escaping thomas

Most of the time living in Southern California is paradise…beautiful weather, friendly people, the mountains, and the beauty of the Pacific Ocean.  That is why we live here.  Unfortunately, even paradise has it’s dark side and for us it’s the wildfires.

The Thomas Fire started on December 4th in the early evening near Thomas Aquinas College (hence the name) in Ventura some 45 miles away.  I didn’t become aware of it until Tuesday morning when I watched the local news and smelled smoke when I stepped outside.  Santa Ana winds gusting upwards of 70 miles an hour fanned the flames and with relative humidity in the single digits, it was a perfect storm.  To make matters worse, 5 other large wildfires started all over Southern California stretching resources thin.  As of this writing, most of those are under control.  However, the Thomas Fire still rages on burning through acres of forest and sadly neighborhoods. No one, not even the Santa Barbara fire chief thought it would make it up to Santa Barbara County…but it’s here.

As of today, December 12, the Thomas Fire has burned 237,500 acres making it the fifth largest wildfire in California history.  It is only 25% contained. 100,000 people have been evacuated and 18,000 structures are threatened.  900+ structures have burned and the cost to fight this monster is upwards of $55,000,000 and rising. We now have close to 8,000 firefighters working nonstop to get it under control.  It’s hard to wrap your head around numbers like these.

What is humbling and so frightening is how quickly things can change. On the third day of the fire, the picturesque town of Ojai was surrounded by flames. Unfortunately, homes on the outer fringes were lost but the town is still standing. Residents in the seaside town of Carpinteria went to bed Saturday night with a mandatory evacuation that had been downgraded to voluntary…a hopeful sign.  At 2:30 am, alerts went out to evacuate immediately.  Early Sunday morning, with the help of a night flying helicopter, firefighters battled to save a neighborhood.  By Sunday evening the fire had burned through over 56,000 additional acres.  A staggering number. I’ve learned just how unpredictable fire can be (even to the pros), and how we are at the mercy of the weather and the power of the flames.

I made the decision to leave long before the evacuation came through for our home. With my husband on the East coast, and our daughter safe in Redondo Beach, I left on Thursday, 3 days after the fire had started because the smoke was already unbearable.  The hottest seller this Christmas in SoCal has been respiratory masks.  They are sold out up and down the coast but luckily are being given out for free at many locations. The air quality in Santa Barbara is deemed hazardous or on a better day, unhealthy. Who would have thought there would be cleaner air in LA?

Escaping Thomas
This was my view Thursday morning from my backyard. Pictures can’t describe the acrid smell of smoke that permeates everything…even inside homes.

When I left I thought it was for 2 or 3 days just to escape the smoke…never dreaming that our home would be in danger from a fire that started in Ventura. I stayed at the Inn at Ragged Point on Thursday night.  On Friday, my in laws generously offered me the use of their Big Sur ranch 265 miles away from Santa Barbara.  Yet even here, smoke can be seen…a testament to the size and scope of Thomas.

There is no TV at the ranch which in a way is a blessing as the images are terrifying.  But I do have my laptop and am able to stream our local news station which has provided incredible images and up to date information.

At this point, things are uncertain.  The weather seems to be cooperating for now which is a good thing, but I have no idea when everyone will be able to return home.  I am beyond grateful for our firefighters who have come from all over and our first responders for keeping us safe and fighting valiantly to save homes.

Thank you all for your prayers and good wishes.   I take them all to heart and have faith that we will get through this one way or another.

I’m sharing some images from the last few days… along with the horrible, there has been much beauty and even a bit of humor.


Escaping Thomas
Getting out of Dodge. On the 154 heading towards Santa Ynez where the smoke can still be seen.
Escaping Thomas
I arrive at Ragged Point, the gateway to Big Sur (although because of the giant land slide this winter, Highway 1 is closed just North of here)
Escaping Thomas
The inscription on this sculpture says “Portal to Big Sur”
Escaping Thomas
Always beautiful even with smoke on the horizon
Escaping Thomas
Night falling on the inn


Escaping Thomas
As I head out Friday morning for my in laws ranch in Big Sur, I am saddened to see this photo of my hometown shrouded in smoke and ash. But it reinforces for me my decision to leave for cleaner air.
Escaping Thomas
My friend Adrienne Carerre sent me this as she helps feed the evacuated animals being housed at the Santa Barbara Polo Fields.  They recently had to be relocated again because of the proximity of the fire.  Not to be forgotten are pets and wildlife during a fire.


Escaping Thomas
The promise of a new day…
Escaping Thomas
Big Sur is an incredibly spiritual place. I often find solace at the top of the hike at the ranch. This time it was a place for prayers for our firefighters and for all who are in trouble not just here but across the globe. Peace.
Escape from Thomas
Big Sur has survived it’s share of fires as evidenced by these char blackened redwood trees. How heartening to see new life sprouting from the destruction…
Escaping Thomas
A friend sent me a picture from my house. This is mid day on a sunny Saturday. The sun was completely hidden by the thick smoke.
Escaping Thomas
Mother Nature can be downright terrifying but also incredibly beautiful as in this sunset


Escaping Thomas
What looks like a storm coming, is actually smoke from the fire.  An ominous sign.  And sure enough, the Thomas Fire had exploded once again consuming over 50,000 acres in one day and moving into Santa Barbara County
Escaping Thomas
They say the ocean has healing powers. I believe.


Escaping Thomas
Monday began with the smell of smoke in the air. It is a smell that fills me with dread. There had been a brush fire during the night behind the Ventana Inn. I have no idea which fire the smoke was from…but it doesn’t instill calm.
Escaping Thomas
My friend Adrienne Carerre sent me this photo. She and her family with dog and a chicken named Poppy in tow, evacuated to Montecito. This is Poppy surveying her new world. It was the first time I had laughed in days!
Escaping Thomas
And then she sent me this from last night.  The hills above Montecito burning….
Escaping Thomas
Last nights sunset through the smoke in Big Sur


Escaping Thomas
My friends from Mate Gallery posted this of the fires last night. The Santa Barbara foothills on fire is a frightening sight.
Escaping Thomas
I couldn’t end on that last image. This is the moon over Big Sur at sunrise and the promise of what I hope will be a good day for the firefighters, our friends, and our coastal towns.

For those who would like to help here are a few organizations:


American Red Cross

Humane Society of Ventura County

And of course prayers are always welcome!



favorite shop: scout

You all know by now how I love to shop local.  This past weekend while my daughter was visiting, she was going on about this new shop she had passed downtown but wasn’t open when she had walked by.  Luckily, quite accidentally, we stumbled upon SCOUT while doing some Christmas shopping the next day.

Favorite Shop:  Scout
You’re in for a treat here!

I was in love the moment I walked through the door… bright white interior with gorgeous vintage furniture, art, and accessories all tastefully arranged.  That the proprietress was a delight was simply icing on the cake!  And did I mention the reasonable prices?

Favorite Shop:  SCOUT
Can I just move in? And where can I put that fabulous love seat??

Edie Caldwell and her daughter Meredith Shank opened their small shop in September and I hope they are here to stay for a long time.  Edie told me that she and her daughter only buy items they would put in their own homes.  That’s probably why the shop feels so much like a home and small though it is, I was captivated by every item from the beautifully upholstered vintage rattan love seat, to an old gin crate that made its way home with me.

Favorite Shop:  Scout
The charming Edie writing up my bill. There’s my gin crate on the rug, ready to go home with me!
Favorite Shop:  Scout
This little beauty is going to a clients home…
Favorite Shop:  Scout
Check out that sweet little door below the stairs…
Favorite Shop:  Scout
I love that my daughter loves shops like this as much as I do!

If you are local, I highly recommend you stop by.  If you’re not, do check out their highly original and entertaining Instagram! If you see something you fancy, you can even buy it via the app by DMing them with your zip code for purchase. I have no doubt you will be as charmed by this shop as I am.


35 East Ortega Street

Santa Barbara, CA  93101


Favorite Shop:  Scout
Photo: SCOUT website


happy thanksgiving

Having celebrated Thanksgiving this past weekend while my family was all together, I’m spending a quiet day at the Little Glass House. Later this afternoon I will be feasting with friends.  Wishing you all a bright, cozy, safe and delicious holiday!!

shop crush: the dharma door

Instagram can be an amazing introduction to small businesses and trade from all over.  When I first saw an incredible wall hanging on The Beach Lodge’s Instagram feed, my jaw dropped.  Of course I had to follow up! I found out it was from The Dharma Door , founded in 2004 by Australian Shannon Sheedy, with the “dream of creating products that combine good design with ethical production.

Shannon and her husband are one of the leading sources for contemporary fair trade in Australia and New Zealand.  And as luck would have it, they branched out into the US market in 2014 which is wonderful news for us!

After scrolling through their beautiful array of baskets, wall hangings, and homewares, I was smitten with the Mandala circular wall hanging.  I ordered it for a client and fell in love with it’s intricate beauty.  I then ordered one for my daughter’s room and being quite naughty, something special for my own bedroom.  Those of you who follow me on Instagram know how much I love neutral texture and organic, modern design.  These wall hangings encompass everything I adore!

Shop Crush: The Dharma Door
The Mandala wall hanging in my daughter’s room adds delicate texture to a small space.

The Jumbo Wall Hanging with jute fringe just spoke to me.  It reminds me of a hula skirt I had as a kid, and also resembles what my hair looks like first thing in the morning!  It is texture on steroids!

Shop Crush:  The Dharma Door
I’m obsessed with this shaggy work of art!
Shop Crush:  The Dharma Door
Up close you can appreciate the work involved.  It’s hung on a simple wood dowel I picked up at the hardware store.

There are many beautiful baskets and bags if wall hangings aren’t your jam, but for me, this is IT.  Do your self a favor and check out their site, and by the way, their customer service is excellent too!

Shop Crush:  The Dharma Door
A few of my favorite things…and a whole lot of books!


my favorite nook

By far one of my most popular posts and highly pinned images, is my parents breakfast nook in their Vermont farmhouse.  I am often asked questions about it, so I’ve updated my blog post from a year ago with more facts, sources, and dimensions for those of you who are interested in maybe adding a nook to your own home! Here it is… Continue reading