A door for Lucy

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The construction on the “garage” portion of our home is in the phase where nothing exactly looks like it’s changing even when work is being done on it. I took a few pictures a week or so ago now that the drywall is up and today is day two of mudding and taping everything to get it ready to be painted. But before I share those, Lucy demanded I show one new feature that we’re adding just for her (and yes, I know it’s annoying to act like Lucy cares about what pictures I take, but I’m obsessed with her so I can’t help it).

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This little pup learned to use a doggy door during a trip to Southern California and it’s been on our list of things to add during construction since we got her. When we’re home we have to leave the door cracked open or remember to take her out every now and then for a potty break (or she’ll bark to remind us!) but once we done with construction Lucy will be able to get in and out of the house on her own! The door has a panel to slide in and lock for night and when we aren’t home (plus we have a security system) so we don’t worry about critters — the four or two legged kind– getting in. If Lucy could talk, I think she would echo my sentiments and ask, “Are we done yet?”

If you’re looking for more regular happenings (more Lucy, more food shots, more vacation shots) make sure to add me on Instagram as well!

Under Construction (finally)

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Somehow it never occurred to me that with this construction project we’d be “those people” — the ones with the porta potty in the driveway. It’s a really good look, we may need to keep it there. ;)
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The portion of the project that started in early May is just the demo of the garage space that had been converted by the previous owners into a finished living space. When my husband and I saw the house, we knew that for us, it would be more useful to have a garage and not a room with very low ceilings. In the past few months it’s worked out to have that space when people stay with us, but we’re looking forward to the storage a regular garage provides. I couldn’t find a shot of the garage taken from the garage door side, so here’s one facing the other direction (behind that door, about six inches away was the garage door).
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The HVAC ducts made the ceiling in this space much, much lower. They were about six feet tall so it was a little claustrophobic. The mirrored doors on the right concealed more storage space, the water heater and HVAC unit. On the other side of the room, facing the backyard, there was a nice bathroom that we will be re-doing to meet code and be a little smaller. Here it is before:
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And here’s a shot looking from the stairs that went from the kitchen into this space. From the very far left corner of this picture, you see the door that heads outside, the bathroom door, the garage door isn’t visible and then a glass pantry door. The previous owners must have had a stacked washer/dryer in that corner on the left but we have side-by-side units so we had a washer there and the dryer on the other side of the wall. I’m happy to report that they have been reunited, for the first time ever (they were on either side of a door at our old house, too!) in the garage. This space will be revised to be office/mudroom and then bathroom.
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Here’s a shot from the open garage door into the space. You can see the back door to the yard and the window that’s in the bathroom. The kitchen stairs are going to move back a little so the “used to be pantry” space is where I’ll have a desk nook area. This way, our second bedroom can be the husband’s office and guestroom. Right above the “washer/dryer” and “HVAC” note below you can see a dark space, that’s the under the stair space for the stairs in the house. You’ll also notice there’s no tank water heater here…
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In order to efficiently use the garage space our contractor asked if we would consider a tankless water heater. I was easy to convince as I had looked into upgrading to one at the old house when our tank water heater went out, however at the time, it was double the price of replacing the tank unit with a newer tank unit and I knew that we wouldn’t be in the house long enough to realize the cost savings. The husband was convinced (also easily) and we went for the tankless. We love the space saving but have had to get used to the hot water coming to the taps a little slower. My husband is thrilled, though, that I can no longer complain about him using all the hot water with a long shower!
waterheater
We finally saw some real progress over the weekend after delays due to waiting for our first inspection and checking to make sure that some of the changes that were made to the plan were acceptable. On Saturday we saw drywall go up, had all the outlets in our bedrooms updated to three-prong (and added some!), and finally had our washer/dryer hooked up after a month of going without. It was a big day for us because when your house is half packed up and a demo zone, you learn to appreciate the little things. Soon we’ll be ordering tile and picking a sink for the bathroom downstairs which will make it feel like we’re getting so much closer! Maybe we’ll do another poll like I tried in 2009 for choosing a bathroom floor!?

I love Lucy

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We’re still alive around here. And there’s still been things going on like house projects (construction started!), lots of cooking (some new favorites), and gardening (seedlings, baby fruit and a tomato!). But I just haven’t felt like writing about it. There have been other more important things going on in our life and one of them is our new family member who joined us on February 1st, Lucy.
Lucy
The birthdate that Lucy and her siblings were given was December 12th, but because they all ended up at a shelter with their mother when they were approximately four weeks old, we’ll never know her actual birthday. Luckily a “foster family” took in all 10 puppies and mom to be cared for until they could be found good homes. At the end of January my husband and I took a family trip to Maui and had already found this litter, we interviewed with the Pound Puppy Rescue organization when we got home and learned shortly after that we would be adopting a furbaby!

Lucy came home with us when she was about eight weeks old and while it was presumed that the litter was “sheperd mix,” when we did a DNA test it said it’s more like husky/greyhound mix. I’ll try and share the test results at some point, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Our little one is now almost six months old and it 50 pounds, a long ways from the 12 pound mushy little thing we brought home.
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My husband and I are madly in love with this creature and couldn’t have been more fortunate in getting the perfect dog for us. She hasn’t destroyed anything but dog toys, has always been well potty trained, loves ALL people, is great with kids, other dogs and cats (when they let her near). Our senior dog (broken image in that link, sorry!) was a character for better or worse but this puppy fits right in with our family.

We have a lot of catching up to do but I wanted to start with the most important! The house stuff, garden stuff and cooking stuff pale in comparison to this beautiful new doggy!

Catching up and cutting a Christmas tree

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Christmas tree cutting
So Christmas is about a week away. How did that happen? I left off in October enjoying a warm weekend in Palm Springs and all of a sudden it’s frosty and freezing — yes, we get cold weather and frost in Northern California, it may have finally finished the citrus tree in that I butchered with a trim a few months ago. But you didn’t miss much around here. Our first house closed escrow in the middle of October and was officially sold (yay!), my husband and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary (with no trip for the first time), I had my hair chopped off again, I hosted a baby brunch (don’t call it a shower) at our house for a close friend, then took her maternity photos (then she delivered on Thanksgiving four days later.), hosted Thanksgiving and then cut down our first Christmas tree. We’ve also been spending time with friends and family, stressing about the plans for the house, and working our butts off at our jobs.

Christmas tree cuttingWhile my parents were visiting for Thanksgiving I coerced them into coming along to cut down a tree. There are tree farms near us that hand you a saw and let you loose to choose a noble fir or Monterey pine of your choice. I sought out a tall, narrow tree and this Monterey pine fit the bill.

Christmas tree carryingMy dad, all business when it comes to Christmas trees. :)

Christmas tree carryingThis really feels like our first Christmas tree since we’ve only ever had teeny, potted ones if we had one at all. We didn’t even have ornaments despite this being our seventh Christmas together.

Christmas tree carryingI feel fortunate that we will be spending this Christmas with family and friends.

Christmas tree on the carNow if only these guys could fix our house’s heating system as easily as they can cut down a Christmas tree!

Christmas tree on the carBelieve it or not, we’re still waiting to finalize our house construction plans, hopefully we’ll know more in the new year. I’m still working my patience muscles and the holidays are a welcome distraction.

Have you ever cut down your own Christmas tree or are you a fake tree family?

Drawing Inspiration in Palm Springs

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My mind was blown this past weekend. And just so I don’t start rambling, I’ll start at the beginning: Somehow my husband and I were invited to join in on a weekend in Palm Springs at a friend of my aunt’s newly renovated vacation rental. Now, I’ve been to Palm Springs before and the Coachella Valley vacation destination in Southern California has always been good to me. I’ve been a handful of times for the Coachella Music and Arts Festival and a handful of other times for the warm weather and a pool to sit by. This time was an invite for the latter that sounded wonderful. But this time, when I thought I knew what to expect after having stayed in several “vacation rentals” before, I was stunned when I clicked on this link for the rental and saw basically the house that was in the Mad Men Palm Springs episode.
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Once I picked my jaw up off the ground I made sure to bring my camera because there was sure to be some good inspiration for our upcoming renovation. We may not be able to include a blue palm in a courtyard like the one above, but the midcentury modern home was a stunna that had beautiful details to be absorbed.

While there was plenty of gorgeous tile to be petted, this was probably my favorite because of the texture and color.
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Love the application of that textured tile in a mostly non-wet place above the tub but I could also imagine it around a fireplace. Somewhere where ease of cleaning doesn’t matter, obviously! I also want to point out the white tile that is used in the rest of the bathroom which you can see a little bit of above and more below. It has a sort of natural texture like wood grain or linen and I absolutely love it. I drooled all over it and will be on the hunt for something similar for our master bathroom.
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The bathroom in “our room” (aka “master #3″… WHOA) was no less impressive. Besides loving the subtle wall color I again loved the big, white, textured tiles used with an accent tile. This time the glossy tile had an almost basket weave pattern to it and you can bet that I got my face all up in its business to check it out. I also loved the color of the mosaic tile and maybe something in a little larger scale would be a good fit for our house?
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I unabashedly borrowed a tape measure to take some measurements to compare what was going on in the house to what we might be able to fit in ours. This vanity was SEVEN FEET WIDE. Huge! We won’t be able to fit one quite so large but we definitely reveled in not stepping on each others toes while getting our mirror time in.
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Master #3 wasn’t too shabby. If I could pick my favorite thing about this room (and all rooms in the house) the remote controlled window shades would have to be at least in my top three. The views and artwork throughout are probably also up there. And yes, that is an outdoor fireplace right by an outdoor dining space right by the pool.
room
The kitchen was big enough to get lost in and while I didn’t take any inspiration pictures, I was inspired. We cooked six dishes from the new Ottolenghi cookbook for the six of us. And I’m still patting myself on the back a little for somehow miraculously timing everything and everyone’s help to get them all done at precisely the same time. Helped that this kitchen was more than big enough for many cooks!

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The only thing missing from the luxury home was Don Draper floating in the pool.
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Besides the impressive interior design, there were some sights of the great outdoors that weren’t too shabby, either. I’m ready to go back already!

sceneryDo you ever take inspiration from hotels, vacation rentals or other places you visit?

The Waiting Game

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The question everyone has been asking my husband and I lately now that we’ve been in the new house for seven weeks and three days: “How’s the house coming along?” The usual response for most people posed the same question in a new home would be, “Oh, unpacking boxes, painting walls, putting up window treatments and pictures. It’s going great!” But for me it’s been, “Uhh… good?” Not much unpacking, no painting of walls, except for the one window pictured below that didn’t have a window treatment, I haven’t touched the stained cellular blinds and except for a fishy towel holder nothing has been attached to the walls. Here’s our second bedroom/ office today, almost two months after moving in:
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For reference, here it is with the staged furniture when we bought it:
9anewhouseWe have the house at a point where it’s relatively functional for us to live in and then we stopped unpacking. Why? We’re working on plans with professionals for a major house change  which is where our budget will be going which means we can’t afford to do some other things or it makes sense to do them once the other construction has been finished. And one of those big things is refinishing all the floors in the house which means at some point the whole house will be repacked and moved out of the way so if we can leave a few already packed boxes untouched, it’s one less we have to pack in a few months. It’s a little frustrating but looking at the silver lining, in a few months the house is going to be transformed! Once that’s done, lookout walls, I’m coming for you with a paint roller in hand!

Also in house related news, we should be closing next week on the old house which will generate a heavy sigh of relief from my husband and I. Having more than one house to worry about isn’t really as fun as you might think. ;) We’re excited that a young, engaged couple will be buying it as their first home.

I am meeting with our architect this week to finalize house plans and then I may eventually share them. Lately I’ve had a lot of “first world problems” like trying to think of designs and layouts for more than one bathroom all at once. It’s a very exciting process but it’s also very time consuming especially for a novice like me. Any one have any recommendations for working with an architect?

The jam giveaway winner has been announced. Jump over to that post to see if you won!

When do the seasons really change?

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Warm Bed Creative Commons Image courtesy of jbhalper on Flickr

In our house, the seasons officially change when I switch out the light cotton blanket on our bed for a feather duvet. That means it’s fall. When I add the heating blanket and the duvet cover, that’s winter. When the duvet cover comes off but not the heating blanket or the duvet, that’s spring. And eventually I relent with enough prodding from my husband and switch back to the cotton blanket.

Yesterday after I washed the blankets and switched out the light summer blanket for the cozy cooler weather setup, I baked pumpkin cheesecake bars (a recipe I created and will share soon!). Yes, it’s fall. It still can get warm during the day here but the temperature dips at night, the days are shorter and the grape vines in wine country will soon be showing off their colors.

How do you know when the seasons change? I’m hoping it’s not when the Christmas decorations show up in the stores! Is it when you see the first frost or when you bring home the first pumpkin to decorate your stoop? Maybe it’s the first snow to really let you know winter has arrived? Tell me what makes you know that it’s time to embrace the season.

The Vision for Your Home

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When you move to a new home– be it apartment, condo, house, or whatever — do you start thinking about how you’re going to make that space the best space for you inside and out? Maybe you can picture exactly where your couch should go or a new wall color that would really make things feel more “you?” We talk about a space or a building having “potential” and I think what we really mean by that is that we are able to see the vision. The vision that makes that place a home but it might take trying the couch on a different wall or updating light fixtures or maybe some new landscape outside. And sometimes, it’s hard to even know where to start or you have to make a few attempts to get it right.

Our first home was a fixer-upper that needed so, so much updating. Some folks told us when they first saw it they thought my husband and I were crazy for buying it, but we had a vision. It took a few years to make that vision a reality, but once it all came together I think it was hard for people to believe how far we had come. We’re back in that position, with a house that maybe is a little bit of an easier pill to swallow, but it’s still a long way from where we envision it ending up. I’ve been working on the new house plans with an architect and our general contractor (and our kitchen guy, and a structural engineer, and anyone who will listen…) so we have some big changes in the works on the interior but we also are thinking about the exterior. Here’s the street view of our house currently:
currentHouseThe paint is new because it was painted before we bought it, but it was obviously a crappy rush job. The roof is about six years old but it appears that they chose the cheapest shingles possible so it doesn’t look to hot already. The trim is lacking a bit between the roof/side of the house and though the front of our house is stucco, the whole rest of the house is wood siding so it’s not exactly consistent. Not to mention there’s a few cable, phone and other wire lines running to odd places on the exterior. So from far away, not that bad, but up close she’s a little rough. Which means we talk about our vision in the long term: What paint color? What type of roof? How would it fit into our neighborhood? Front and garage doors? And then I use Photoshop to give a rough makeover. Our house has a few Spanish style homes so this was my first idea since we love Spanish style:

SpanishStyleBut when we talked to our contractor he reminded us that tile roofs (besides being more expensive to install) actually affect your foundation because it’s much heavier than a standard roof plus you can’t walk on it to do things like clean gutters unless you know specifically where to step and it can be more dangerous to walk on in general because it can be more slippery. That effectively talked us out of that idea. Not to mention in the above image that I envisioned the vinyl window trim not being white but that’s not very realistic. Basically this one wasn’t going to happen so it was nixed.

Once our dreams of a Spanish home were nixed, we decided we needed to embrace more of our home’s original features. I don’t know what exactly you call a California split level home, but where we’re leaning is still bringing in some of the Spanish influence with the color, maybe adding a pergola over the garage to add architectural interest, having a darker roof since we are leaning toward a light, warm color, and maybe a door that’s a pop of color but still within the Spanish exterior colors. Still new garage doors but maybe in white so they match the vinyl window frames.

CaliforniaHouseThe vision of your home should continue to change otherwise you may end up with orange shag carpet and avocado appliances that were “on trend” when you got them but not so anymore (I’m looking at you chevron trend… ). But you have to have a starting point.

Tell me, how do you refine the vision for your home? Do you use any online tools to edit your home or an example home to choose paint colors? Or maybe just look to magazines or websites for inspiration until it clicks? I need advice, so let me have it!

Notice anything… different?

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No, I didn’t get my hair cut. But your hair is looking really nice today, keep up the good work! And if you’re reading this on an RSS reader or in an email, you can’t see the changes. So I’ll wait for you to head on over to the blog and take it all in. Can you tell? Looking a little fresher perhaps?

I decided it was high time to update the blog logo and make a few other minor changes to the format. Nothing big but the main change is the new logo is all fancied up, created by yours truly:

header

I thought it was modern (because, well, duh) and simple. Plus it’s my favorite colors. I debated adding some more “stuff” to the header as a collage with maybe images of some projects I’ve done but decided to use the KISS methodology for now. This blog stuff is all about the evolution, after all.

Besides a new logo I also added a new page for our current house and updated the first house page. There’s new content on both pages for your reading pleasure.

As always, if there’s something you’d like to read about here, drop me a line by leaving a comment or sending an email. Thanks for staying tuned for this public service announcement, now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

P.S. If you stiiiiilll haven’t entered the jam giveaway, go, leave a comment, be entered.

Wild Blackberries and Burning Jam

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A year ago, around this time of year, I was with my aunt walking through San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park when I noticed how many blackberry brambles there were everywhere. And alas! There were also beautifully ripe berries! I snatched one and ate it as my husband and my aunt’s significant other cringed. “Are those safe to eat!?” It was tart and smaller than a conventionally grown berry, but there was something about wild berries. It was around the time I first got into canning and I declared that I wanted to come back the following year, when the blackberries weren’t coming to the end of their season and forage for them with my aunt. It was so… San Francisco. Foraging? For wild berries in the park? Very San Francisco.
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A few weeks ago she emailed me telling me that on a bike ride through the Presido (another San Francisco park) she had seen the blackberries starting to produce and was I ready to collect some? We set a date and I headed up on a cool, foggy morning– because in San Francisco that’s what happens after a hot, 80-degree day– and with gloves, long sleeves and buckets, we went to work collecting the small but plentiful wild berries.
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We collected about 11 cups of berries or almost five pounds. I used this Food in Jar’s Blackberry Jam recipe to make an extremely thick jam that was unbelievably time consuming thanks to the mashing of berries through a mesh strainer with a wooden spoon step. I may have reduced the jam a bit more than needed since I wanted to make sure it set after all the time spent on foraging and mashing. With the seedy mashed leftovers that didn’t go into jam I made blackberry gin and a blackberry shrub (or drinking vinegar) so nothing went to waste.
bowlofblackberiesComing off my blackberry jam success, I made a new recipe with some of the Meyer lemons seen in the top image and the zucchini (I have two more giant zucchini’s to go!) seen in the above image in the corner. I found a gingered zucchini marmalade recipe that sounded so unique I had to give it a try with the backyard lemons. I peeled the lemons and painstakingly removed the pulp only with a pairing knife. I made a cheesecloth bundle of the pectin-rich pith and seeds. Then I set everything to boil and occasionally stirred. It was time for dinner so I made myself a quick salad and sat down to eat not 10 feet from where the jam cooked away. The timer still had at least 20 minutes to go and I didn’t think twice about sitting down for a few minutes. When I got up to clear my dishes the marmalade was a caramel color and it was obvious I had burnt the whole batch. But I took my chances and gave it  a taste. A little bitter from the lemon pith, and maybe a little toasty, but over all it was mostly caramel. Lemony, gingery caramel. I made the decision to can it and process it anyways and changed the name to Caramelized Ginger Meyer Lemon Marmalade. When you’ve got lemons… turn them into marmalade?

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