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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.

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.

Olympic dreams

The women’s Olympic marathon is this weekend. The U.S. teams – Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi, and Abdi Abdirahman on the men’s side, Shalene Flanagan, Kara Goucher and Desiree Davila on the women’s – will race against the rest of the best runners in the world through the streets of London. The men’s race closes the Games on Aug. 12.

The U.S. will have a hard time medaling in this event, as runners from Kenya and Ethiopia most often monopolize the marathon podium. But there have been exceptional performances, most recently Keflezighi’s silver medal in the marathon in 2004, and Deena Kastor’s bronze at the same games.

Kastor and Joan Benoit Samuelson, who won the inaugural women’s marathon in LA in 1984, are the only U.S. women to medal in the marathon, ever. Nine male U.S. runners have earned medals in the marathon, including Frank Shorter, who captured two and won gold in 1972.

When I attended the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, Texas back in January, the gritty determination of the top competitors moved me. I have a good idea of what it takes to run a marathon, having done a couple of them, and let’s just say that I don’t think there is any comparison between the effort expended by an average runner like me and a world class runner like those who will represent us in London.

If you had a job that required 24 hours of your time and dedication – 365 days a year for the span of your career – that’s what being an Olympic marathoner requires. Runners, in general, are tough – these runners are the toughest. Here’s hoping they complete the Olympic marathon of their dreams.



Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi, Houston Olympic Marathon Trials

Meb Keflezighi and Ryan Hall – their feet barely seem to touch the ground.


Flanagan, Davila, Houston pack.

Women’s lead pack in Houston, Flanagan at left, Davila right, Goucher is the taller runner in the back right.


2012 US Olympic Marathon Trials

Goucher and Flanagan, artist rendering.




A few thoughts about Reddit

I’ve been dabbling in the world of Reddit lately. I have a few friends who are religious readers and just to keep up with what they’re talking about I started checking out the site occasionally. For those who don’t know it, Reddit is an aggregate site where masses of folks share links to photos, articles, memes and other online stuff. They also have conversations that typically start with questions. There’s a lot of advice, some interesting perspectives on relationships, a great concept called Ask Me Anything (AMA) which I wish we could have stolen for Edhat back in the day. There’s also a lot of junk and garbage, interspersed with photos of cute cats and puppies. (Mom, you won’t like this one. Even with the cats and dogs.)

The majority of Redditors seem to be male, 20-40, and have some cultural ideas about what makes for good humor that I don’t understand at all. But what I love about Reddit is that you get some great insight into what people really think. That’s rather rare in this era of Internet blathering, and as someone who wants to hear people’s real thoughts I find it refreshing. The commenters are usually fairly well spoken and articulate, another plus. And I should say that the friends I have who read Reddit are exceptionally bright.

To get to my point, here’s a couple of statements I really liked from a recent Reddit post about relationships. Just little snippets that are actually pretty good life advice.

“Most people want healthy, stable partners. Its what I want, and its what we all deserve. So everyone get healthy and stable and go out and love someone!”

” Appreciate your own internal monologue.”

“Once you are OK with being alone, then start dating somebody.  Another person should enhance your life and your happiness, not be relied upon for it.”

You get the idea. Real people saying real things is pretty rare online. Everybody else is spending their time bashing one another about politics or religion or whether or not “The Bachelorette” will actually get married to Jef with one f. Reddit has a community feel, and should be commended for it. There are also some truly hilarious posts – like this imgur link to the real Nathan Fillion‘s Twitter status.

Also to the site’s credit – when the Aurora theater shootings took place they had some decent citizen journalism coverage that was posted, including an especially impressive scanner report that I’d rate as one of the best I’ve ever seen from a non-professional on a major breaking news event. You got a much better sense of the chaos and confusion at the scene from this report than from any national news coverage that I read that horrible day.

I don’t see myself as ever becoming a member of this community. I’d rather just observe what’s happening there from the outside, like visiting an aquarium. I don’t want to swim with the fish, I just find them interesting to look at. Bottom line: you have to weed through a lot of sand to find sand dollars sometimes .. and that’s what I think of Reddit.

Sand dollars

Fiesta’s here: A tribute to Hattie

Tastefully appointed tails.

El Desfile Historico, the annual Fiesta equestrian parade, is one of those Santa Barbara traditions that you can count on. Like clockwork, the first weekend in August, on a Friday morning you will find the streets around Pershing Park flooded with horsemen and women on their well-cared for mounts. Be there at noon this Friday – it’s that time of year.

Some horses will pull historic carriages from the Carriage Museum, others will carry riders on their backs in beautiful dresses or elaborate suits, some will have manes braided in fancy ways. There will be flowers and bands and happy children. A few folks might imbibe some early morning margaritas.  The horsemen and women will be smiling, but not nervous – they’ve done this many times before. It’s a tradition.

There will be confetti in the streets, it might be foggy or the sun might blaze, tacos will be consumed. Tourists will be on hand but you will see a lot of local faces, too. People will bring their grandparents, their kids, and sit along the parade route and watch the riders go by. They might count the horses. We used to do that for Edhat. It was fun.

When I wrote the original version of this post two years ago (yes, this blog employs content recycling. Sorry about that), I mentioned that “for the last 86 years, one of those parade participants has been Harriet Osbourne (Hattie) Feazelle. You might just think of her as the little old lady in the pretty blue dress. For 84 of those years she rode her horse in the parade. She’s La Reina, the queen, of Fiesta. An institution. One of those things you can count on.”

Hattie was the grandmother of my friend Sutton Feazelle Bailey and the mother of my high school English teacher and Santa Ynez neighbor Cita Mainer. She rode in her last Fiesta parade, in a carriage driven by her son-in-law Robert (and Cita), last year in 2011. She was honored (in her 100th birthday year) as the parade’s Grand Marshall. As always, when I saw her in the parade it brought tears to my eyes.

Hattie was in every single Fiesta parade from the event’s origin until the year of her death. She was one of these no-nonsense women who inspired and impressed. I had the honor of interviewing her for a front page profile in the SBNP when she was honored as Vaquera of the Year by the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Society. We talked about Santa Barbara the way it used to be – when you could ride horses on the beach from downtown to Goleta, when Stearns Wharf was still a working seafront, when many streets were not yet paved.

When honored for her cowgirl accomplishments, she was humble and self-effacing about it, joking around in an interview. She wore turquoise cowboy boots to the celebration party, and pulled up her skirt to show them off for a photographer (at age 92!)

Hattie grew up on Micheltorena Street in Santa Barbara when State Street was the only paved road. She got her first horse, who was named Chivita, in 1922 and rode to Goleta and back on the sandy South Coast beaches and mountain trails. Fiesta was called La Primavera, not Fiesta at all, when she was in the first parade in 1924.

La Reina de Fiesta

When I asked Hattie back in 2003 how long she’d ride in the parade, she told me: “Till the good man says I can’t ride anymore.” She kept that promise. She will be missed in this year’s parade.

A few Fiesta photos from the archive:


Mayor Helene Schneider and the 2010 Junior Spirit of Fiesta.

Flower girls.