Friday, July 23, 2010

I'm Preparing Myself To Forgive You

"I'm preparing myself to forgive you" is a great line from one of my all-time favourite movies, Withnail and I. Right now it rather sums up how I feel about Santa Barbara. If anyone within the last 3 months had uttered the phrase "aren't we lucky to live here" I would have punched them full in the mouth, stuffed my property tax bill up their nose and set fire to it.

Still, in the spirit of lying in the bed that I have well and truly made for myself, I've decided to try and go for a full-on starfish, fluff the pillows, reach for a cup of coffee and a good book and try to make the best of things.

One of the good things about SB (fingers cramping with the pain of writing that) is that you can literally be on vacation within 2 minutes of leaving your front door. Which is useful, because this weekend two minutes was all we had. All Sunday LK beavered away at the apartment next door - poor choice of words considering the three young female students who reside there - and finally by 5pm we were ready for "family time!".

We decided to take a quick boat trip across the harbour.

The girls had such a marvelous time.

That we decided to really complete the day and take them to the beachside playground too.

Good Times!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

How To Knit - Fast

"Mom, you know what you haven't done in ages?" asks Anna.

I think, hmm......let's see; laugh, smile, be frivolous, sexy, hopeful.....

"You know what you haven't done in ages that you should teach me? Knitting!"
"Right! That's certainly true. Would you like to learn how to knit?"
"Yes!! I've already found your stuff!"

Anna comes back moments later, clutching my knitting bag as I watch stitches from Lucy's half-finished poncho leaping like lemmings off the needles.


I grab a separate pair of fat needles, a spare ball of wool and cast on 10 perfect little stitches. The knitter in me begins to reawaken.

After approximately two minutes of 'in through the back, and pull the stitch over' Anna's starts to look cross. She wants a turn. We hold the needles together and hash out one row. This could be the start of something big. This is why having daughters is going to be brilliant. Anna demands to try it herself. 30 seconds later she huffs "I did not order up that knot! I'm not sure I like your way of knitting Momma, mine is much easier. Do you want me to show you?"

Well aware that expecting a five year old to learn how to knit is stretching things a tad, I take a leaf out of LK's book and allow the student to keep enjoying the idea of the sport, if not the specifics.

"Here's actually how you do it Mom. My way. It's much quicker. It's how kids do it. You just loop it around like this, and make as many stitches as you want. I am going to make you a rainbow scarf. I'm thinking about it right now, hanging up in your wardrobe. It is going to be beautiful!"

I have to admit, I'm getting a little misty at this point, thinking of my little knitter, working hard on my first five-stitches-wide rainbow scarf. I would wear it every day. Especially in July - heatwave be damned.

Anna by this point has produced a silk-worm-like cocoon of wool on the needle. She hands it back to me.

"There you go Mom! I'm just gonna need you to do the long part, you know the stretching it out so that's it a scarf part. I'm gonna have a snack".

I may have to wait a while for that rainbow scarf.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Don't Try This At Home

AliBlahBlah - making your life seem like a chuffing picnic.

Running an apartment building can be a full time job - a round the clock job when you're transitioning between tenants.

The trouble is, we already have full time jobs, plus two small and very demanding children. The last two weeks have been pretty harrowing. It would have put a huge strain on our marriage, except we've not been awake and in the same location as one another for more than two minutes at a time so we've only been able to bicker by text - and predictive text doesn't let you swear in British, so I've had to be restrained.

We gutted and renovated a three bedroom two bath apartment in four days with a budget made from fairy wings and pixie dust. LK worked til 2:30am every morning and was up to start his day job at 7am. I single-parented it for a week and definitely got the better end of the deal. I was sorely tempted to use the baby monitor and help him remove 10 years of rotten grout from the filthiest bathrooms of all time but somehow even though we were just next door to the sleeping kids, it didn't seem right. The two apartments combined (ours shares a wall with the one we were renovating) are probably equal to the square footage of your average American home, but even though we were only feet away from the kids, the fact that we were at a different physical postal address made us both freak out about using the baby monitor.

It was awful. At the time, the issues seemed insurmountable. Still, we did it, and we pulled it off by ourselves. It took the existing hoarders four days to move out - that's four days longer than we had anticipated them being there. Every day we would text 'are you guys going to be out today' and they would reply 'no', and we would try not to panic about the carpet that was being delivered in a matter of hours.

Meanwhile, next door chez K, our slab leak was gushing water and we still had yet to locate it. Our plumber called a specialty plumber, who detected it via sonar, and left detailed instructions for the plumber to fix it. The whole process took an absurdly long time, especially when you consider we could hear a continuous 'pshhhhhh' as water poured out of the building. Yes, it would have been prudent to turn off the water, except there is only one water shut off for the entire building....Nice.

Still, I'm always trying to scratch around for the positive or the humorous side to things, (believe it or not). Did you know that you can get a one-time 'extraordinary water charge' adjustment on your water bill? We do now. Plus, on a very positive note, in a tough rental market we had prospective tenants volunteering themselves for the place - we didn't even have to advertise, and we got to increase the rent. They rented it sight unseen (and a bloody good job too.....).We also had people notice the UHaul in our drive and knock on our door wanting to know if there was a place to rent. Form an orderly queue people.

The new tenants are three college girls. I know. LK laughably thinks their presence will persuade me to 'get my game on'. All I can think about is on-site babysitting. Besides, I'm sure to them he must seem about 120 years old.

Or perhaps I'd better just go out for a quick jog......

Saturday, July 03, 2010


Firstly, in a rare act of continuity, I bring you Lucy's first day at preschool:

She had a wonderful time. She napped, she explored, she got absolutely chuffing filthy. It was a perfect honeymoon start. She didn't cling to her sister, she didn't demand to be held, apparently she just walked and walked and walked. Amazed that there was half an acre of kid-size trails, and new plants, and sand pits to explore. A 'flower vine tunnel', a 'wooden chateau with play furniture'. When I arrived she was toddling around the tangerine tree, and she shouted 'Mamma' as soon as she saw me, but after a brief hug she wanted to be down and free to wander again. When I'd eventually rounded up her older sister and we were walking out of the school, Lucy finally rested her head on my shoulder and gave a huge sigh, glad to give in to the known. Or maybe she was just sad to be leaving the place.


Back to Anna. I think she's picking up on the general stress levels chez K. Our tenants are moving out as we speak (ominous bangs and crashes through the wall in front of me). They were slamming UHaul doors and clanging equipment at 2am this morning. Last night they asked if they really needed to thoroughly clean their stove 'as you'll probably be replacing it right?'. I can't even think about it. We have only rarely been in that apartment since we bought this building 5 years ago, they pre-dated us, once invited a homeless family of 8 to live with them, blamed a broken toilet on low-flying aircraft, and, no small thing, they are hoarders. My anxiety levels are through the roof.

Anna had been hidden away in her room for most of this morning, only emerging for a stealthy sandwich or for some princess wardrobe fix (broken tiara, stuck zip). She was not happy to be told that we'd have to head out to LK's work for a 4th of July party. She was not happy to learn that she'd have to wear a non-princess dress. She moaned in the car, her dress was hurting. 'I am in pain, real pain. It hurts unless I I lean forward like this' (looking back in the rearview mirror revealed a crazy yoga/seatbelt contortion). 'Mom' she whined 'I feel like you're not listening to me! I am EXCRUCIATING!"

My thoughts exactly.

I pulled in to the nearest driveway which happened to be McDonalds. I performed emergency surgery on the dress, pulling out a tiny piece of plastic left over from the tag. Bingo, instant cure.

She started to look around. 'I'm thinking Mom, that I'm going to need some Old McDonalds french fries after that'.
'But you're cured', I said.
'Yes, but I'm still feeling a little sad about it all'.