Ever since my husband and I moved into our house in October 2010 we have been working on projects large and small in order to improve what was once a complete fixer-upper into a desirable home with the intention that one day our 930 square-foot two bedroom and one bath house would allow us to make a jump to a home in a better neighborhood with more space. For, you know, dogs. And friends. And our parents to sleep over.
Recently my beloved and I were discussing the house and its future. One of the things we talked about was staying in the house for a few more years and what projects we would want to accomplish to make the best of our house. There was one thing that came to mind based on a house a few doors down with the same floor plan as ours: finishing off our attic for more functional space. Here’s the picture from their listing (when that house was sold, the same set of pictures I used to influence our kitchen remodel):
I was always curious about where they might have put stairs to gain access to this space until I asked another neighbor over the weekend who had seen the house during its open house. Pull-down stairs. Genius. In a home with a compact floor plan it’s a great way to incorporate stairs. Here’s what our floor plan looks like (not exactly to scale):
As you can see, there’s not a lot of unused space. A set of pull-down stairs could probably work in our hallway, though. That way, you would have access to the middle of the house (as versus the garage) and if the space is used as an office or even a guestroom the bathroom is right there. Here’s a shot of our roof thanks to Google maps, which is taken from the side of the house so it’s the above rotated 90-degrees counter-clockwise:
You can see where our fireplace is and also what we refer to as “the coffins” which are actually solar water heating from the 80s (yes, really, the 80s!) that are no longer connected. We need to replace our roof and are thinking that a potential attic project might be best if it coincided with a roof replacement? The point for showing our roof line is that there is actually some plentiful space in our attic– no complicated roof line chopping things up so it could be worth finishing.
And before I get into Pinspiration pictures, the current state of our attic: gross. The space above our garage has no attic, we only have some lofted storage space. But when we were having our kitchen done, there was some questions about a supporting wall and if it could be a beam instead, so I took one for the team and went up there. Naturally I took pictures while I was up there:
I guess the important question was how much room is up there– is it enough to stand? How many beams are there? Would it be easy to move around? I can’t remember. It was icky and hot and I didn’t want to get super old insulation in my hair or inhale it. But let’s assume that it’s tall enough to stand and that there really aren’t an inordinate number of beams. Besides, if you’re working at a desk you’re sitting or we could have a low bed/futon and you’d be laying down. So for that, plenty of space.
Basically I don’t think it’s an impossibility that we might be able to finish our attic off. I’m not sure that’s it’s something I want to DIY (do you see that old insulation!?!?) but if we were able to bring in a pro to create a blank slate for us and add some window/skylights (a must!) then I think it would be a really neat space. So I’ve been scoping out Pinterest for ideas of what I like.
Check out this tiny, narrow attic with lots of windows:
I like the windows/ skylights as well as the storage but I think our attic is even wider than this. (Image originally from here)
Check out the sleeping arrangement here– even if we had a pretty low space this would work for some of our guests (better than our pull out!?):
I also like that image because it demonstrates that there is a post in the attic AND that they clearly just painted the current ceiling in the attic without adding drywall or anything. We don’t get crazy hot summers or snow where we live so maybe we wouldn’t need to drywall our attic ceiling? (Image originally from here)
For good measure, here’s a home office in the attic which is what we would be looking to do:
Love the wall paper on the ceiling and the bookshelves! (Image originally from here)
My hopes on this project could be dashed pretty quickly if I realize there really isn’t enough space up there to warrant such an undertaking. But for right now dreaming of taking over simply unused space in our home is a great use of time.
Do you like attic living space? Anyone else remember Clarissa Explains It All where she had a rad attic bedroom?
A few weekends ago my husband and I went to Sunset Magazine’s Celebration Weekend with some friends. This magazine focuses on “Living in the West” including gardening, home design/decor, cooking, travel and more which means that’s what the event was featuring. Of all the presentations and displays at the event, this was one of the things that stood out: floating citrus trees (and some other plants!).I’ve tried finding more about these in the internet searching for “string garden” or “hanging fruit tree” returned few results. Update: My friend sent me this link which gives a full how-to on making these! The idea seems pretty straight forward though: take a plant (doesn’t have to be a citrus tree but probably needs to be a dwarf if you do that), wrap it in moss, wrap it in twine and hang. Presumably you would soak it in a bucket of water about once a week or so and reap your bounty?
In the above picture you can see they’ve used this method with a few other plants. I think this would be such a great idea for those with a small garden or nowhere to put plants in the ground. We may get too much wind where we live but this would be such a nice way to display plants even indoors!
Anyone ready to start having some floating fruit? What would you plant this way?
Have you ever seen curly fries served in a portion so large that they come in the shape of the fryer basket they were fried in? Did you order them? Did you ask for the liquid cheese and chili on them, too?
My husband and I take fair food very seriously. While it’s not the zucchini-stuffed-with-a-hotdog-corndog or the deep fried Oreos, this this was a monstrosity. I shouldn’t need to tell you that we made sure to throw it away after barely making a dent in it. We have some dignity.
What’s the coolest or most unique or most delicious or most thought-it-would-be-good-but-sucked fair food you’ve ever had? Are you going to your local fair this summer if you have one?
In mid-March I started heirloom tomato seedlings in an egg carton and they are now flowering. Last night for dinner I went out to my raised garden bed and gathered enough lettuce for a nice salad. And there was a surprise showing by squash plants (pumpkins!?) that sprouted from new seeds after I killed my first round of squash egg carton seedlings so they are now happily situated in small area of dirt on our side yard. The peas from my spring garden came out last weekend to make room for summer peppers. The vegetable bounty is so close now I can taste it.
Have you started harvesting anything from your summer garden yet? Is your spring planting still going strong?
I told my dad I was making limoncello a month and a half ago and he asked how I was making it. I told him, “It’s super easy, you just put lemon peel in vodka for about 40 days and then add simple syrup. That’s it.” He said, “Is that how they make it in Italy? I always had visions of little old ladies putting whole lemons out in the sun to ferment!” It gave me doubts about the process I had seen everywhere on the internet but sure enough, it appears this is how they make limoncello in Italy, too.
That bottle on the right is low because I drank it. Just kidding. It’s low because I drank it with friends. But the amount I made would have filled both of these bottles and then some and each bottle is a fifth aka 1/5 of a gallon aka .750 milliliters. But perhaps I should start at the beginning?
My first picture is from Instagram but it shows that the vodka was clear and that I put about 7-8 lemons’ worth of peel in there. I used a vegetable peeler to avoid the pith and for my first bottle I used Meyer Lemons.
Fun fact: A .750 milliliter bottle of vodka fits perfectly into a large mayonnaise jar. The jar on the left is regular lemons from a friend’s backyard tree and the jar on the right are the Meyer Lemons. Notice how the Meyers are a little more orange in color? The smell/ taste is also distinct. You will also notice that this is after I let these sit on my counter for almost seven weeks so the vodka has picked up the color of the peel.
On the lid of each jar I marked the date I started each so that I would know how long it had been. I also marked the name on the left jar of our friend so I would remember but as I mentioned, the color was a giveaway all along. I’m going to make him and his wife a bottle as a “thank you” for giving us lemons. What a great way to give back, right?
Really you can wait anywhere from about four days up to about two months depending on how much lemon flavor you would like. In the shot above you can see the bits of oil from the rind of the lemon in there which is exactly what I was looking for– that’s where the flavor is at!
At this step– the simple syrup step– there are many different conflicting measures all over the internet. It’s probably why limoncello might be so diverse in Italy, everyone adds a different amount of sugar, lets it steep for different amounts of time, etc. I will tell you that I used 3 1/2 cups of water and 2/12 cups of sugar (pictured above) and thought it was WAY too sweet. For my second jar I might make a little less (3 c. water, 2 c. sugar) and then add it gradually to taste as opposed to using it all at once. I would recommend this gradual addition so you get the limoncello to taste how you like it.
Use a large container to add the steeped liquor to the simple sugar (or vice versa). At this point I had to pour some of the liquid into a bottle because most places recommend adding the rind to the limoncello mixture to steep one more day.
One bottle of vodka, some lemon peel, and simple syrup turned into two bottles of liqueur. I still have that second jar sitting on my counter to be mixed and bottled but I will need to visit the thrift store and see if I can find more bottles. The bottles above are just the vodka bottles with all stickers removed and I used wine corks instead of their screw caps to close them. They now reside in our freezer waiting to be sipped with or without ice. I’m really excited to use this in any number of summer cocktails including mixed with a little basil over ice, maybe some frozen strawberries or blueberries or any berry really, and more. So here’s how I did it:
La La Limoncello Recipe
7 – 8 Lemons, ideally organic so they aren’t waxed (any kind or try oranges, limes, or grapefruit!)
.750 milliliters of 100 proof vodka
3 cups water
2 cups white sugar
- Peel the rind only off the lemons with a vegetable peeler, try to avoid the white pith which is bitter.
- Add all lemon rind and the vodka to a jar or sealed container. Let the mixture sit out of the sun at room temperature for at least two weeks up to two months.
- When the lemon rind mixture has steeped to your liking prepare simple syrup: add water and sugar to a pot and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Once the mixture is completely clear (before begins to caramelize), remove from heat and let it come to room temperature.
- Add the rind mixture to a large container, gradually add the simple syrup until you have reached the desired sweetness. Let this mixture sit over night for added flavor.
- Strain and bottle liqueur, enjoy very cold!
Today I am taking a break from my usual Farmer Friday post to admit that I’ve been so crazy busy this month (having fun) that I’ve been neglecting the blog a little (but there are still projects going on, I just have to finish and post them!). But what’s a good blog post without some pictures!? I’ve become keen on Instagram this month so I figured I’d show what I’ve been up to but hasn’t shown up on the blog in May with some phone pictures, most of which made it to Instagram.
The first weekend of the month my husband was in a 200-mile relay on a team with 11 other people to support a charity called Organs ‘R’ Us. I woke up well before sunrise with him to head to San Francisco and drop him off at the van (that’s another non-running spouse in the picture below).
As I was driving myself back home and expecting to get into bed I realized that I was going to be able to see the sun rise (a rare event for me!) and started kicking myself for not having my good camera. I raced to a little hill in a park by our house to take some phone pictures anyhow.
It was one of the most beautiful things I had seen in a long time. And as it turns out, was the first of two sunrises I saw in May! But since it was Cinco de
Drinko Mayo I went back to bed, ran some errands, and then met up with my lady friend’s spouse to celebrate.
Oh and a few beers, naturally. I may be wearing a light up Cuervo necklace but for the record, I have strong feelings about never drinking tequila again. Noooo thank you. Later that weekend we not only saw our runners but met them at the finish line the following day (yes the race is two days!).
The next weekend was Mother’s Day and my mom came to visit my sister and I in Northern California. I did a bunch of cooking of magnificent things and we also went to Filoli Gardens on Mother’s Day to enjoy the flowers and gardens.
That’s my mom above with a very large orchid. I made dinner for us one night with a strawberry and rhubarb cobbler (it was super good) and brunch for Mother’s Day which included a quinoa salad with asparagus, a kale and chorizo quiche, strawberries, banana chocolate chip muffins and kalamata olive bread.
The day after the show we were packing our bags for a weekend trip to a different wine country than Napa– Sutter Creek aka Shenandoah Valley. It’s really California Gold Mine country and it’s east of the Bay Area. It also happened to be my sister’s birthday! On the way we stopped at a lunch spot we stop at every year we make this trip.
It was nice to see something else in wine country besides the bottom of another wine glass. This is maybe my fifth time doing this trip with my dad and step-mom and each time we’ve stayed at the same six-room bed and breakfast, the Imperial Inn Amador.
Saturday morning before wine tasting I was again up before the sun to go golfing with my husband, dad and uncle. While I’m not a regular golfer and usually resist being coerced into going when my husband asks me to, this was an over all pleasurable experience. Even the waking up early part.
Once we finished 18 holes we zipped back to the inn, got cleaned up and headed to a winery to picnic, play bocce ball and drink wine. Normally on “wine tasting” trips we go to several wineries but this time around consensus was to stay at just the one and enjoy the day. On our way home we stopped in the sausage shop in a tiny one light town.
We spent the week recharging our batteries before our final road trip of the month. When given the option between flying or driving somewhere, my husband and I will never shy away from the driving option especially if there are buco bucks to be saved. In this case we opted to drive to Palm Springs in Southern California (about 7-8 hours) instead of flying (about an hour) to save a couple hundred dollars. Worth it! I get more 1:1 time with my husband which is priceless to me.
On this Memorial Day weekend trip we decided to drive down to my parent’s house for the night and suck up the final two hours to Palm Springs the new morning because 1) we saved money by not staying in a hotel and 2) my grandma gave me a whole bunch of canning jars, fabric, patterns and freesia bulbs. Again, couldn’t have done that if we flew! On the way we made our usual stop at In N Out (hamburger animal style for me, cheeseburger animal style for my husband) before arriving at my dad’s house to enjoy the outside fireplace and an adult beverage.
My dad pulled a typical “my dad” and drew very details maps to not only get us to Palm Springs but also direct us to a bar within a restaurant. But before heading out I took my husband to Nick’s Deli in Seal Beach, the place I had my first legitimate breakfast burrito ever when I was in high school. It gives me the warm and fuzzies despite some wacko crazy lady yelling at us from across the street. I even ran into a friend that I went to elementary and junior high schools with (and I almost never run into people I know so it completely threw me off) and apparently nearly missed another friend from my Southern California days. All to say: Nick’s is super popular because it’s super good. Go there.
Palm Springs was pretty wonderful. We had “cooler” than normal weather which meant instead of being triple digit heat it was in the 90s all weekend, perfect for me. The hotel we stayed at was cute but a bachelorette party made it a little more rowdy than we wanted to experience. The good news is that we did try Shanghai Red’s, the place my dad had recommended, and even went back again because they had fish tacos as good as the one you get in Baja Mexico.
Have you been having nice weather and enjoying yourself yet this warm season?