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Life on California's beautiful Central Coast

Archive for August, 2012

Signing on for small spaces

This week on the Yardi corporate blog, The Balance Sheet, we have an interesting post about a nice woman who makes her NYC home in a 105-square-foot apartment. She and her cat make do just fine with a space that’s roughly the size of my kitchen. I don’t know how she does it. I love my kitchen, but if I was confined there for all my residential needs I would go crazy in approximately ten minutes.

My approach to small living is less about the size of the space, and more about reduction of stuff. I could be packed up and moved out of my home in about an hour’s time – although I probably couldn’t fit all my worldly goods in the Volvo at once, especially since for some reason I own five bicycles. This is mainly a product of my heritage. I don’t know how many Danish women you know, but we love to throw things away. It’s a therapy of sorts. We also like to ride (and own) bikes, bake pies, and wash windows with vinegar. There are worse traits to inherit from your ancestors.

Anyway, I’ve been spending time contemplating how I would cope if for some reason tomorrow I had to move into the tiniest apartment in the universe. My friend Jody and I shared a one room studio one short summer in Isla Vista – it was actually completely OK, considering that we split the rent of $400 two ways and neither of us was ever really there. To be honest, it was kind of an awful apartment. But it was a good learning experience and nobody got hurt, although I’m pretty sure the people we sublet from still owe me about $75 for their delinquent phone bill. (Yes, there were still land lines in use when I was in college. I am that old.)

I’ve lived in some pretty amazing places since then, from my studio in Berkeley that was part of the ground floor of an over 100-year-old home, to my interesting sublets all over Santa Barbara, even a mobile home  – that van that traveled the Western U.S. three summers back. I’m lucky. I’ve loved everywhere I’ve ever lived.

I think I could live in a teeny tiny apartment like Genevieve Shuler, but I don’t think I could do it for nearly eight years like she has. I like having people over for dinner, having a fireplace and cooking way too much to sacrifice space to do those things. But I admire her ability to pull it off. Washing dishes in the shower is a pretty impressive accomodation, I’d say. I just wish I’d asked if she uses dish soap or shampoo.

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Seal the deal

Perched on a rock.From a distance (and in this sub-par photo), this seal just looked like a rock perched on another rock.

Then the rock went swimming as I ran by and I realized it was a little harbor seal, probably hiding out from the juvenile great white shark that has been roaming our coast this summer.

Or maybe it was lazy like me and wanted to sleep in. Glad I didn’t – it was a beautiful beach morning, between pelicans diving, seals snoozing, and a slow hazy burn off that made the landscape all sepia toned.

When I ran back down the beach, the lazy seal stayed put. Hope to see you again.

Timeless, now trendy, Los Alamos

The Pacific Coast Railway conductors called it “Los Almost.” It was the next-to-last stop before the end of the line, as they rattled down from San Luis Obispo on narrow gauge rails in the late 1800’s. In Los Olivos, they would drop off their passengers for stage passage to Santa Barbara and points south. In Los Alamos, they stopped at a depot that resembled a huge barn. It still stands, the only surviving PCRY depot in the state. Today, it’s filled with antiques. (Well, some antiques, and a lot of old junk, to be honest.)

Los Alamos has long been the stepsister village of the Santa Barbara wine country. A 10 minute drive north from sassy, Sideways-sloshed Los Olivos, its a mash-up of old Victorians and brick storefronts, tiny cottages, ranch-style homes, trailers and a couple of unique motels. You can drink a beer with Harley riders at Ghostrider’s, enjoy a pizza at Full of Life Flatbread with the Whole Foods set, taste some wine, shop for an old saddle, or just sit in the park and enjoy the baking hot summer heat. Translation of Los Alamos is “The Cottonwoods,” and on warm days here the comfort of a shady tree is divine.

The latest local business to pick up some good buzz, following in the footsteps of Full of Life Flatbread and the quaint Cafe Quackenbush, is the Bell Street Farm, a gourmet deli/brunch/lunch location right on the main drag. They have a nice menu of salads, sandwiches, and wine, but the best part is the atmosphere. A historic flat storefront, charmingly decorated inside with a vintage hammered tin ceiling and rustic furnishings, fits the Los Alamos spirit to a T.

Wine tasting options in town are numerous, and one celebrity inspired – Emilio Estevez’ fiance’s Babi’s Tasting Room. It’s right next door to the highly acclaimed Bedford Thompson, which I’d recommend if you’re in it for the wine rather than the Mighty Ducks star. If this all sounds familiar, the other LA got a travel spotlight in the LA Times earlier this week, which will surely increase foot traffic on the sometimes-deserted, even on the weekends, streets.

If you’re taking a northern-bound road trip, make a pit stop. Go before LA becaomes the now over-touristed, high rent charmer also known as LO.

Bell Street Farm

Wine at Bell Street

Antiques on the Street

Quiet on the street in LA

What a nice weekend

Sometimes the weekends in which you have no plans end up to be the most fun of all. I had a lot of fun with my friends and family, saw a good movie, rode my bike all over the place, ran really far, did chores and work, practiced some yoga and went for an awesome lunch and beach walk with my mom and dad.

I also dumped a glass of water on my personal laptop and drowned it (while sleeping), but moving right along…

Discovered that if you need a giant fork to accessorize your home, the new Pier One at the Camino Real Marketplace is where to find it. David Vo demonstrates:

David takes a bite.

Also, when you find bicycles on the street, they are probably broken. I was really enjoying this gunmetal gray salvaged beach cruiser I found until the chain came off while I was riding home last night. I just barely managed to stop before I ran into parked car.

Salvaged bikes can be dangerous

And now its time for another Monday. Let’s see what kind of adventures this week will bring our way.

Have a great day everybody!

A few thoughts for Friday

The theme of this week was appreciation. It was a really quiet August week, one of those post-Fiesta recovery periods that Santa Barbara seems to need annually, and it got me thinking about what I am grateful for in my life.

I surprised even myself when I updated my Facebook status on Wednesday night. The message was uncomplicated: “I have an awfully nice, pretty simple life, and I am especially grateful for it at this particular moment.”

I wasn’t doing ANYTHING when I wrote that on Wednesday night. I’d come home after going to yoga, made myself some dinner, sat outside, read the next chapter of “The Tiger’s Wife.” As always, I was checking my stupid phone, convinced that somebody was probably just about to call me, but nobody did.

And I suddenly realized that I was totally OK with that.

I remember a conversation my late grandmother and I had about doing things solo. She admitted that she loved to go to the movies by herself, or shopping, or just about anything. Despite being the most socially connected person I knew (at that point in my young life), she loved being alone. I was just out of high school and had barely discovered this predilection within myself,  but I already knew I felt the same way.  It’s a preference that’s only grown stronger with age.

So in the vein of appreciating those things that we might not even realize deserve to be appreciated, here’s a few thoughts for Friday – about stuff I’m grateful for.

-My little house. Particularly, how close it is to the beach below Ellwood. I find all my solace there.

-Yoga practice. The kind women who teach and practice there always make me feel at ease.

-Health. I am very lucky to be as fit and healthy as I am, and I don’t take that for granted. It’s precious, and I work hard on the fitness part. I appreciate that I’ve never shirked on that.

-Nice people. They are everywhere, especially at my office and within my circle of friends and family, and I adore them all. Two who stand out: my roommate Emily Colgate. We ran track together in high school and reconnected this year because she needed a place to live in SB. She’s a doctor and a very cool woman. I’ve enjoyed hanging out with her this summer.  Also, my partner-in-crime on the Yardi blog, Elizabeth Giles. She’s a social media expert, stellar salsa maker, and an amazing mix of energy and enthusiasm. She gave me a tremendous compliment today by telling me she was inspired by my “pretty simple life” status and linking back to this blog. I couldn’t ask for a better colleague to work very closely with.

Have a wonderful weekend. Hope it’s simple and lovely and sunny out.

Isla Vista sunrise.

Sunrise on the edge of IV. Taken Wednesday on my way back from my run.

Landmark No. 11

Santa Ynez Branch Library

Santa Ynez Branch Library. Photo by me, originally published on edhat

Call it the little branch library that could.

The Santa Ynez Branch Library, at 168 square feet barely larger than your downstairs half bath, celebrates 100 years of serving the reading public this month.

They’re throwing a party to raise money for some improvements to the tinest library in the Black Gold library network, which serves readers from Paso Robles all the way to Santa Paula. 100 years ago, the citizens of Santa Ynez did the same thing, holding a dinner dance at the College Hotel to collect cash and raise the library roof. The College Hotel burned down 1935, but the library still stands.

It’s only open one day a week, on Saturday afternoons, but still manages to attract patrons checking out a good book to pass the time.

Its status as the oldest branch library in the state is a bit of a niche honor. There are many older libraries – the Carmel Mission (1771) claims the first library in the state, started with bibles and books from the Spanish missionaries. They spearheaded their establishment of the mission system from here. San Diego opened its public library in 1882 and was home to the first Carnegie Library in the state in 1902. But as far as branch libraries go, Santa Ynez may have a case. It probably wins some kind of pint-sized award, too.

If you happen to be in the Santa Ynez Valley on Aug. 25, you could stop by for the celebration. Find out more here. And if you’re headed to SY for any reason, here’s a guide I wrote to fun things to do. Don’t miss the Parks Janeway Carriage Museum, right next door to the little library that could.

*The reason this post is called Landmark No. 11 is because the Santa Ynez Branch Library was the 11th designated Santa Barbara County Historic Landmark.

Just another day in paradise

Devereux morning

Another beautiful summer morning in Isla Vista. Looks like it promises to be a great warm August day. Take advantage while they last – the days are getting shorter and fall is just around the corner. I started shopping for sweaters this weekend. Then realized I was being an idiot and spent the rest of the day outside. Enjoy.