Joining the Union

One of my very favorite movies – and I know I’m not alone in this – is It’s a Wonderful Life.

I want a BIG one!

As a kid, my sisters and I would watch this movie every winter.  I secretly had a big crush on Jimmy Stewart, and I am sure that he is why I have always had an affinity for the tall, slender, good-hearted type man.  (And look!  I married me one!  Thanks, Jimmy!)  Somehow, as I grew up, this cinematic gem was elbowed out of my Christmas flick rotation, replaced instead by my generation’s new “classics”.  Two years ago, I learned that my Old Man had NEVER SEEN IT.  Obviously, this atrocity could not abide.  So we watched it and he loved it and our Christmas Flick List has been rewritten.

I must say that watching this movie in this particular economic moment as a socially conscious adult was a whole lot different that it was as a child in the 80’s.  Is this not a movie written for the diminishing middle class of today?  I say it is!   

As a member of this diminishing middle class, I got to wondering about the Building & Loans of yesteryear and whether such establishments still exist.  Since doing electronic transfers from the buried Maxwell House Coffee can under the azaleas has proven to be problematic, I wanted to know if a non-bank, non-coffee can option exists for modern folks.  I eventually came around to the revelation that Credit Unions might be the answer.  I did a little bit of investigation, and this is what I found: 

Since credit unions are not for profit, they are not under the same pressure banks are to impress their shareholders with how much money they have made from their customers… because their shareholders ARE their customers!  It’s a We-Won’t-Screw-You-Because-We-Are-You philosophy.  And because of this philosphy, credit unions do not generally charge the same type of under-handed fees that banks are infamous for.  It’s how it oughta be!  As I learned from The Golden One Credit Union, when a member joins and opens up an account, they are charged one dollar – essentially buying one share of the company.  When it’s time for company decisions to be made, members are asked to vote, and each person – Joe Broke with ten dollars in his account, and Joe Loaded with ten thousand dollars – gets one vote.   And on the occasion that the credit union makes a good investment that pays off, it divides the profits up between all of it’s members!  (According to Dino at The Golden One Credit Union in Goleta, several years ago, each member received $40 from such an investment.  It’s not an everyday occurance, but it does happen!)

But because we live in a world of imperfections, there are of course drawbacks.  These include the fact that credit union ATMs can be hard to find. 
The Solution:  99% of credit unions accept deposits from members of other credit unions, so any credit union or credit union’s ATM can be used without fees.  Also, ATMs at all 7-Elevens are part of the program and can be used for free. 

Another drawback is that credit unions have had the reputation for being slow to modernize. 
The Solution:  there’s an app for that!  The Golden One has an iPhone app with which you can take a picture of your check and deposit it digitally.  Boom:  modernity. 

Yet another credit union shortcoming is the fact that they cannot offer business accounts. 
The Solution:  There is no solution.  Bummer.

As you can imagine, the Old Man and me opened up an account at The Golden One.  I haven’t used it enough to rant or rave about the pros or cons of the actual practice of credit unionization, but I have high hopes.  

Mean-spirited Big Banks and Wall Street dookies.

 Merry Christmas to you, Mister Potter.  (I flip you the partridge in a pear tree.)

Sweet, wonderful Building and Loan middle class darlings.

Credit union group hug!

(If you’re still not convinced, google “Why choose a credit union?” and you’ll very likely get converted.) 

The Golden One Credit Union link

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Persuasion for Asian (Holidays)

I am a perplexed and a little disappointed with Santa Barbara’s non-celebration of the Lunar New Year.  We do Solstice Parades, two Christmas Parades, Veteran’s Day Parades, Gay Pride Parades, Fiesta Parades, Fourth of July Parades… but no Lunar New Year Parade?  How is it that we can go ALL OUT for Summer Solstice and even make up our own week-long holiday, yet completely neglect Lunar New Year?

In no way do I mean to imply that Santa Barbara does not hold enough parades.  As you can see, we have parades coming out of our ears.  Neither am I implying that we should have fewer parades.  Parades are great.  BUT.  I am saying that to more than a billion people world-wide, the Lunar New Year is the most important holiday of the year, and our city doesn’t show a blip of interest.  What’s more, according to the plaque which hangs at the former site of Jimmy’s Oriental Restaurant, the two blocks of Canon Perdido between State and Santa Barbara Streets used to be home to our own thriving (albeit teensy) China Town!  And in the 1800’s, Chinese accounted for ten percent of this town’s population!  Not to mention whatever Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, and all other types of Asiankind have called this town home.

Come on, Santa Barbara!  Represent!

I propose a take over!  I am hereby making it my goal to make this happen in Santa Barbara.  Admittedly, I have not-a-whole-lot of experience in the implementing new municipal traditions department, but I envision a parade with a full 20+ person manned dragon dance, fireworks, wishing tree, red envelopes, red lanterns on State Street, fortune cookies for all and lots and lots of Chinese food!

LIKE THIS!

I myself am not Asian.  (Although, in high school I nearly convinced a group of friends that I was a quarter Asian since I am half Spanish, and Filipinos are half Spanish.  It’s simple logic!)  But I do celebrate Lunar New Year.  For the past three years, I have diligently (let’s be honest: superstitiously) cleaned our apartment as thoroughly as possible in the weeks leading up to the day.  I’m talkin’ scrub the walls, the fridge, the cabinets – get rid of old clothes – steam-clean the couch – wash the outsides of the windows – vacuum under the bed CLEAN.  I purposefully do not take out the trash or sweep for the week following so as not to sweep away the good luck brought on by the new year.  I wear red on New Year’s Day.  I make sure to have mandarins and fresh flowers in the house.  And this year, I gave The Old Man a red envelope with a bright and shiny hundred dollar bill.  All in the name of good luck.  This is nourishment to my superstitious Sagittarius soul.  Where I picked this tradition up from, who the eff knows.  But I did.  And it stuck.  And I LOVE IT!  And I think other people will love it to!

Lunar New Year balloons in New York City

Lunar New Year balloons in NYC

Let’s all carry balloons!

Pretty!

And dance with gilded skirts!

It is possible that I am drunk on the loveliness of this holiday and am making it up that I will actually follow through and institute a citywide celebration and parade.  I have been known to soar to great heights on the wings of brilliant ideas held up on the breeze enthusiasm and gusto, only to glide softly down to earth to completely and unceremoniously abandon my terror bird fantasies for no other reason than “shrug”.  But as of today, whether I am BSing or not, I hereby declare that Santa Barbara SHALL have an annual Lunar New Year celebration!  Who’s with me?!

So let it be written.  So let it be done.
(Name the source of this quote!  Comment on this post with the answer and you shall be awarded one hundred extra credit points in heaven.  Better yet, comment with an enthusiastic comment of support for two hundred!)

PS.  I thought I should mention that The Old Man bet $10 of his New Year’s $100 in a penny slot machine in Deadwood, South Dakota today and BAM!  Made $54.  Yeehaw for super superstitions!

*All images in this post are licensed under The Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Share Alike License and can be found at http://commons.wikimedia.org.  Click on images to link to original.

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Compst Bin

Welcome to 2012!

So far, in this household, this year has had a Make Better theme.  For instance, The Ole’ Husband is quitting smoking and joining a gym.  I am currently going through our refrigerator and cabinets to dump any expired thing and am deep-cleaning the house before Chinese New Year (it’s good luck to have a spotlessly clean house on Chinese New Year.  (January 23.  Get scrubbing!))  Additionally, I am making a number of changes to my health routine (details to come in a later post).  But – by far – my favorite life-improving 2012 activity occurred last Saturday when we built a compost bin!

This may not be exciting to anyone other than myself and my fellow apartmates (the other three couples who live in our apartment complex), but – OMG – we love it.

You may already be aware of the benefits of composting, but just in case you’re not, let me evangelize you.  Compost is great because:

a)  Uneaten fruits and vegetables are no longer wasted!  Ever felt guilty about not eating your peas?  Well don’t!  Because when you add them to your compost pile, they decompose over the course of several weeks and, along with whatever other vegetables you toss in there, create a magnificently rich soil perfect for gardening.  If you’ve ever tried to grow vegetables and have been unimpressed by the results – try using homemade compost – you may be pleasantly surprised at how much better produce tastes and looks when grown in it.

b)  You’ll take your trash out less often!  You will be amazed at how much more slowly your garbage can fills up when you’re tossing all fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, flower clippings, lawn trimmings, beer, wine, egg shells, et cetera into the compost.  (And seaweed!  Not that seaweed is necessarily taking up a lot of room in your trash cans, BUT it is worth mentioning that seaweed is chock full of iodine and if you’re using your compost to grow veggies, iodine is an excellent thing.  If you do compost and do collect seaweed to add, make sure you grab the fresh wet stuff to avoid salting your compost pile to death.)

c)  Composting is Nature’s way of amending soil.  Most vegetables and grains today are grown in fields whose soil has been sucked dry of natural nutrients.  Add them nutrients back in with compost!

d)  It’s fun!  And educational!  And rewarding!

Just yesterday afternoon when I arrived home from work, I walked straight to the back patio to look at our beautiful bin and it’s luscious contents.  Gazing upon such beautiful confluence of kitchen debris decomposing together is so therapeutic for me.  All this stuff that would otherwise take up space in the garbage and eventually go to utter waste in the landfill is now being turned into rich, beautiful, nutritious soil just like it was meant to!

Glorious, no?

If you do want to compost but don’t want to have to build a bin – good news! – you don’t have to!  I have seen compost bins at Costco and a hundred places on the internet (they may not be as totally adorable as ours, but they’ll get the job done).  Just make sure that whatever compost bin you buy / build will allow for air circulation.  Air circulation is key for proper decomposing and will keep the pile from stinking.  Should you like to recreate this particular Bin of Awesome in you own backyard, see below for building instructions.  If not, skip the last half of this post (because it’s boring) and VIVA 2012!

Supplies:
(3) 10′ 1×8 pine boards  $9/ea (+ one extra 30″ scrap which we had lying around)
(1) 6′ roll of chicken wire $9
A random 12″ length of rope from the dude at the nursery $0
Staple gun staples
(1) 10′ 1×4 pine board $5  (+ a little extra for the lid)

Tools:
Jigsaw
1/2″ Chisel
Hammer
Staple gun
Speed square

To make transporting the boards easier, we had the fine folks at Home Depot cut the 10′ boards into 4 equal 30″pieces.  (If this is cheating on our “DIY” project, I don’t want to know.)  Once we got home, we began by laying ten of the twelve 1×8 boards out longways drawing a line 5/8″ long beginning at 2″ in from the short side of the board and 1″ down from the long side at all four corners (4 notches per board).  Then, we used the jigsaw to cut the sides of the notches (the 1″ down part), and employed the chisel / hammer duo to pop the little wood pieces out (Place the edge of the chisel’s blade along the 5/8″ line, keeping it at a 90 degree angle to the board, then use the hammer to whap the handle, pushing the chisel into the wood, and popping out the notch.)  The idea is to turn the boards into notched Lincoln Log logs.  We did the same for the smaller boards, but only cut down 1/2″ from the long side of the board instead of 1″, and only on one length (two notches per board).  We set the leftover two 30″ 1×8 boards aside.

As we finished cutting the notches of each board, we stacked them – Lincoln Log style – and watched them become a bin.  Two of the 1×4 lengths started the base of the bin.  From there, we added the 1×8 pieces.  Once all ten 1×8 pieces were stacked, we added the last two 1×4’s to the top.  No glue or nails required!

Then we unrolled the chicken wire and stapled it along the inside of our newly formed bin.  The more staples, the better!

So hot.

With the leftover two pieces of 1×8 (plus an extra 1×8 scrap piece, and two 1×4 scraps we had laying around), Ole’ Husb made the lid.  He used the rope to make the handle.

If you, like us,  are planning on never moving your compost bin, it is okay to leave the bin like this without further structural support since gravity is keeping this stuff together.  But, if you would like to freedom to move your bin around, you should consider nailing slats of wood (maybe 1×4’s) on the inside of the bin vertically to connect the boards to each other.  Otherwise, you’ll have a big compost-y mess and a busted bin to deal with when you try to lift it.

One important thing to note, since air is essential for compost, it is a good idea to turn your compost every so often.  We purchased a Garden Claw (see first photo) and it has already proven to be very useful and fun to use.  A simple pitchfork will do the trick, too, but the Garden Claw kicks ass (and is also useful for aerating lawns and prepping soil for planting).

A toast to compost!

WEDDING MOVIE!

Somehow, out of all the people in the entire world, I found myself the best one.  And then I married him, and then he made a movie about it.

And here it is:

(Forgive the few funky sound issues… it ain’t quite finished yet… but I couldn’t wait to post it.)

Music credit:  Paulo Nutini’s “Growing Up Beside You”, and The Morning Benders “All Day Day Light”.

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Industry

One of the things I looked forward to on our recent trip to Ireland and Spain was scooping up some fantastic trinket to deck our walls or halls.  But, due to the fact that Ireland was shockingly expensive, the dollar was significantly weaker than the euro, and I had serious guilt issues about buying stuff for myself, I returned home sans decor.  Instead, I snapped some shots of one great little shop in Dublin… to torture myself.

The hanging lamp shade is made out of old wooden rulers!

The shop is called Industry.  Gavin and I just happened upon it as we meandered down several funky side streets, and it was probably my favorite shop in Dublin.  The vibe is industrial, hence the name, yet polite and polished at the same time.

Pantone mugs and espresso cups.I kick myself for not getting one of these mugs.  It would have end up costing about 14 American dollars and, since it is inconceivable that I would ever pay that much for a mug in the course of normal life, I passed.  But $14 in the scheme of our entire trip?!?!  DOH!

A basket full of old letter press stamps!

And these stamps…  WHY DIDN’T I?!?!

The owner of the shop is Vanessa, a very lovely and friendly young interior designer.  Next time you’re in Dublin, go peek in and tell her hello.  AND BUY SOMETHING!  See above for the street address, and check out the website at www.industrydesign.ie where you will find better photos of more cool stuff.

And always remember – if you are ever lucky enough to find yourself traveling to some glorious far-off locale, don’t skimp on the tchotchkes.  Everything is cooler if it’s from somewhere else.

HAIR!

I have never been particularly in charge of my hair.  It pretty much does what it wants and tells me to suck an egg, which I sadly have had to do UNTIL NOW.

Because of the wonder that is the boar’s bristle hair brush, my hair is now my bitch.

If you are a woman and you do not own a boar’s bristle hair brush, buy one this instant.  I paid $9 for mine.  They’re not so good for detangling (unless you buy the combo nylon / boar’s hair, which I have not tried), but they are killer for smoothing hair and de-frizzing hair during blow drying.  Apparently the boar’s hair bristle redistributes your hair’s natural oils in order to keep everything even and glossy.  Even if you are a naturally super dark brunette who has gone platinum (me), and thought there was no way your hair could ever look smooth, YES, even you can have glossy smooth hair.

In other hair news, I have been growing mine out.  Which means it has been quite the disaster (besides all the silky glossiness, of course) with split ends, no shape, and that weird can’t-do-nothing length.  But, in hopeful anticipation, I spent some of today browsing the interweb for inspiration for what to do with it when it is no longer weird.

See hair design culled from the pages of the Harper’s Bazaar website:

The ponytail you TOTALLY WANTED in second grade. Seen at Herve Leger.

Excellent use of hairpins at Phillip Lim.

Radical feather use at Jason Wu. (Wooo!)

The simple, classy, stylish loose ponytail tied with a ribbon.

Twisty spinny pinned up coolness. Seen on Giorgio Armani's models.

Order in chaos braid: Michael Kors.

...yeah not this one. I had to include this photo because this model has an eerie resemblance to my 6th grade gender-confused school teacher. (Her hair never looked this groomed.)

If you have any incredible and simple hair tips to share with the world, please leave a comment!

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Dwelling

Cold weather, short days, the soon-coming twenty ninth birthday – these things combine to cause me particular feelings…  Feelings which compel me to subscribe to magazines…  Magazines with pictures of houses that exhibit well-planned decor and environmentally responsible building practices.  Id est: Dwell Magazine.  (Fun Fact:  “Id est” is the long hand of “i.e.” and is Latin for “it is”.  Horray for Fun Facts with The Domestic B!  Id est great!)

You are probably cooler than me and likely have already boarded the Dwell Magazine train.  In fact, you have probably left the station and are now sitting comfortably enjoying the back and forth cradle rocking motion that the Dwell Magazine train produces while zooming responsibly forward toward your ultimate destination that is your perfectly imperfect solar powered, pre-fabricated, Nordic-designed, roof-top organic gardened, 900 square foot, less-is-better dream house.  Well, move on over, modern chic amigo!  I have hopped this train like a Depression Era hobo – toot toot – and loan me a nickel to buy a bottle of moonshine.

Forgive me if I froth.  It’s just that in the Dec/Jan issue that just arrived, the majority of the photos and articles flaunt beautiful pre-fabricated, container or module homes, and the amount of practicality and beauty and economy and environmental responsibility mingling so sexily together is a huge turn on.  Examples:

A lakeside retreat built from two main modules.

Inside the lakeside retreat where glass connects the two modules.

Another pre-fab house clad in concrete panels.

A bathroom inside a house made from shipping containers. Check the shower!

Totally hot, right?

You too can indulge your desire for pre-fabricated design porn at www.dwell.com/prefab.

If you didn’t already know, many pre-fab homes cost less than half of what it costs to build one from sticks and bricks.  (Naturally, you do have to own a piece of land to place the thing upon…)  And pre-fab manufacturers know that “modern” architecture is not for everybody and offer any kind of Cape Cod / ranch style / California Cottage / plantation / adobe / teepee dwelling you can think of.  Google that shit!  It’ll getcha.

Here’s a particularly nice floorplan from www.bluhomes.com  *Note:  not all pre-fab houses are inexpensive.

Dig the sitting area in the Master Bedroom and aaaaall that closet space.

Since manufacturers are able to produce modules en masse, (this plan is probably six modules, maybe three?) they are able to order lumber already cut to the correct size, thereby saving wood, money and time.  And customization is totally doable! 

I was lucky enough to recently get to witness the lego-stacking pre-fabulous building process right here in Santa Barbara.  It took all of about one day with a crew of hard hats, a big-ass crane, and four semi trucks.  Mr. Homeowner and his family set up a barbeque and a shade tent on the sidewalk across the street from where his house was being stacked, grilled up some hotdogs, and watched their house materialize before their eyes.  Cabinets, fixtures, windows, tile, siding already installed.  It will take 8 more weeks for all the fine-tuning to happen, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, etc to be hooked up, but heck!  How awesome, right?  See below:

 
Three cheers for beautiful, responsible house making!
And three cheers to you!  May you have a glorious Thanksgiving and remember to actually give thanks. 
Thanks. 
 

Early Morning Ireland

One of the great joys of traveling is jet-lag.

As everybody knows, jet-lag is best enjoyed while wandering the pre-dawn streets of foreign cities, bleary of eye and cloudy of brain.  So, on our first full day of honeymoon bliss, in order to savor our jet-lag to the utmost, Gavin and I woke up sometime between four and five o’clock and took to the streets of Dublin without a plan and without a map.  Within five minutes, a historically important building found its way to us: Christ Church – the oldest medieval building in Dublin.  See below for first rays of sunlight on it’s outer walls, with the moon still in the sky.

That little dot up there is the moon!

It wasn’t open that early in the morning, so on we walked.  And at around eight o’clock we found ourselves another historically important building:  St. Patrick’s Cathedral – the other oldest medieval building in Dublin.  The marquee outside announced that matins are sung every morning at nine, so – undeterred by the fact that we did not know what what matins are – we waited until then, paid the tourist fee, put away our cameras and waited.  If you, like me, are unschooled in the ways of Irish Anglicans (yes, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is Anglican, not Catholic), and had to google “matins”, allow me to inform you that matins is an early morning service during which psalms are sung.  And at St. Pat’s in particular, the psalms are sung by super darling Irish children.

We sneaked a recording for you!  Click below to listen:

St. Patrick’s Cathedral Matins 10/20/11

Lovely, no?  My favorite part was watching the kids pick their noses during songs.  (Shame on you, Seamus O’Shamaucy.  I shaw you…)

After matins, we pretended to blend in with German students and eavesdropped a guided tour of the cathedral.  We learned what “chancing your arm” means and where it comes from… or at least where the Irish have decided it comes from.  (Get the run-down here:  http://virtuallinguist.typepad.com/the_virtual_linguist/2011/05/chance-your-arm.html)  We also learned that Jonathan Swift is buried at the cathedral… standing up.

Then we saw really old flags:

Really old flags.

Then we saw the outside of the cathedral again.

The outside of the cathedral again.

After so much medievalness, we had to find a pub.

So we did!

After a nap.

Back in the Saddle

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that Life Partner and I have had the good fortune to have recently adventured the hillsides and plains of Europe for our honeymoon.

After an amazing sixteen days, we. are. back.

I am at a loss deciding what exactly to say about the trip – where to begin.  So, I suppose I should let this post suffice as a “hello again”, and as the days and blog posts pass, stories and pictures of the trip will emerge and I can dole out bits and pieces instead one huge too-much-info-heap all at once.  I will say though that, although we were sorry to leave Ireland / Spain, we are happy to be home.  And Santa Barbara stands up beautifully even against the charmed cities of The Old World.

Of course I couldn’t have a blog post without a photo or six.  So here are some teasers (à la Gavin or myself using an iPad app called Photo Toaster).  Enjoy and hasta pronto!

The Irish countryside.

Open air market in Galway

Cliffs of Moher

Rainy day in Granada

Almeria

(Ancient postcard?  Nope!  Digital magic from the caldron of Photo Toaster.  Cool, right?)

The Alhambra

Dressing for the Weather

As you might imagine, with only SEVEN DAYS UNTIL LIFTOFF, I am finding it difficult to think about anything other than Ireland or Spain.  I am SO EXCITED!!!   Even agonizing over the maddening details like deciding what gifts to bring to our family in Ireland (perhaps wine?  but what if they don’t like wine?  a dolphin wood carving?  maybe something more Catholic-y?  … wine it is!) is somehow very satisfying.  My mind is chewing and savoring and digesting the fact that we are finally going. 

By far, the most enjoyable brain fodder for me has been deciding what to wear.  Although admittedly this is causing me some anxiety being that Ireland is supposed to be rainy and chilly – I believe 59 degrees or so on average, and Spain is supposed to be sunny and hot – 80 degrees or so.  Packing for two very different climates in one very limited bag may prove to make me crazy insane-o, but I swear to GOD I will be a well-dressed crazy insane-o.

So here is my solution:  See Spain wardrobe below:


How nice of me and the rest of my identical octuplets to try on all of these outfits to take a picture.  You’re welcome.  (Side note:  I am pretty positive that this model is the actress who plays ONE of the women Don Draper sleeps with in season three of Mad Men.  The teacher.  Am I right?)

Anyway.  My octuplet sisters and I are modeling part of Heidi Merrick’s Spring 2012 collection.  I feel that bright colors will work well to both enliven the drizzly atmosphere of the one, and reflect the vibrancy of the other.  Also, although some of these outfits are decidedly Spainy, most of them could easily be made Irelandy.  Throw some cozy leggings on underneath some of those, add tall black water-friendly riding boots, a scarf, and a coat and wha-blam!  Irelandy.  So although I do not own any pieces from Heidi Merrick’s Spring 2012 collection (YET!) I am trying to build a travel wardrobe with outfits like this.  Key words and phrases:  versatility, simplicity, chose a color palette and stick with it, layers, comfort, and leave some room in the bag for NEW items of clothing.

How will our cats will fare without constant adoration?   When exactly should I take my Advil PM on the flight across the Atlantic to minimize jet lag?   Is our landlord really going to renovate our bathroom while we’re gone?  (Crossing fingers for an affirmative answer on that one.)  Will we be able to catch up on Dexter on the iPad during our travels?  Is it wrong to wear Spring 2012 when it’s only Fall 2011?  All these worries will soon subside as the old man and I inch ever closer to our precious sixteen days of cold Irish beer in warm Irish pubs, and cool Spanish sangria on hot Spanish terraces, perfectly attired and mutually admired.