A Coffee Chat

That right there is some red velvet bread pudding. It looks like dessert, but it was my breakfast. If we were sitting down for coffee and a chat right now, I’d have a ton of stories to tell you. It’s been an action-packed week, in which we’ve rolled sets of silverware into napkins, folded pinwheels until our fingerprints near wore off, made bouquets of succulents, eaten more red meat and drank more malty & hoppy beer than we have in the past year, partaken in deep fried Snickers and cornbread Kielbasa sausage pops (seriously), watched grannies dance Gangnam style, and shuddered at the “chill” of 60-degree weather. (We’re wusses.)

I’d tell you about the cousins of the bride, who, during the wedding, took a Slip ‘n Slide down to the beach and set it up to slide right into the ocean, but when one cousin slid down, the tide went out and he slid right down and rolled over into sand. He did it in his under-britches and another cousin stole his clothes, so he had to run half-naked back to the reception to get his clothes.

I’d also show you the video of the opening dance and the bride & groom’s first dance. (Skip ahead past the first minute, and be sure to stick around for the bride & groom’s dance.)

So that happened. I also love how none of us went to help them up.

The wedding was a blast, but it wasn’t all we did. I joined my boss from SOLD and, together, we gave a presentation at Westmont. My best friend from college and her husband came down from San Francisco drove all the way down to see us, so every moment not dedicated to wedding stuff, I spent with them. Other friends from college were in town for the wedding, so we caught up with them too. Toby and I also enjoyed driving around and seeing old familiar sights.

I had kind of forgotten how freakin’ scenic Santa Barbara is. Mountains, ocean, palm trees…crisp fall weather.

Having a convertible to drive around in is also fun. (Thanks, Mom!)

It’s been a great weekend. Tonight, we’ll drive back down to LA to hang out with Toby’s colleague & his wife. We need to stop at the embassy again on Wednesday morning, then we’ll head back to Orange County. I want to soak up as much time as possible with my nieces and nephew before we leave. But there are dinner plans with family friends and a trip to San Diego in the mix, so we’ll pretty much just keep on hopping until we fly out.

How has your week been? Thanks for stopping by for the coffee and the chat! Hope you’re enjoying some fabulous fall weather too!

Scenes From My Weekend

Toby driving down the coast; me peeking out of the convertible
red velvet bread pudding, more dessert than breakfast
An October wedding
a gift trunk
succulent centerpieces; the opening dance
the view from the reception area
bride & groom; candy wedding favors
guests on the dance floor
pies for dessert & a neglected glass for wine.

It was a jubilant weekend and a sweet & fun wedding.


Also linking up with Communal Global


And with footsteps echoing away like a faint distant memory, we have gone.

We left with much hurry and flurry, with only one last almost-forgotten backward glance toward the place that has been our home for three years. This home has seen us through friendships, through new jobs, through marriage and through redefinition of self.
We leave this apartment, but…

I wonder when it will hit me that we have left the home that has been our home for the past decade of our lives.

Goodbye, Santa Barbara. See you in another life.

tell it to me tuesday – a tour of the neighborhood

Hi all! I’m sorry Tell It To Me Tuesday is up a little late today. We were up in the Bay area this weekend and didn’t get home until 12:30 last night. It was a wonderful weekend (more on that later) and I want to thank everyone for their lovely kind words in my melancholic state. I have such amazing people in my life, how can one really be in a funk when surrounded by such goodness? I suspect the funk is still lurking in there somewhere but I’m ignoring it – which is easy enough to do when I’m busy enjoying the company of people I love.

But right now I want to show you some of my favorite things about where I live. So let’s take a walk through the neighborhood.

Here’s my front door. Hello front door!
Our house is an apartment, but it has its own house number and that makes us feel a little more grown up. But it’s not free-standing. It just curves around to other apartments, like so.

But as we wander around the neighborhood, I’ll show you what I love most.

It’s these little cottage-style houses.

I suppose I’m not using the right lens for these guys…but anyway. They’re cute. And each one is so different!

I could seriously make a photo book of the different houses and none of them would look the same.
I love the variety of character. I could spend hours looking at these houses. But then everyone would think they have a crazy stalker lady for a neighbor. It’s only partly true. I stalk architecture.

Sure, Santa Barbara has the fancy-schmancy houses like these:

And those are kind of the medium houses. There are bigger ones further on up the hill, all of which have ocean views, mind you. And that’s not even getting into Montecito. I’ve driven by Oprah’s house once or twice. Of course, “driven by” is kind of relative when houses have crazy long driveways and you need a golf cart to get from the front gate to the front door.

But they don’t have the charm of the little cottages. I mean, how can you resist a place with a fairytale front gate like this?

It’s the little things I love. Like bougainvillea spilling over.

Take us on a tour! Of your room, your house, your neighborhood, your work, your world. Whatever you want to show us, and just post the link in the comments below.

Next week’s challenge: 10 minute free write
Get your creative juices flowing and do a 10-minute free write. We who write blogs are so busy writing for an audience, we rarely write for ourselves. So this week’s challenge is to write for no audience. Just set a timer and write. Then, if you dare, share. Unedited.

*Okay, you can edit for privacy’s sake. But not for the sake of spelling or grammar or better writing! See? Challenge.

Where do you live?

homeI realize a question like that makes me sound like some crazy stalker lady and you all might decamp immediately with your children in tow, but that’s really not how it’s meant. In the next year, my husband and I will have to move from sunny southern California to who-knows-where and I find I haven’t the foggiest idea where I would want to go. (I’m a spoiled brat, what can I say?)

The thing is, I’ve lived in southern California almost all of my life (not counting the first five years where I was born and lived in Mississippi). I’m simply used to having sunny weather, oh, 92% of the time. And not oh-my-god-I’m-roasting-in-an-oven-sunny. A nice temperate 70-degree sunny. I’ve traveled a lot and I know that I can handle super hot and humid weather. I can also handle some cold (down to about 30 degrees), though really I’m not a fan of supercold. I can deal with snow, as long as I don’t have to shovel it from my walk every day. But having lived with the sun for so long, I’m not sure how well I’d deal if it was gone for too long.

woman on bench

I’m also used to having a wide variety of really good ethnic food – ranging from excellent sushi to stunning Indian, Moroccan, Vietnamese, and amazing Mexican (because we, here, know what a good avocado is) – and Asian stores where I can buy coconut milk, curry paste, Asian vegetables I don’t know the English name of, and rice noodles, etc. But you know what does suck about California? Property prices. We are now paying $1,350 a month to rent a 1-bedroom apartment (a shoebox at that) which is pretty much more than a mortgage for a house just about anywhere else in the continental U.S. And I would LOVE to have a house with SPACE. And my husband would be happy anywhere he could go for long, scenic rides on his motorcycle.

As far as society and culture go, we’re in our late twenties now and we do like to go out to nice restaurants, watch movies, and grab a drink at the bar. But we’re also equally happy eating dinner at home and watching DVDs or reading books. We don’t need a fast-paced, high-society life (though we do enjoy it). However, we do need some diversity and things to do whenever we have been cooped up in the house too many days straight.

So these are our considerations when we think of moving somewhere. We’re ready for something new, and would love to live elsewhere for awhile. And for (my) career reasons (my husband works remotely), it’s pretty much a guarantee that we will have to move somewhere else this time next year. But not having lived anywhere else, I’m curious to know about the places other people live, what they think about where they live, and what they love and hate most about their location.

Where do you live or where have you lived? Give me the skinny on what your life as a native is like!
(I realize this is public space on the internet, so only go as specific as you feel comfortable. Responses like “southwest Nebraska” are totally fine!)

Needing Space

How is it that sh** accumulates so easily? You know how, when you move, you always catch yourself wondering how the heck you managed to acquire so much stuff? At first, you carefully wrap items and place them neatly in boxes, but then you keep coming across stuff you didn’t even remember you had. You’re slightly amused at yourself at the beginning, but by the end of it you just start chucking stuff at random into the car or box truck? You don’t care anymore, you just want it all to go away, and frankly, are wondering if maybe you wouldn’t be happier just tossing it all into a bonfire and watching it burn.

I’m not in the process of moving, but I almost wish I were. I’m feeling stifled in our shoebox apartment. Coming from a studio, we were ecstatic when we first moved in to our 1-bedroom shoebox. We felt we were bouncing off the walls we had so much space. We were mostly excited just to have actual separate rooms. Well now, two years later (and post-wedding-gift-mania), we barely have room to walk in our bedroom, we can’t really see our coffee table most of the time, and every single inch of space along the walls has some pile of something or other. (And most of it, I must admit, is mine). I could be a little more organized, but honestly, the biggest problem is that we just don’t have enough space. Both of us work from home, so we have our myriad computer and photo equipment. Plus, I am a grad student working on a dissertation, so I have stacks of library books and research materials lining all possible floor space. I have my files all neatly filed away in boxes, but am running out of places to stack the file boxes.

What I would LOVE is to find a place where a) we don’t work at the same table at which we eat–saves potential spillage on fancy computers, and b) we had some place for guests to stay–other than the couch or floor. Ideally, we would have a 3-bedroom place with a dining area separate from the living room area. One bedroom would be for us; one office for me, which could double as storage place for books, files, and other stuff; and one office for Toby, which could double as guest bedroom.

Seeing as how that is not financially viable in Santa Barbara (even the mortgage on my 2-bdrm townhouse–with garage! and laundry room!–was $150 less than what we pay now for a 1-bdrm closet), my options are either to move or get started on that massive pyre.

Santa Barbara On Fire. Again.

After the rampages of the Gap Fire and the Tea Fire which burned 200+ homes last year, Santa Barbara is on fire yet again. A new fire just started, burning more than 4 acres already in the San Roque Canyon in just a manner of minutes. Plumes of smoke are rising in thick columns up the mountains. Evacuation orders are issued for Tunnel, Foothill, Spyglass and Holly roads. The sounds of choppers and sirens fill the air as emergency crews enter the scene, and we’re expecting the dreaded sun-downer winds later tonight.

I’ll keep you posted as I learn more.

* All traffic on La Cumbre, north of State Street is being shut down.
* Orange Grove and Las Canoas roads and the area north of the Botanical Gardens are being evacuated.
* There are police reports that gunshots were heard in the area around the time the fire started.
* Winds are shifting to a southeasterly direction (as of 3:39 pm), which may push the fire down the slope.
* The Santa Barbara School District has cancelled class.
* As of 4:30 pm, more than 150 acres have burned. The entire canyon area has been evacuated.
* As of 10:00 pm, more than 400 acres have burned.
* CORRECTION: It appears the fire is not as large as originally thought. As of the morning it appears to have consumed less than 200 acres. However, it is not contained. Calm weather in the morning is helping, but strong winds are expected in the afternoon and evening. There is a lot of aerial support, but according to fire crews, teams on the ground is what is really needed to put this thing out–and that is difficult because the fire is burning up in very rough, very steep terrain.

**UPDATE: We are in the evacuation warning zone now, so we have packed up our stuff and hightailed it out of there.

An Ode to Coffee

Santa Barbara is really a gem of a little city to live in. It’s not a big city, so doesn’t have quite the flair and pizazz of San Francisco or London, but it’s got a lot of funk. And the best thing about it is that even though it is a small city (in a gorgeous location with perpetually perfect weather), it has a plethora of good eats, if you know where to go. Amazing sushi, decadent Italian, artful healthnut stops, fabulous tapas and drinks, to-die-for Indian, and quite a few places that have made sandwiches an art. And the list goes on.

But the one thing that Santa Barbara lacks is really, really great coffee. The locals are quite proud of their mom-and-pop varietals like the Daily Grind, the Coffee Cat, or Santa Barbara Roasting Company. And major chains like Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee do very well. (In fact, between the two of them, I think they own a quarter of the real estate on State Street.) But I have yet to find a single place that does really, really fine Italian coffee, the likes of which you get when you are actually in Italy. Most of the coffee here is about mid-range and tastes fine, but some of it verges on bitter and you can actually taste separate layers of weak mediocre coffee flavor, artificial flavor as a pathetic attempt to mask the mediocrity of the coffee, and then oils from the beans.

The Italians have it down to an art: the high quality of the beans, the perfect degree of roasting, the exact grind, the temperature of the steam and press of the grounds. All of this combines to create a rich, smooth level of decadence that is unparalleled. When I first discovered true Italian coffee in a little cafe in Florence, I actually thought I might have found heaven. I even brought some Illy home with me, but alas, could not manage the artistry of the Italian barista.

I looked everywhere for good coffee, and eventually succumbed to my fate, thinking I wouldn’t be able to find such good coffee anywhere but Italy. But then we went to Costa Rica and discovered Costa Rican coffee. I was astounded. Costa Rican coffee does not have the decadence of Italian coffee, but it does have a wild variety of smooth flavors that make for a different, wondorous java experience. I was so surprised since normally developing countries export all their good stuff and the locals have to make do with the dreck. Not so with Costa Rican coffee. They hoard all their delicacies so that even the chain bakeries have coffee superior to that of the States. Apparently, they export all their dreck. Smart.

So I sighed, again wondering why the U.S., which has access to the best of just about everything, continues to have only mediocre coffee (yes, I am spoiled and discerning when it comes to my taste buds). And then I went to New York. Besides the bagels and other baked goods which are divine, Manhattan offers real, true, primo Italian coffee. We popped into a little Italian bistro called Via Quadronno and ordered a couple of cappuccinos to go as we were on a trek across Central Park to the Natural History museum. I took my first sip and practically melted into a little puddle of delight in the middle of Central Park. It was so good I couldn’t decide if it was heavenly or a sin. Still, perhaps that little bistro could have been an aberration. A bright spot; a diamond in the rough, so to speak.

And then we found Joe the Art of Coffee. Well, I can’t exactly claim that we found it as the place was recommended to us by friends who had lived in New York. But they have several locations across Manhattan and they have mastered the art of truly fine coffee. They select the finest beans, and they have a policy of never using any artificial flavors, and when they serve up their coffee, it is an actual artpiece with designs swirled into the foam.

With the offer of places such as these and Employees Only (which has turned cocktail-making into an artform as well), I could almost consider happily trading my sunny apartment in Santa Barbara for an over-priced shoebox in Manhattan.

Fire on the Horizon

Tuesday evening a fire started in the brush up by Lizards’ Mouth, just a little northeast from Goleta. It started out small and firefighters got on it right away, but then by Wednesday evening it started to get quite large. It even cut out electricity for several hours in Goleta. Here’s a picture Toby took of it, from his parents’ house:

As you can see here, you can definitely see the flames from their house, which is off Patterson.

Everyone up from Glenn Annie and in the La Patera Canyon have been evacuated. People between Glenn Annie and Fairview are on evacuation warning.

I’m really hoping this gets contained soon, but that brush up there hasn’t burned since a fire in the 1950s. According to the latest news reports, the fire is only 5% contained.

I’m worried for Toby’s family’s house for all the obvious reasons. But I’m also worried for our wedding reception as it is being held there. If they don’t contain this soon, we’ll have to come up with a contingency plan quickly. Don’t get me wrong–I’m definitely concerned about the people whose homes are threatened and all–but I can’t help feeling I’ll be upset if this significantly changes my wedding plans and things don’t turn out as nicely as I hoped. I’m not trying to be selfish or unreasonable. It’s just that I’ve been dreaming about this for a year and half now, thinking meticulously about every little detail. And it’s not stubbornness–it’s just I feel like if things don’t work out nicely it’s like there will always be a little tinge of regret that I didn’t get to see my dream totally come true. Normally I’m pretty roll-with-the-flow I think, and I don’t get my panties all in a twist if things don’t turn out the way I expect. But this is different. It’s hard to explain.

And another part of me is thinking back to our “playa wedding” at Burning Man which got derailed by a major dust storm. Sure it makes for a good story now, but it’s hard not to take it as a bad omen. I mean, seriously, we’re going two for two here. Why does something vaguely apocalyptic always have to happen when Toby and I try to get married? Well at least we’ll have a total of 3 ceremonies. Third time’s a charm, right?

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