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 itΒ  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?

Giveaway: Spiced Pear Jam

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Congrats to Bill from Grazing in the City for winning this giveaway!

Because I’ve been writing about pears and pear jam for what feels like weeks now, I want to give someone the chance to try this good stuff for themselves!

1pearsIt’s certainly not pearfect (get it!?), but I can’t keep hoarding all the sweet, spiced pear jam for myself. I know there are some other jam lovers out there so now is your chance to try one of the types I wrote about last week made with pears from my very own pear tree.

8pearThe giveaway is for one half-pint jar that I wrote about making in this post so you will be able to choose if you would like vanilla bean or cardamom pear jam.

9pearLet’s close out this pear chapter with a sweet surprise for someone! I will be contacting the winner at the close of the giveaway to get mailing information, sorry, US residents only! Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post telling me: Vanilla or cardamom? And to make it more interesting, how would you use the jam — on toast, in yogurt, stirred into a cocktail or tea, or what?
  2. Comments will close at 1pm Pacific Time on Friday, September 27th. Winners will be chosen at random (using random.org) and will be contacted later that day and posted on the blog following that.
  3. US residents only, please, due to shipping rates.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog (no submissions via email, Facebook, etc.).

Remember to “like” this blog on Facebook to follow along! You can also find me on Pinterest or Twitter and Instagram @alannaface!

Vanilla Bean (or Cardamom) Pear Jam Recipe

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It took a perfect storm of a new backyard pear tree with more pears than I knew one tree could produce and a new cookbook to get me to make my first jam without pectin. And while I did try a pectin based jam in my pear-a-palooza canning fest, these two without pectin actually ended up with a better set. If a food preservation book like Kevin West’s Saving the Season was intimidating before, I learned that making preserves is never fool proof and sometimes you just have to go for it.

I started with the Pear Jam recipe in the book which incorporates a whole vanilla bean (and yes, I did buy a half pound of them from Amazon) and also ended up making the Smooth Pear Jam with Cardamom variation which swaps the vanilla for cardamom pods. The images below are from both recipes since the process was virtually identical.

Step one, dice up five pounds of pear (per batch) and drop in a water and lemon juice mix. The recipe called for this being two cups of water plus lemon juice but I found that I needed way more liquid to get the pears in all the way so I made more of the mixture.
1pear
Once pears are prepped, they are drained and added to a bowl with lemon juice, sugar, honey and a vanilla bean. For my cardamom batch I swapped the vanilla bean with a small sachet of crushed cardamom pods and some lemon rind. For the latter, the original recipe does not include lemon rind and the pods end up going through a food mill so they are left in the jam. I don’t have a food mill so I used the cheesecloth in order to easily remove them and figured the lemon rind could stay in the end product.
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The sweetened fruit mixture then sits and macerates for at least two hours or overnight. Because I busted a jar in my canning pot from an earlier batch, these ended up in the refrigerator overnight so I could have a clean canning pot the next day.
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Now we’re jammin’. πŸ™‚ Bring to boil, reduce to gel point, about 20 minutes.
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I was reading the Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking blog (I also have the book from the same aunt who gave me this cookbook!) and she said that you can actually tell a lot from the bubbles in your jam as it related to gel point. Earlier in the process the bubbles are smaller and close together but once you are at the gel point they are bigger and darker. I never knew this before but could definitely tell the difference once pointed out!
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If you’re using a food mill or immersion blender to make this a smooth jam, you do it 10 minutes into boiling but since I didn’t use that step I continued on. Gel point gets checked (a dab on a cold plate, into the freezer until it’s cooled and see if it’s the right consistency) and then into hot prepared jars! I used half pint jars that then were processed in the boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.
6pear
I left the skin on the pears because 1) I like the texture and 2) it’s pretty but really 3) I’m lazy. This recipe turned out a very beautiful jam and while I love vanilla, I might be partial to the uniqueness of the cardamom. Below, vanilla bean on the left with the little ‘v’ on the lids and cardamom on the right with the ‘c’ on the lids.
8pearThe vanilla bean caviar in a light colored jam like this, though, is just beautiful. Next year when I have pears coming out of my ears again I’ll probably try vanilla bean AND cardamom for the best of both worlds.

9pearPear Jam from Saving the Season (notes in parenthesis and italics)
5 pounds ripe pears
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used the real lemon juice for my jam but the kind that comes in a fake fruit-looking squeeze bottle for the acid in the water because it’s easier! Also, you may need more lemon juice since you may need more water with acid than is called for)
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (I used a full bean since I love vanilla!) OR 5-6 crushed cardamom pods

1. Peel (if desired or skin is thick) and core the pears, and cut them into 1/2-inch dice. As you work, place the diced pears in a bowl with 2 cups of water acidulated with 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, to prevent browning. (I needed 6-8 cups of water to soak all my pears and that means 3-4 tablespoons of lemon juice which is easiest if you’re using the bottled kind for this purpose!)

2. Drain the pears, and toss them in a bowl with the remaining 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. Stir in the sugar, honey, and vanilla bean. Set aside to macerate for 2 hours or overnight.

3. Turn the fruit-sugar mixture into a preserving pan, bring to a boil, and reduce over high heat to the gel point, about 20 minutes. (If you are going to make a smooth jam, cook 10 minutes, remove vanilla bean if using, then pass through food mill and continue to cook to gel point.) Discard the vanilla bean. Ladle the hot jam into six prepared 1/2-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Seal, and process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.

Note from the author: Adding 2 tablespoons per eau-de-vie, also known as Poire Williams, will boost flavor in either of the preceding pear jam recipes.

Peary Interesting

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Now that’s it’s really fall I don’t feel quite so bad about writing about pears. They’re supposed to be a fall fruit, after all, but my pear tree apparently didn’t get the memo as it dropped at least 35 pounds of fruit in August. I felt a little better sharing my Pear and Cape Gooseberry Jam recipe because it wasn’t all fall fruit, and I previewed the 25 pounds of pears I before they were processed, but now I want to share some of the peary interesting (sorry, couldn’t help it with the pun!) things I did with all that fruit to save it for the rest of the year. Come back tomorrow for a pear jam recipe!

It had been a while since I had done any canning so I started off easy by making “spirited” pears. These guys are swimming in syrup and white rum (below left) or brandy. I was actually going to continue on after making these but I busted a jar while I was processing and lost a whole jar. I already gifted one small jar but have yet to hear how the results are. I haven’t tried these yet but I have great visions of pear cocktails, ice cream with spirited pears and spirited pear cake.
Canned pears in white rum or brandy

My aunt gifted me a new canning book, Saving the Season, shortly before we moved and while I still haven’t flipped through the whole thing, I cut straight to the pear recipes. I skipped past piquant pears (sounds like a type of pickle…) for the classic vanilla bean pear jam. The recipe also had a cardamom variation so since I wasn’t lacking in pears, I made both. These were my first time making jam without pectin and while it took longer than I expected, I think the results are pretty amazing. They’re both slightly softer than a store bought jam but, boy, they are good. Recipe coming tomorrow!
Vanilla bean and cardamom pear jamIn order not to end up with several cases of jam I also tried a ginger, pear, lemon marmalade. Holy smokes this one is good. Slight spice from the ginger, tangy from the lemon and sweetness from the pear. A beautiful combination that makes me not want to part with any of these three pints.
Ginger lemon pear marmalade

When I knew I was going to be canning pears I knew I wanted to make this Pear Vanilla Jam from Food in Jars. It’s very similar to the above jam with vanilla but it uses liquid pectin which makes for shorter cooking time. Unfortunately, this was the last jam I worked on and by that point it was getting to be time for dinner and the house was about a million degrees. I took a short cut and didn’t check to see that this got to the gel stage, instead just putting it in the jars for processing. Despite having pectin, it never hit the gel stage and won’t quite set which means this one isn’t so much a jam as vanilla pear sauce. But wait, silver lining, this is so, so, so good on ice cream or stirred into plain yogurt. I haven’t made it a layer in a cake yet but you can bet that will happen if I have any left. I already finished a jar by using it in yogurt and with ice cream. I love the texture as well as the light vanilla flavor and it’s such a treat to have it as part of breakfast or dessert.
Vanilla bean pear jamAll in all I wound up with about two and a half cases of jam, marmalade and spirited pears. Christmas shopping is done. πŸ˜‰ It was a long, hot day to do a total of six batches of canned goods but hopefully it will be worth it. I learned last year that less people were excited about hot pepper relish and pickles so this should be a better hit.

canned pearsStay tuned for a recipe tomorrow and one more exciting pear post soon!

Surprises of homeownership

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In our first home we had to strip our backyard down to dirt and level everything out before adding grass and landscaping. One day while I was digging, or weeding, or leveling, because that’s all we did in our backyard for many months, I was around our back fence when suddenly the ground below one of my legs collapsed. In that moment, my life flashed before my eyes as I saw myself falling into a giant sewer and being carried out to sea! Fortunately I threw myself backwards and landed on the ground with only my leg in the hole… a hole that was (luckily) not a sewer, but was caused by a rusted out, old, buried aluminum trashcan. We have no idea why there was an entirely buried trashcan in our backyard just waiting for me to fall into it, but there ya go.

Where exactly am I going with this rusty things buried story? Well, we have a back corner of our new yard in the new house that was being taken over by ivy. Some was starting to climb up trees so before it got too far I wanted to cut cut it off. Meanwhile, there was something kind of large and entirely hidden from view under this plant.
rusty2Now our new backyard and our old backyard have at least one thing in common, I just wish it wasn’t cylindrical and rusty. But at least I didn’t fall into it this time! The above is actually after I already started cutting away at the ivy since it was completely unnoticeable before. Can’t tell what it is yet?

rusty1That’s right, a rusted out steel drum. It looks like at one point it had a lid to it that disintegrated which means, bonus: it was completely full of disgusting rain water. And why would this be hanging out in the yard?

rusty3I believe it may have been used for the hot ashes from the fireplace that it’s right next to. We’ve been told that the fireplace actually is something the city technically allows as something that has been grandfathered in but this one is under the canopy of some trees so we’re not likely to use it for backyard get togethers any time soon. The fireplace and the drum appear to have been here for long enough that the tree has started eating it. You can also see how high the water was in the picture below.

rusty4I don’t think the tree wants to let go.

rusty5Since I wouldn’t have been able to tip it over to drain the water with the tree growing into it, I had to use a chisel and hammer to make a hole so that the water could drain. Because standing water is kind of a disgusting no-no.

rusty6It just took a few whacks with the hammer and chisel to make enough of a hole that the water pressure allowed any sediment to clear and water came gushing out. It’s now drained but still quite full of tree debris. I’m thinking the entire removal of this guy is probably going to be a husband job? After all, I was the one who had to use the hammer to smash some of the monstrous spiders that emerged from this ancient artifact. Sometimes I have to be a team player! πŸ™‚

Famer Friday: Pears Aplenty

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The old house hit the market today. Pretty exciting stuff. Allow the nervous sweating to commence and please, oh please, someone buy our house! But in less stress inducing news, how about a Farmer Friday since there hasn’t been one in forever!?

With the new house came several fruit trees, a pepper plant and yesterday’s Cape Gooseberry plant. The biggest surprise for me was just how many pears this pear tree was producing! I’m not ready to let go of summer, I thought pears were supposed to be a fall fruit!

I started picking up pears when we got our keys and collected about five gallons on my first visit. We made it through those with the help of others and lots of pear salad, pear tarts, pears with ice cream, eating pears, etc. It didn’t take long to get peared out so I starting stashing them in the drawer of our fridge until they overflowed that. I was going to preserve these pears some way, some how. But it didn’t occur to me just how many I had. Here’s the first 10 pounds:
1pearsAs I set out to preserve these pears, I started weighing them out (about five pounds was equal to eight cups which was the standard requirement for most recipes) and came up with 25 pounds and then some of pears. Holy smokes! Here is 15 more pounds and a view of the five gallon bucket I use to pick up pears which was more than half full several days in a row when I went outside:

2pearsMaybe luckily, because some were older than others and this is just a backyard tree, not every little bit of every pear was usable so there was some waste. And since this huge collection, the trees have been dropping less frequently so we can keep up with the fresh pears better. I see a few more pear tarts in our future. Do you have any favorite uses for fresh pears to recommend?

Now that I’ve made it through the brunt of our fruit harvest I’ve been eyeing the neighbor’s fig tree…

Cape Gooseberry and Pear Jam

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Until recently, I had no idea what a ground cherry was. Or that they were also called “Cape Gooseberries.” Or that there is a difference between this kind of gooseberry and a “true” gooseberry (thank you, Wikipedia). Maybe you’re more advanced than I am, but if not, here’s what a ground cherry/ Cape Gooseberry looks like:

1gooseberryWhen we were checking out our new house, I assumed that the husked things growing on a crawling plant were tomatillos. When I finally got around to moving my tomatoes into the garden, I realized that these were something else. I opened one up, it was orange, and popped it in my mouth. Mostly just a sweet flavor, no tartness, and a great bit of crunchiness from the small seeds. Very interesting. Then the question was, what the heck do I do with it? Last weekend I was working on over 25-pounds of pears that I had from our new backyard tree and while I had the canning supplies I figured I’d get to work on the gooseberries as well.

2gooseberryThere was a fair amount of fruit that was past its prime, and I decided to keep some of the greener ones in there to increase the amount but in the end I ended up with about three cups of fruit. My recipe, see below, called for just under four cups of fruit, and since I was using added pectin from a packet, it was important to have the right measurement. I still had some pears sitting around, so I peeled and chopped enough to make up for the gooseberries I didn’t have.

3gooseberryThe resulting jam is a beautiful golden color and very sweet because the fruit is so sweet on its own. I’ve adjusted the recipe below to include lemon juice, not for the pectin and acidity it adds to the recipe but because I think some acid would balance this jam better.

4gooseberryI would like to also note that there are a ton of uses for jam besides spreading on toast or pairing with peanut butter. When you’re suddenly up to your eyeballs in jam (more to come on the jams I made, soon) you start thinking out of the box about what to do with it. A very sweet jam like this would be great for thumbprint cookies. Any jam would be good in homemade pop tarts. Or how about crescent jam and cheese cookies? A jam tart is quite a good use of most jams. Of course I like to use jams and jellies in between cake layers, or on a cake. A dollop of fruit jam works beautifully on a cheese plate. And lately, with one of the batches that is a little more syrup than jam, I’ve been using over ice cream and stirred into plain yogurt. If all else fails, stir it into a glass of champagne or mix with your favorite spirit for a classy cocktail.

5gooseberryCape Gooseberry (Ground Cherry) and Pear Jam (adapted from “Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving”
Makes about seven 8-ounce jars
3 cups crushed cape gooseberries
3/4 cups peeled, chopped pears
juice of 1 lemon (at least 3 tablespoons)
6 cups sugar
1 pouch of liquid pectin (3 oz.– I used Certo)

  1. Prepare canning pot, jars and lids. (I usually use an oven method for preparing my jars which you can find here. This time I used the hot water method since I already had hot and clean boiling water)
  2. In a large, deep stainless steel or cast iron pan, combine pears, gooseberries, lemon juice and sugar over high heat. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Stir in pectin and then boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off foam if needed.
  3. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if needed, by adding hot jam. Wipe rim, center lids on jars and screw band down until fingertip-tight.
  4. Place jars in canner making sure they are completely covered with water. Bring water to boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars and cool on a kitchen towel before storing.

 

Our New House

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The big reveal is finally here! This is our new house!
1newhouseAnd in case you can’t tell by just that one picture, it’s a bit of a 1940 fixer. But a move-in-ready fixer (as evidenced by the fact that we’ve been living there for about a week!). I’m using some of the pictures from the listing (like above) and some I took, I don’t know how to attribute pictures from a real estate listing so if anyone knows… let me know?

2newhouseOn to the fun stuff! We’ve now got a larger and still flat lot. Our first home also had a flat lot, something I only mention because in our area there are lots and lots of homes built precariously on hills. The new house has a rectangle piece of land where most of it is behind the house so instead of big side and front yards, we’ve got tons of usable backyard! In the front yard alone we have a grapefruit and another citrus on the other side of our yard. Can someone tell me what kind of tree is in the left of the above picture?

3newhouseHere’s a good look for your garden: A leggy rose on a tipping over chainlink fence gate. NOT. We’re going to need to work on the landscaping around here. Not pictured, there’s a hedge along the street side of the house (just like our last house!) that I already loath. You’re going down, hedge. Let’s enter the house:

4newhouseYou guys put kitchen cabinets in doorways too, right? No? That’s weird? That’s what I thought.

In the image above, to the left you see the dining room (there’s another doorway on that side) and to the hard left unpictured is the living room. We’ll return to that, but we’re going to go right, up the stairs since this is a split level home. Also to the right behind the entry door is a giant closet (with no light?) but we’ll skip that.

5newhouseUp the stairs we go! You can see into the bedroom we’re using as our “master” for now, to the right is the 2nd bedroom/office and to the left at the top of the stairs is the world’s smallest full bathroom.

6newhouseThe above picture doesn’t do it justice. It’s so small you can only turn in a circle and that tiny toilet still means my long legs touch the tub when making use of the facilities. So how are we going to upgrade? Well, I like the bathroom in this location but as you can see the roof line starts to cut into it (and there’s a closet basically behind that tub in the bedroom) so right now we think that left wall gets pushed out into what is currently space made in the roof so there could be a full window. It may bump out into the kitchen headroom but I’ve already thought of a solution for that which I’ll explain further down. Before that, check out these fun bathroom features which make us not use this shower for now:

7newhouseWhile I may be a little down on the bathroom, rest assured it’s because I’m stoked to get started on changing it which makes my heart flutter. I see white subway tile in our future.

In the “master” bedroom we’ve got some paneling and a ceiling following the roof which I will admit, I find charming and like it. I know it’s not everyone’s style but I think it’s cozy. However I do believe the paneling lets the sounds of the house settling come through louder than drywall, so not on our short list, we may need to check out insulation options or possibly drywalling at least part of the room.

8anewhouseAll floors throughout the house need to be refinished but we’re waiting until construction stuff is finished since we don’t know where we’ll land with that work. The bedrooms up here were originally carpeted so you can spot some carpet glue and nasty spots. When the house was painted they didn’t cover the floors (they meant to refinish them) so there’s also paint spray in some places. The closets kind of got it the worst but they’re still functional. This is the rest of the bedroom and my closet (the husband took the one in the other room).

8newhouseThe other upstairs bedroom is in the front of the house and is our office. The staging picture below makes it look super tiny with a twin bed but it’s actually about the same size as the other room.

9anewhouseThe quirkiest thing about this room is that the linen closet is in here, you can see it behind the entry door below.

9newhouseBack downstairs, let me show you the living room. This is one of my favorite parts about this home.

10newhouseBig open beamed ceilings. And that fish? It’s (allegedly) real and though this is staged, it was the previous owner’s. We’re told he caught it. I asked to keep it. Martin the Marlin is now still in the house!

11newhouseBelow is a picture taken from the dining room looking at the living room. It’s a good size and while I still am perplexed by floor vents, it will definitely accommodate plenty of seating. Again, these floors eventually will get worked on. And I haven’t picked any colors yet in the house. I’ll figure it out down the line…

12newhouseThis is what I call the “sunroom.” It’s an unpermitted structure attached to the house that will need to come down. It wasn’t built on a foundation and since we live in earthquake country, we want all structures to be safely permitted. Plus we have some big plans for this part of our lot (hint: they involve kitchen and master bedroom) so this structure needs to be removed anyhow. For now it’s just extra storage space.

13newhouseBack inside, from the dining room looking at the kitchen:

14newhouseLooks can be deceiving, the cabinets in here appear to be mostly original but with a newer wood veneer applied to them. Translation: Disgusting cabinets on the inside. But the granite countertops are actually nice looking and may have some repurposing in their future.

15newhouseRemember me talking about the bathroom upstairs and kitchen headspace? If that becomes the plan, the wall you’re looking at above will jut out on the top of the wall. Which would be awkward except that we could add low cabinets that look built-in to make a large pantry. Maybe add a shorter wine fridge. I kind of am in love with the idea but we’ll see where it goes.

The layout of the kitchen is a little piecemeal and as hinted at, will be changing hopefully soon. This ain’t my first rodeo with kitchen renovation so I’m looking forward to tackling it, knock on wood! I’ve been Pinteresting it up on the kitchen lately. See the doorway above with stairs down? We’ll head there in a moment.

16newhouseOh, that old Wedgewood stove? It’s likely original to the 1940 home and is in great working condition. Plus now I never have to wonder how long to leave my rib roast or biscuits in the oven.

17newhouseOutlets in the oven? Makes perfect sense. By the way, I don’t really understand the griddle on this thing. Do I use a pan ON the griddle or cook directly on it? Or is that just a cover (I don’t think that’s it). I’m just going to stay away from that for now.

Okay, down the stairs from the kitchen into a space that used to be garage. The door on the left below goes outside, the glass door on the right is a pantry and the door directly ahead is a full bathroom.

18newhouseA rather nice but low ceiling-ed bathroom. The bathroom, pantry and a finished garage “living space” were unpermitted and added to this two car garage. We’re hopeful about keeping a half-bath down here (removing the shower) and probably will need to remove the pantry.

19newhouseHere is our two car garage! The rest of the space is to the right and that wall at the end with a door is maybe 8-inches from the actual garage door. The ceilings in here are super low due to heating and AC ducts which may or may not remain that way. I’m looking forward to this being an actual garage again even if it is just because we want to put a bunch of shelves and storage in here. And a laundry area.

20newhouseBack through the house to the backyard, the crowning jewel of this house:

21newhouseThere’s some work we’ll be doing ourselves back here but I can say that the deck comes out with the sunroom and my garden lives next to that (dilapidated) white shed. That other building you see? Totally stinky (smoking…something) and totally unpermitted. It will come down. And the greenhouse? TBD but likely will be removed and if I want a greenhouse, it will probably be smaller and not located right in the middle of the yard. The good news is: there’s plenty of room for a chicken coop!!! As long as the building removals reveal no skunks this time, we’ll be all set.

22newhouseThis next view is from the upstairs bedroom and gives you a better idea of the layout of the yard. On our “someday” plan will be extending the patio or a deck from the house about as far out as the sunroom and deck go out now (because remember, the sunroom/deck all get removed). There will still be plenty of room for some croquet playing and gardening.

23newhouseMy other current favorite thing about our yard is the peach, plum and pear trees. I’ll get some pictures of just how many pears we’ve gotten so far but it really amazes me. Looking forward to preserving some this weekend!

Here’s your final view of the house from its back side:

24newhouseThere are plenty of projects to keep us busy, just how we like it. We prefer to own a home that we can make our own and we are truly looking at this house as a blank slate. While we only added about 100 square feet to our living space (not including all those unpermitted spaces) we greatly improved the neighborhood we live in. We’re a few blocks from a wonderful park with a community center that has bocce ball, softball/baseball fields, tennis courts, a skate park and even a community garden! Two blocks away is a little commercial area with some restaurants, shops and a post office. Our commute is also a little better now so we’re doing better all around! Welcome to our new home!

Before and Afters of Our Old House

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This past weekend we packed up all of our belongings and officially moved into our new house. Our first night at the new place was Saturday after just two trips in this monster truck that my dad rented:
truck1Before I show off the pictures of the new house– luckily I remembered to get some empty house shots before moving– I’d like to wrap up the chapter for this house by showing how it looked when we bought it and how we are now leaving it behind. You can see the before and afters of the front of the house here (even though we subsequently painted the front porch) and some backyard before and afters in my 2nd Housiverssary post. We lived in this house for just shy of four years and made so many wonderful improvements.

Up first: The living room.

BeforeAfter1When we moved in we immediately tore down that awning over the back steps that can sort of be seen in the top picture. The floors were refinished, the walls and ceilings were painted, the fireplace was refinished and now has a gas insert, the wall heater was replaced, a new light fixture was put in the dining space, and all windows in the whole house were replaced.

BeforeAfter2The front door was also replaced later down the line since we hated having a mail slot in our door. The big mirror over the fireplace was taken down and sold on Craigslist! Once I saw how beautiful the floors were without stain, we opted to go with a clear finish to see the color of the wood throughout the house. A great choice!

The extra bedroom in our house, lovingly referred to as “the yellow room,” was our office and guest room. It was a “grellow” (green +yellow) color when we bought it but was repainted to a true yellow, has more refinished floors, and received a lighting fixture update.

BeforeAfter3Ah, the “master” bedroom. In the front of the house, this bedroom was slightly larger and has two closets. While I’d been jonesing to turn this into one larger closet, we never got around to it before moving. Instead, this room only had new paint, new windows, new floors but not much else.

BeforeAfter4The garage at our old house was meant to be a one car garage but when we moved it it was just full of junk. There was also an upper storage space (that black space in each image) that we used. Our plumbing and electric was redone throughout the house and when that was done we moved the washer/dryer and removed a utility sink. Down the line our water heater was also replaced and a once non-functional door in here was replaced with a functional door. My husband added some shelving on both sides of the garage, some of which isn’t shown below, but allowed me to have way, way too many kitchen gadgets. Thanks, husband!

BeforeAfter5The one and only bathroom in the house was original to the 1947 home and we had it redone as we were moving in. New fixtures, new tile, new cabinet behind the toilet, new window, new ceiling fan thing. The plumbing was replaced throughout the house and we even had our sewage pipe replaced. I did however have a love hate relationship with just about every color I ever painted the bathroom and there were probably about four of them?

BeforeAfter6And last but not least, the crowning jewel of a change in the house (besides the floors): The kitchen. Somehow we lived with the original 1947 kitchen, sans dishwasher for over two years. What you see in the “move in” image below really is what it looked like when we were moving in. We put the refrigerator in that alcove on the right and there was a wall there. When we redid the kitchen, the wall was torn down and space for the refrigerator was made in the garage. This kitchen was very good to us with the updates and I can’t wait to do the same to this new house.

BeforeAfter7There are lots of wonderful memories that we will hold onto from this house. My husband proposing to me in this dining room, hosting our family and friends for barbeques and game nights, our first (and second) Thanksgiving being hosts, and so much more. No one can say we didn’t put blood, sweat and tears into this place, it’s hard to believe we’re not going to be living there anymore. So hard to believe, my husband made this face in our last picture together in the house:

aandcGoodbye old house, we’ll miss you but we’ll never forget you. We can only hope that the new owners love you as much as we did.