Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The town house and the country house

Although we are moving less than a mile away, it does rather feel like we are moving from the country to the city.

Part of that is, of course, the location. The Sugar Cube sits on a cul-de-sac which terminates at the back of a school playground and a wood chip path which leads over the hill to the beach. Kids play out on our street all the time, skateboarding, bare foot, and just assuming the occasional car will give way. Which, of course, they do.

The property itself is pretty rustic too. The Sugar Cube is about 1500 square foot of house on a 9000 square foot lot. We have a large, rambling, somewhat chaotic garden. There are lemon trees, a grape vines, and we grow peas and strawberries and chard, as well as lots of herbs. Lady P has spent many happy hours making mud soup, chomping on freshly picked peas, and getting dirt under her fingernails. We hear woodpeckers and raccoons, and we smell the occasional skunk.

'I'm cooking, Mummy!'

Corn, peppers, peas and a lot of rubble

By contrast the new house (still working on a name) is on a relatively busy through-street in a part of Hermosa where there is a lot less space between houses. It's a 2300 square foot home on a 2600 square foot lot. Meaning that there isn't a lot of room for rambling, rustic gardening. Instead, we have a small astro-turfed patch which will be a good place for Lady P to ride her Cosi Coup in, but will be rather short on mud soup making opportunities.
Hanging out in the new yard
This makes me a little sad. But it seems Lady P is not going to be entirely bereft in her new urban dwelling.

After all, our new walk to downtown Hermosa is a half mile stroll along a nice wide stretch of woodchip. Last time we did it, it took about thirty minutes because Lady P was so entranced with the pine cones, rocks, trees to 'climb' and sticks along the way. I guess it felt like a wild adventure to her. Which is good enough for me.
And the other day I saw a raccoon on the house two doors up from our new house. It was trying to climb onto the overhead power cables (it's a Hermosa thing...) and I was oddly comforted. I guess country critters thrive in the urban density of 8th and Ardmore just as happily as they do in leafy Hermosa Valley.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The road to a friend's house is never long (especially when they live next door)

Friendships don't manifest overnight. It takes time.

The best friends, surely, are the ones who've known us the longest - and are still around to tell the tale. The friends who were there when you were experimenting with personalities, booze, style statements and so on. The friends you've had dinner with in more than one decade, and at dozens of different tables. The friends who've seen you through some of life's milestones: first job, first home, breakups, weddings and christenings. These are the friends you don't need to explain yourself to. The ones with whom you can dive straight into the middle of a conversation, drop by at a moment's notice, and unburden yourself of all the worries you're still withholding from newer, less well established friends.

Proximity can speed the friendship process up. That's how come we end up so close to our desk neighbours at work, even if we have nothing in common with them. Because spending forty hours a week next to someone forces a sort of intimacy. Maybe that's why those college friendships are so enduring: not just the rites of passage you go through together, but the fact you live in each other's pockets for three years or so. Some of those friendships endure. Others, it turns out, were purely based on proximity and fade when you move on.

TLOML and I rapidly became good friends with our next door neighbours. It's the kind of friendship where it's okay to suggest a whisky at 9pm on a Wednesday night and schlep over in yoga pants. Where last minute dinners are jointly, casually catered. And where we unburden ourselves of minor irritations and major stresses as if we've known each other for years. Yet we've only known each other for 18 months.

We've fast-forwarded the friendship process and I think its because - as well as being like minded - we live right next door. We bump into each other all the time and getting together is as easy as can be. We don't even need to put shoes on in order to hang out with each other.

So the big question is: will this new, valuable friendship survive when we live all of 3/4 mile away? Watch this space.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Surprise upcycling

I've never been much of a one for upcycling. I just don't have the patience, the physical capabilities required to do a tidy job, or the attention to detail. But needs must. And right now, we need new furniture.

For months I've been mithering about our dining table, and what to do when we move to the new house. Our current dining table is a much-loved G-Plan, which TLOML and I bought together when we moved to London. It was one of our first joint, permanent furniture purchases. And buying it involved driving to Hackney in a rented van, navigating our way through a cave of junk furniture treasures, and haggling with a woman who appeared to actually live in that cave. So it has sentimental value.

Sadly, that much loved table doesn't really work for us anymore. First of all, to protect it from play-doh, paint, and felt tip pens, not to mention toddler eating habits, it is covered all day long in an oilcloth tablecloth. At night, after Lady P has gone to bed, we take the table cloth off so we can eat like grownups. But it is swiftly replaced in time for breakfast.  
A rare glimpse of the usually-veiled G-Plan
Secondly, it's too small for the new place. I know, it's a high class problem. For three years it has been kept in its four-top configuration, expanding only when we're hosting more than a couple of people. Even fully extended, it only seats six at a squeeze, and will look rather lost in the long dining space of our new home.

Reluctantly, then, we resolved to sell the G-Plan and make do with one of the tables we have in the garden. Just till we can afford a proper, big, wooden table. In hours spent online and scouring furniture showrooms I have found the perfect table. In fact I've found several. But they are all north of $1k and that's just not in our budget right now.
Our ahem 'shabby chic' garden table
Mourning our poverty (house poor! it is a thing) I started doing some light sanding, ready to repaint the table and suck it up for a year or two. Then inspiration struck. It is, after all, a large wooden table - kinda like the type that we want to buy when we get our proper dining table. Why repaint, when we can upcycle!

TLOML finished the sanding, and I stained it a dark almost-black. It's still a little rustic for my tastes, but considering we found it for free in our back garden I think we can be rightly proud.
TLOML doing some upcycling - who knew?!

Now we can start saving for the the $6k beauty I truly covet.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The wait is - almost - over

Fully six months since we viewed our new house and made an offer, and three months after we closed the sale, we are finally in.

Well, not quite. Our tenants have moved out and we have taken full possession of it. In theory we can go over there and run around the place any time we like, whooping with glee. But the flooring guys are in there sanding right now, making the running around and whooping a little tricky. And next week the painter will be in, touching up paintwork and crucially painting Lady P's bedroom door a jaunty colour.

For now, we are still, then, waiting. But at last the end is in sight. And there was a short window on Sunday afternoon, after the tenants left and before the decorating started during which we were able to run around and whoop with glee. In fact we rushed about measuring, and taping paint chips up, and saying 'can you believe it's finally ours?!'. And Lady P ran in and out of the small under-the-stairs cupboard in her bedroom absolutely beside herself that it was her very own cupboard. Then we celebrated with our friends, and champagne, before heading back to the Sugar Cube.
Lady P's happy dance
Just three weeks now till we can move in for real. Meanwhile there are sofas and beds to buy, and kitchen drawer pulls to select, and washing machine deliveries and cable switch-overs to co-ordinate.

We've gone through the moving process many times, but this is the first time we've been trying to buy bigger pieces of furniture, as opposed to smaller ones. And the first time we've looked for furniture with enduring appeal, rather than pieces that will make do till we move again.

Even the boring aspects of this move are thrilling, and the wait is almost more than I can stand.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Three years, but who's counting?

Clearly not us. We are barely keeping track at all. It wasn't until we received 'Happy Anniversary' messages from family and friends that we realized it was, indeed, our third wedding anniversary.

Three years in doesn't quite have the import of thirty, or even, say, ten. But it is worth marking. Or at least, for crying out loud, remembering.

In our defence there's a lot going on at the moment. Having spent much of June in the air, we are now firmly in a pre-move furniture frenzy. Selling pieces that are too small, buying more, bigger pieces, researching various Sonos set ups, scheduling and confirming decorator appointments - it's a busy old time. And that's just TLOML's task list. Me? I'm surfing designer discount sites for stuff we don't need, which, trust me, is just as time consuming and arguably far less rewarding.

So, yes, we have a lot on our collective plate. Still. It was kind of a shame that we both entirely forgot our anniversary.

We saved the day though. TLOML took my rings to the jewellers to be steam cleaned. I picked him a lemon off the tree as a symbol of the lemon tree I think we should buy ourselves for the new house (a belated, joint anniversary gift). And TLMOL pulled off last minute babysitting and a reservation at Steak and Whisky, Hermosa's nicest steak and whisky restaurant.

Phew. I think this marriage will survive at least another year: who knows, we might even plan to celebrate the next anniversary.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Independence Day, Hermosa style

As a Brit in America, I should be ambivalent, at best, about Independence Day. Or, as a friend on Twitter called it, 'The day we gave you ungrateful colonials your freedom'. But it's hard not to swept up in the fun of the holiday. It's just a big, star spangled, red cup bearing 'Murica-fest of a party.

This was our first Fourth of July in the US for a few years, and our first in our adopted home town of Hermosa. So I wanted to get it right.

Based on my limited Fourth of July experience, I thought the day was mainly about pool parties and fireworks. Imagine my confusion when I saw this sign stretched across Pier Plaza:

Well, if there are no fireworks, what do we do? Not only are fireworks banned for individuals, there also is no city-sponsored display. And we don't have a pool. Nor do our buddies, with whom we planned to spend the day.

I was worried for a short while but TLOML reassured me. The important thing, apparently, is to be outside. It doesn't need to be poolside: lakes, beaches, and parks work just as well. The other important thing is to spend the day with friends. And to drink, steadily, from fairly early on.

Phew. So it turns out we nailed it. We headed to the beach early, which was packed with volleyball playing, daytime drinking, fun-seeking crowds. (We were a little late to catch the tail end of the Hermosa Iron Man, which involves a 1 mile run, a 1 mile paddleboard, and the chugging of a 6 pack of beers). There some amongst our number drank beer disguised as energy drinks and consumed jello shots, before noon. Then back to the Sugar Cube for an afternoon of burgers, something called a turtle pie (nicer than it sounds), and yes, more booze.

As an added bonus, it turns out the reason little old Hermosa doesn't have fireworks is because we get a great, free, view of the ones in Redondo. TLOML and I headed down to the beach after dark and sat in the sand, with hundreds of others, to watch the display.

All in all it was a perfect holiday. And the next day we dispatched Lady P (who enjoyed neither jello shots nor fireworks) to the beach to help with the Surfrider Clean up.

She may, as a result, have a slightly warped view of what the Fourth of July is all about. But living in Hermosa, I think she'll get the right idea soon enough.