our house might be sinking into our hillside. I keep going blind to the fact that the crazy candy conveyor belt is the norm.

Last month, my dentist pulled a tooth that had been hanging out in my mouth for about 38 years. It was a baby tooth, and although I'm 40, it was still attached with nothing above it to take its place. Mr. W teased me after my dental extraction and asked if this meant I was finally going to become a grown-up.

I don't think I'm ready.

Because if this planet really does start to spin faster and faster the older you get, I'd rather hang on to my youth and my immaturity and all of my baby teeth.

All this new and old and birth and death and planning and unexpected. It's kind of exhausting.

I'm grateful to be alive and to be lucky enough to be experiencing the full range of human emotions— but MAN I am tired. And I've got like 50-60 more years of this.

Someone, please tell me it'll slow down a little.

In the meantime, I think I'll have to just continue to mentally medicate myself with stuff like cat pictures...

Babies Powell Guinness and Oliver Montrose





Arms out, tail out

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Goodnight to My Sweet Zee Zee Girl


When we had to let go of our dear boy Monty last May, I never would have thought that we'd be doing the same with Zoe eight months later. Throughout the bulk of her life, Zoe was the epitome of health and energy. People often mistook her for a youngster even in her golden years. Being thirteen - fourteen - fifteen didn't stop her from pouncing all over the couch or taking running leaps from the step between our dining and living room during her hyperactive races through the house.

I first met the spazzy little ring-tailed lemur when I was 24. She came from the family of some friends who happened to have 3 pregnant cats at once. I can remember visiting after the litters arrived and it was like a kitten amusement park. There were stumbly fluffballs everywhere. Zoe stood out from the pack because every time I picked her up, she instantly started to purr. When she was 6 months old, I asked to bring her home to my little studio apartment and lonely cat, Monty.


From day one, she was a sweetheart. And a saint for putting up with Monty, who was about twice her size (probably three-times at his height) and hell-bent on asserting his dominance over her (read: beating her up). The bully at her bedside didn't ever stop her from being upbeat and ready to snuggle at any time.


Her signature move was to get so over-sensitized when she was rubbing her head all over your pantlegs, that she'd blow up like a bottle brush. It was like her joy overwhelmed her hair follicles and made them all stand on end.

She also had this knack for sneaking into chairs where you were sitting. "I'm so tiny, you'll barely notice I'm here."


She was always consistent. Highly predictable. Filled with nothing but love and affection.

Because I adopted her a little later in her kitten life, she also had a sense for adventure that Monty never seemed to share. On more than one occasion, Zoe snuck out the kitchen door here and went on safari through the yard. Once she got out when we were in Santa Barbara for several hours—we came home to find her obediently sitting on the porch. Apparently she'd covered all the ground she needed to cover and was ready to get back to her cozy couch. I think she slept for five hours straight when we let her back inside. 


In spite of the fact that her big brother was a bully, she really seemed to take a turn after his death. She was more anxious without him and small health issues seemed to quickly balloon once he was gone. In September, we found out Zoe had a mass on her bladder and because of her relatively advanced age we decided not to put her through any sort of surgery or treatment for it.

Giving her a kitten during her final time here may not have been a fulfillment of her long-held dreams, but she seemed to at least somewhat enjoy the company of another feline during the last couple months. She and Ollie spent many afternoons curled up on the couch near each other.


Even though she'd been in less than great shape for awhile, it feels strange in our house without her. It feels like, at any moment, she could race out of the hallway door at top speed and launch herself off the dining room step to greet us with head rubs and her bottle brush tail.

I hope she's on safari in cat heaven right now. She deserves and eternity of adventure and joy after all the joy she brought to us. We'll miss our little Zee Zee so very much.




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...