Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Santa Barbara, where even the no smoking signs are Mission-era

A couple of weekends ago TLOML, Lady P and I drove up to Santa Barbara for a weekend at a friend's place. Besides the obvious pleasures of a mini break, eating and drinking and catching up with friends, and exploring new playgrounds, I especially loved Santa Barbara itself.

After life in Hermosa (founded 1907), it was really lovely to be somewhere with more than a hundred years of history. Santa Barbara was established as a Spanish mission in the 1780s, and much of it was built in a grand colonial style after an earthquake in the 1820s destroyed the adobe huts they'd been living in before then. Which is to say, it is an old city, by Californian standards at least. And it's architecturally coherent, in a way that Hermosa, with its Portuguese castles next to modernist white boxes, is just not. Much of the city's roofs are red tiled in the Spanish style, and there are some really well preserved buildings.

Take the courthouse, and this fire station, for a couple of examples. Both still functioning with their original purpose, and in their original form.
The courthouse

An actual working fire station
Then there's this charming multistory carpark, beautifully preserved from the colonial era with the original signs and all.
Wait... what? The dudes who ran the Mission had the foresight to build parking structures? No, you're right, it's just a modern car park that has been designed to meet Santa Barbara's code for downtown construction, and blend in.

Much like these signs, which I'm guessing weren't there when the courthouse was built in 1850.


Hey, I'm not hating this faux-old stuff. Santa Barbara is such a beautiful city, and much of its appeal lies in the visual unity of its architecture. It's entirely fitting that the powers that be would want to preserve that appeal. I felt rather shame-faced about how little regard I paid to the 16th century buildings of my college.

Still, it was refreshing to get back to messy, chaotic, apparently unplanned Hermosa with all its quirks.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Crafting fever

Meanwhile, as I was wandering the aisles at Vonn's, Lady P was caught up in her own time-suck.

I was eager to find some fun stuff for her to do the week that school was closed - and there is only so much time I (or our babysitter) wants to spend at the park or the beach. So I bought a few craft kits.

They're for the kind of activities a better mother makes up with old clothes pegs and some pipe cleaners she happens to have lying around. Clearly I'm the kind of mother who likes to throw money at her problems. About $50 in total, for 5 boxes of carefully curated creative content. I thought P might spend a couple of afternoons doing them and we'd have some left for our flights this summer.

But it turned out I created a monster. Lady P was like a child possessed. She crafted all day long at the expense of doing anything else whatsoever. Her first request on waking, or returning to the house, or when she was supposed to be doing anything other than crafting, was 'Can I do craft?'.
Crafting in PJs

Crafting when we were supposed to be heading to the beach

Crafting naked
I tried to say yes as often as I could but really and truly you cannot craft every waking hour. You need to eat, sleep, get dressed, maybe even leave the house. Or so I kept telling Lady P.

She would not be moved. She only wanted to craft to the point of grumpy, fractious, hungry exhaustion. It was a little frightening at times. Like the way I imagine you'd feel if you were trying to take a mother bear away from her cubs, or a lion away from his kill.
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!
Fifty dollars and five days later we have a house full of tiny bits of tissue paper and lollipop sticks. Oh, and of course all Lady P's creations. And while it made her very happy, she tore through those boxes so quickly I'm not sure it was great value.  Next time I think we'll just switch the telly on.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Lost in Vonn's

I don't think I've ever taken so long between posts. I just popped into Vonn's to buy some cheese and some raisins and before I knew it a month had gone by.

Let me explain why it's so easy to get lost in Vonn's. Here's a map showing the layout. I highlighted cheese in pink and drew circles around the various places you might look for raisins.

It's not quite to scale and a little bit fuzzy but I think you get the picture. Look how many different places they keep the cheese (6, by my count).

This, hilariously, is the fancy cheese - in the fruit & veg area

A few feet away behind the deli counter, cheese in breeze block format

Far far away beyond the egg nog some other cheeses. Wonder if this guy is as confused as I am.

I think of this as the secret cheese. It's between the ice-cream cakes and the doughnuts. Obvs.

And as for the raisins, well it makes no sense. They have a very limited range - America knows nothing of currants or sultanas, just raisins. Yet they scatter them about as if to tease someone, some confused Brit maybe, in search of different dried fruit.


Also witness how the porridge and proper muesli, classed as 'hot cereal' are far away from all the other cereal.

It's madness. And that is why I have been so slow to post. (Nothing to do with a trip to NY, a beloved house guest, 4th of July stuff, P's week off school, and general busybusyness).

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Californian closets

It turns out bedrooms are not required by state law to have a built-in closet. Which surprises me because realtors will say stuff like 'It's really four bedrooms but they've listed it as three because this one doesn't have a closet'. As if a closet is as essential as a door and a window.

Requiring a closet might not be the law but it is pretty common practice. All the houses we've lived in or snooped around have built-ins in every room. And most master bedrooms have walk-ins. To the extent that I now think that closets like this are normal.

I'm not showing off when I saw I know people with closets like this. I've been in closets like this. I think this is how clothes ought to live (now I'm a Californian).


Sadly our new house, despite its ample storage, does not feature a walk in closet. I know. It's pretty unbelievable. Instead our clothes are stored in a series of closets in and around the bathroom. I've learned to live with it by calling it a dressingroom-cum-bathroom but the more aspirational real estate I see, the harder this cross is to bear.
Our closet-cum-bathroom. I know.

I daydream about ripping the whole dressing-room-cum-bathroom out and replacing it with a walk-in and a wet room. But I also daydream about a pergola, new dining chairs and a new bannister. Meanwhile TLOML not only dreams of (but actually sorts out) termite-free fencing, and new window cranks.

So for now I've had to go for a cheaper facelift. It's hard to describe just how happy I felt on achieving this transformation.
BEFORE: The horror of mis-matched hangers

AFTER: Aaaah
I guess I don't need a fancy walk in closet when $30 worth of hangers makes me feel so good.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The beauty of June gloom

June gloom this year is absolutely glorious. It barely lifts at all! Never mind the bold blue sky that usually emerges around noon. We are in wall to wall grey. And it makes me want to put on The Smiths and have a nice cup of tea.

Glancing down a walk street on my way home I could almost have thought I was back in Yorkshire. Sigh.
4.30pm on a June day!
 Our deck is positively autumnal all day long.
Mellow mists...
Admittedly it does spoil our peek of a sea view. But think of the time and money we are saving not having to bother with the daily chores of sunscreen application.
The Pacific is definitely over there somewhere
No-one else seems to like it much, but I am feeling right at home and I love it.