Thursday, August 26, 2010

you can't see me...

Look real closely.  Can you see him?  There's a little real frog sitting under the big not-real frog!  He lives there!  And just so you know - that big plastic frog is a joke.  The bf and I move it around the yard to try and scare each other.  But now that this guy seems to have taken up residence, I think it'll stay here for a while!

A few weeks ago I woke up, and as I usually do upon waking, pulled up the shade on the bedroom window, only to find a big ol' heron  taking off out of the pond.  We ran outside and looked in the pond.  Where there had been fifteen 8 inch long fish, now there were none.  When we first built the pond (last summer) we decided that given the heron/raccoon/possum threat in our yard, we wouldn't put the money and emotional investment into koi, and bought regular old 1 to 2 inch goldfish instead.  That way, if the wildlife got them, we wouldn't be sad - or so the thinking went.  In reality, faced with no fish left in the pond, we were devastated!  We had named them! Then...yesterday morning we spotted three of them!  By last night we saw at least 10 of them.  I guess all those hiding places we built in to the pond came in handy.  And who knew gold fish could go that long without food?   And the new little goldfish we got to replace them seem to be thriving, too.  Life is good.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

who knew?

I grew up thinking white walls were a cop out.  White walls meant you couldn't think of anything more creative, or, more likely, that you were renting.  Since buying my first house some 25 years ago I have rarely had white walls in any room of my home.  Right now I have a soft goldish-tan color in my living room.  I chose it because it's a teeny-tiny room in a teeny-tiny house (and don't get me wrong - I LOVE teeny-tiny houses), and because the color matches the couch, which I thought would help it (the couch) recede and make it look smaller and the room look larger.  I may very well have succeeded.  BUT. I've never liked it.  The room doesn't get much natural light, thanks to a ginormous oak in the front yard and this color seems too dark.  So I've been on the lookout for a new color.  In my search for inspiration I looked at lots of my favorite bloggers homes and through all my file photos, and guess what?   Virtually every room I've picked as a favorite has...white, or very nearly white, walls! So this weekend I'll be off to pick up some white paint samples.  If you have a favorite creamy white and would care to share it with me, I'd appreciate it!  I'm thinking I'd like to repaint 3 rooms in the house this year. Wouldn't it be funny if I end up with white walls in the whole house?

Bosworth Hoedemaker via Houzz

Austin Patterson Disston Architects via Houzz
via A Bloomsbury Life

I just noticed something else all these rooms have in common:  built-in bookshelves.  Might have to plant this idea into the bf's brain, somehow!

Friday, August 20, 2010

if I had a million dollars...

Three years ago I fell in love with a house.  People always say you know when the house feels right, and the minute I walked into this one, it did.  It even smelled right.  That's not to say it couldn't be improved upon.  I was looking for a project, so I didn't mind a bit.  I bought the house on the spot.  The bf hadn't even seen it yet.  But that was okay, because the minute he saw it he fell in love, too.

The boyfriend and I both have the "gift" of vision.  We can see possibilities.  Things that aren't actually there yet.  And we both saw some possibilities in this house.  The first thing that had to change was the kitchen.  It's a 70 year old house and it had a 70 year old kitchen (with a few slight updates, none of which were complimentary).  It was tiny - roughly 7x11 - with an equally tiny attached dining area.  There was also a sunroom off the back of the house - the only way to reach the backyard - but it could only be accessed by going thru the laundry room off the kitchen!  So our first vision was...what if we make the sunroom accessible from the kitchen and then use that as a dining room, then we could use the entire kitchen/dining area as kitchen!  Brilliant!

The boyfriend has a woodworking background, but had never made cabinets before. Seemed like a good time to try, right?  Before it was all said and done we ended up doing everything ourselves, including electrical, plumbing, tiling, flooring, ceiling, concrete counter tops, painting, blah, blah, blah, and of course, said cabinets.  It took a year of nights and weekends, but this is what we ended up with:

First - the BEFORE:

The Brick column on the left was the wall of the original kitchen.  Tiny!

Here you can see where we opened the wall to make a doorway into the sunroom, now a dining room.  There used to be a window above the sink, too.  Not anymore! Oh, and a ceiling fan in a kitchen with a gas stove?  Really?

My life for almost a year...

And now....the AFTER:

Better, right?  Yeah, we did those awesome ceilings, too.  Well, the bf made them and I painted them!  And in case you're wondering where the dishwasher is? It's at the other end of the island, facing the sink - super easy for loading and unloading.
Concrete countertops - a labor of love, let me tell ya!  And those cabinets!  They still make me weak in the knees when I look at them!  The bf done good...real good.
Here you can see the new doorway into the sunroom, which we now use as a dining room (table is just to the left of the new doorway).  The view out to the garden is lovely from here!  And we've replaced those fugly track lights since this photo was taken!
To sum up what has turned into a very long story, we absolutely LOVE this kitchen.  Not only is it exactly how we wanted it to look, but it works so well for how we live.  The bf and I both like to cook and this kitchen accommodates both of us, along with a few friends who can hang out and drink with us while we cook.  And we've spent many an evening sitting at the dining room table, long after dinner is finished, drinking wine, talking and enjoying the view to the garden. If I had a million dollars to spend on a kitchen, I would do this exact same thing.  Life is good.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


It has been fiercely hot here in the south, pretty much all summer, but more so this last couple of weeks.  Just watering the droopy plants in the garden is enough to work up a good sweat.  Which gets me thinking about something I've always wanted - an outdoor shower!  Like one of these babies...
Love the bamboo fence!
Love that corrugated metal!
Just love!

Love the real bamboo here!

Again with the corrugated metal - Love!
Interesting idea!
 There is something about being naked if only I could convince the boyfriend that we NEED one of these.

Monday, August 16, 2010

doing my part

I've long been interested in doing as much as I can to minimize my "footprint" here on good ol' Mother Earth.  I found this article in Sunset Magazine online, and to my surprise I'm already doing all but one (wasn't aware of #9 - I'll have to look into the central switches) of the recommended steps.  Happy dance!

I'm lucky - I work about two miles from home, so I bike to work at least three days a week.  Not everyone can do that, but if you can, I highly recommend it.  It's fun!   The rest of these tips?  We can all do some, if not all, of them and make a difference.

Sunset Magazine

Ten Fresh Ways to Eco-nomize 

Being green doesn't have to mean investing in solar panels or a new hybrid. "It's just about taking that little extra step," explains Eszter Rabin, the founder of EmmaRose Papery, an eco-friendly stationery line in San Francisco.
When Eszter and her husband, Dan, moved into their rented San Francisco apartment five years ago, one of the first things they did ― after painting the interior with nontoxic paint, adding energy-efficient lightbulbs, and converting the wood-burning fireplace into a candle haven ― was to get rid of their second car. "Once I saw a whole family on a bike ― dad, mom, two kids ― and the guy was holding an umbrella," Eszter says.
"If that's possible, what can't we do?"
1. Free yourself from matchy-matchy Used furniture doesn't often come in sets. Don't be afraid to mix and match: Choose pieces with the same general shape and materials for a look that's both eclectic and cohesive. (See photo at top.)
2. Become a one-car family "We use the car only when carrying something heavy or if we're going out of town," says Eszter. Otherwise it's pedal power and an easy-to-park Vespa.
3. Turn your fireplace into a decor statement Woodsmoke contributes to air pollution; candles don't. "I got this idea in Amsterdam," Eszter says. "It creates a warm feeling without having to burn wood."
4. Support green businesses Seek out local, eco-friendly companies. "It's important that I set an example with my own business," says Eszter, whose home office is furnished with a salvaged desk. "We use mostly recycled paper and soy inks."
5. Forgo disposables Think beyond the canvas shopping bag. "Even for vegetables or fruits, we don't use plastic," says Eszter, who has a closet full of colorful reusable bags collected on her travels. "We also reuse containers ― just wash them and refill at the bulk-food section."  
6. Buy local food Strawberries in January? Be aware of how far your edibles travel to get to grocery shelves. Shopping for food at farmers' markets can take a lot of the guesswork out of the equation. But even at the supermarket, all you have to do is ask.
7. Compost and recycle "I take the trash, recycling, and compost bins out every week, and the lightest container is always the trash can," Dan says. Get a head start by putting an end to junk mail (one option is Keep a lidded container sink-side for easy compost collection.
8. Clean with natural products Use nontoxic cleaners (we love the Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day line), or go DIY. "I try to clean most things with water, vinegar, castile soap, and lemon," says Eszter. Her recipe for pristine glass surfaces: 1 cup white vinegar to 1 cup water in a spray bottle.
9. Unplug Invest in central switches so electrical equipment doesn't keep humming when you're not home. Eszter's favorite energy-saving tip? "Wash only full loads of laundry and line-dry whatever you can." It's eco-friendly and easy on your clothes.
10. Garden wisely Conserve water by choosing plants that thrive in your climate. "All our plants are low-water or native," says Eszter. "We have succulents in the backyard and lavender and rosemary on the patio."

Friday, August 13, 2010

In the beginning...

Today's the day!  Why not?  After years of looking at (and drooling over) other blogs, I've decided to join the fun!

But where to start?  I know!  How about some pictures from my garden?  Maybe that will give you an idea of who I am...
My boyfriend and I spent all last summer on the garden, adding this pond, a waterfall and stream, and 3 (yes 3!) patio areas.  The goal was to not have any grass to mow, but in the end we kept a small grassy area, mostly for the dogs.

Waterfall with buddha
Different area, different Buddha
Little grassy area for the dogs to the left, a new as of yet unplanted flower bed on the right.
Louise, world's greatest cat, doing what she does best (besides catching lizards)!

 There is lots more garden to see, and I'll definitely show it all at some point, but that's enough for today.