Inspirational Walk

The local nurseries have been calling me…

All bound for the back garden, just not exactly sure where yet.

The front looks much the same as it did a year ago.

The jasmine growing on the fence was stunted by a lack of water. Some was devoured by gophers. As you can see there is little else of interest. Unless of course I failed to blog about that big boulder destined to have our house numbers.

I tell myself once the trees go in the rest will come to me. I look for inspiration in the neighborhood on my walk, but for one reason or another nothing is just right. Remind you of a certain fairy tale?

Case in point.

Stunning color composition, but all heavily shaded by majestic coastal live oaks. Certainly not my growing conditions.

This is one of my all time favorites, although my choices are not leaning toward cactus and the area is much larger than mine.

Pigmy Date palms under planted with jasmine. Maybe a bit uninspired?

I find these bird of paradise stunning against the white stucco wall. Neither of which I have.

This house was recently sold and the landscaping was completely redone with bougainvillea, flax, rosemary and salvia. It looks too professionally planted just yet.

Clipped box with a row of standard Iceberg roses. Pretty but a bit too manicured for me.

Cypress under planted with red and white roses, yellow kangaroo paws and lavender. Not bad in the Mediterranean and I find the color combination a bit off.

This old hedge was recently limbed up and then under planted with different varieties of flax and Echium. There is something about this I really like. Maybe our recent trip to New Zealand is clouding my judgment.

More flax, agave and ice plant. Nice looking but more suited to a Spanish house.

This newly planted entry looks a little too Disney for my taste.

Lots of beautiful plantings in the neighborhood, but like I said, nothing is just right for our house. If I asked each of these neighbors bet they would say anything beats that bare dirt. The search goes on.


My sister in law sent a text saying she stumbled upon my travel and construction blog last night while on Pinterest. Those simple words made me pull up the blog and look at it as anyone else would and made me realize that I have DIY ADD.

I found that there hasn’t been a house related post sine June. We did take waaaay more trips than we normally do. But I really have been chipping away at the Shack, mostly on the gardens, though not one project is complete enough for a close up. I also realized that my computer has been broken since February. Really Mr.
Stovesand, can it take this long to replace a screen? I can barely send coherent texts with an iPhone much less blog! Case in point, I am re-typing this entire post because I somehow deleted the original one. I am pretty sure the last version was better.

I have a trunk full of plants…

And am on my twentieth or so flat of dymondia. These last two will mean the recycled concrete patio and flagstone path to the hot tub are complete.

Not difficult work but a tad bid tedious. We won’t discuss the mole last week.

The narrow flower bed behind our room is now considerably wider and planted in tropicals. Just needs mulching. The slope in front of the barn was without water and now needs to be re-planted on one side. The other side was grass and impossible to mow. The grass was removed and now has to be planned out. Darn, looks like another trip to the nursery. Grass seed went in two weeks ago and is being guarded from clumsy dogs

With all of these projects so near to completion, I found myself on Pinterest planning the future orchard. I can see why she referred to my travel blog. Add in a new-found addiction to Instagram and I feel like I have been blogging. Looks like I need to finish up a few projects and get back to real blogging. I need a little more DIY and lot less ADD.


Every year Kirk has a conference in Chicago. This year we were all out of school early and were lucky enough to tag along.

I had no idea that we would fall in love with the city. I was even able to get the boys to spend a day shopping on State Street. Thank goodness we don’t live there because it would be very difficult to stay on a budget with the seemingly endless stores with more inventory than I have ever seen.

Naturally we had to take in all the sights.

The Willis (formerly known as Sears) Tower. Incidentally, I was too chicken to walk out onto the glass platform.

Art institute. The boys tired of the art WAY before I did. Note the under appreciated Gauguins in the background.

The Bean.

University of Chicago and a fly by one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes near the campus.

Rode the L, took a ton of taxis and walked our legs off to the John Hancock Tower, Field Museum of Natural History, Old Saint Patrick’s Church, The Magnificent Mile, Shedd Aquarium, Millenium Park and China Town.

Naturally we had some pizza. Very cheesy pizza.

I stumbled upon Argo Tea. Wonder if they are elsewhere because I loved the Nilgiri Black tea.

Had more pizza.

I hope we can go back next year. I better start saving, now that I know how much shopping there is!! What a great city.

New Zealand Adventure, Part 1

Last summer we were lucky enough to travel to New Zealand for two weeks with my brother and his family. Our adventure began in Aukland and happened to be my birthday shortly thereafter.

We toured all of the city sights.

Celebrated my birthday with the girls at The Langham Hotel for high tea. The Langham claims to have served the first high tea in England as a way for ladies to banish that “sinking feeling” in the afternoon experienced while waiting for the men to return from their days business.

Then later we continued to celebrate with the family for amazing seafood including fish and chips, fritters and fried oysters at The Oyster House, which was a short ferry ride away.

We left the city behind to begin our travels south.

We stopped on the way at Waitamo Caves to see glow worms, hiking down into the caves and then boarding a boat, VERY QUIETLY, in the dark to see the elusive worms. They really did glow!

Our next stop was in Tongariro where a blizzard dashed our plans to snow ski. It was winter in the opposite hemisphere after all.

We spent a few days walking through slush and snow, drinking a new favorite, mulled wine and hanging out at the Skotel.

Then we again headed south for what would be a sixteen hour trek to the South Island. Along the two lane highways we saw MANY sheep and the stunning country side before boarding a ferry for a very treacherous three hour journey.

And then an even more hair-raising ride through the mountains to our next stop, a stunning beach house on Pohara Beach in Golden Bay. Thank goodness it was dark! I’ll save the rest for another post.

Mystery Gate Revealed

We were invited to a Fourth of July party in The Malibu Colony. We didn’t realize what a treat this was until we arrived at the gate and chose to walk in instead of using the valet service. We immediately spied wildly expensive cars and unbelievably amazing homes. Although we tried not to be star struck, we were!

Without being too obvious I snapped a pix of a stunning gate.

And a few of the stunning party house, perched on the Pacific.

The tv room had walls that opened wide to the courtyard. I wanted to immediately repaint our house the same color.

And buy all new furniture and change windows and moulding. I have never wanted to redo my house top to bottom, but suddenly I did. One can dream!

Dinner was served buffet style. We had the most delicious salmon cooked on a salt block and grilled lobster. I was photographing this from a deck suspended over the sand and facing the ocean. Wish I had taken pictures of the bar, powder room, living room, master bath and rooftop deck. I couldn’t find fault with anything but I couldn’t pull out the phone constantly.

We were treated to three fireworks displays, including the private one put on by the Colony residences. The evening was incredible from beginning to end and such an unexpected treat. Today I was surprised to see the house behind the turquoise gates featured on Hooked on Houses . The house lives up to the gate, that’s for sure. Take a quick peek.

Very soon I will post about another party and what “casual elegant” attire means in Malibu. Let’s just say it is something else entirely in my world.

Caribbean Insta

We have been home for two weeks and have no plans to travel for a while. I have picked up plants for the new rear garden design, scrubbed bathrooms and floors, and unpacked all the luggage. Now I can finally write a post without a mound of laundry or dust covering the floors.

As I mentioned in the last post, we took a short cruise in the Caribbean. I am not a big fan of traveling on ships, but Spenc and Kirk love them.

We boarded the ship on Father’s Day and after checking out our room, headed straight for the first of many endless buffet meals. We then explored the ship and the boys played a quick game of putput golf.

Our first stop was on Grand Turk where we took a kayaking tour through a creek. I apologize in advance to all of you who follow on Instagram as I didn’t pull out my camera.

We saw little of the island as we traveled to our destination, which is my biggest complaint about cruising.

While on board the Heat won the NBA playoffs. They broadcast three games on the pool deck while tons of fans routed for their favorite.

Our next stop was Jamaica. We took a tour around Ocho Rios ending with some relaxation at the beach.

We stopped to admire a church.

Before heading back to another day at sea.

Next stop…a water park in the Bahamas. Most of it was too adventuresome for me, but they did have Starbucks! I had been reduced to drinking watered down fountain iced tea with a splash of lemonade for days.

A spirited band wandered through just before we left.

I loved this building we glimpsed on the way back to the ship. Spencer lost his cruise card, but they did let him back aboard.

Before we knew it we were back in Miami and off to the airport for a flight home. All in all we had a great trip. Maybe by writing this post I will actually remember where we stopped!

Miami Heat

Recently we traveled to Miami to take a cruise in the Caribbean. We took a few days to spend time exploring the city before we set sail.

We stayed in North Beach, wasting no time checking out the Atlantic. Beaches crowded with lounge chairs takes some getting used to, but the warm water was a dream.

The boys loved South Beach, especially the convoy of snazzy cars driven by what looked like a group of rappers.

Here was something one doesn’t see every day.

We took a tour through little Havana. I just took all of the homeless chickens to the thrift shop, but clearly should have brought them to Florida to retire.

The boys bought cigars, not that they usually smoke.

I loved the Cuban’s hanging out playing games.

Corral Gables was an amazingly beautiful neighborhood. The old houses were gorgeous and the lush gardens helped me to envision Kirk’s desire for a tropical landscape at The Shack.

We toured Miami University, hit the beach and too soon packed up for the cruise (another post for another day). I know lots of people move to Florida to retire, but I am pretty sure I am not nearly hip enough for Miami. Maybe we will go back and find some retirement communities. Sounds like more of my speed.

Mount Vernon Inspiration

In the spring I took a trip with my mother to visit cousins in Maryland. Having only been to Washington DC many years ago on a business trip with Kirk, I was able to see many places I had only learned about in history lessons. We packed a lot of sights into our stay, traveled through five or so states and ran through many attractions, but we were able to spend an afternoon at George Washington’s farm, Mount Vernon. As you might guess, my favorite part was the gardens just outside the beautifully, modest mansion perched on the Potomac River.


There were stunning walled gardens just outside the mansion which served to feed the residents of the farm.


Rows of various crops were grown.


I was inspired by the espaliered fruit trees growing against brick walls to soak up the ambient heat.


And the ancient specimens grown as living fences.


Still more in the more formal parterre garden.


Though I know myself well enough to know this much care isn’t what I am willing to maintain.


Naturally one would need a little green house, like this one.


And a finely clipped parterre.


To grow all the bulbs which were lovingly stored in the greenhouse.


The dirty little secret was that slaves cared for all of this splendor. Now the gardens are privately cared for so that we still may be inspired by the father of our country’s estate.


Happy Fathers Day George. I sure loved your gardens! Even writing this post makes me want to put on the gardening gloves.

Working Hiatus

I spent the better part of six weeks back in Ojai teaching kindergarten. The time flew by and I had so much fun with my former colleagues. The blog did suffer although progress on The Shack limped along. I tried to rush back after work to make decisions and some projects I simply chose to postpone for later in the summer when I can be here to be bossy, as the boys like to say.


The hood is finally hooked up with working lights and all. The decision was finally made to box in above the range hood, matching the tongue and groove siding. Six more feet of crown molding is needed to finish it before staining the same color as the siding. Just need to find time to get to the lumber yard.


The rock curbing and driveway widening are complete. Now to choose a gravel color and have it delivered and spread. Right now the dust is unbearable and covering every inch of the house, cars and dogs.


The back patio, which was allowing water to drain under the house, was finally all removed.


Leaving another pile of concrete to add to the one from our first removal of too narrow side walks and some of the patio.


The grass and irrigation all were lost during the grading. Translation: EVEN MORE DUST.


Things were looking up as the patio was laid using the recycled concrete. Stain was chosen, dirt filled the cracks for plants to go in.


Stairs to the barn were going in using the last of the broken boulders. Cherokee flagstone was chosen to top the stairs and make a path to the hot tub (through more dust and dirt). Things were so close to the grass going back in and putting an end to the dust factory.

But then….cue dramatic music…


we had repeated plumbing issues and found the fifty year old, cast iron pipes were past their useful life. Up came the patio. Hold on the stairs. Dig up all the pipes, including going under two sides of the house, and update that dang plumbing. Not. One. Bit. Of. Fun. Can you feel the tension? I never knew Santa Barbara had this much dust.

My first day of summer vacation and this is our view.


Hoping some day soon to be looking at a green lawn and potted plant filled patio before summer has come and gone! With vacations scheduled we might as well just leave and hope little fairies appear to create a beautiful garden while we are away. Or I could stalk Lowe’s and hope Yard Crashers shows up. One can always dream.

Along with the Driveway…

Since we have my favorite rock guy working to widen the driveway, we decided to finish off a few more things out front.

The first is a pond which had seen better days.

We removed a second pond and connecting stream. The boys all want to demolish it, but I have faith that it can be revived. My only instructions are to make it look good.

The boys also sectioned off an area with old brick, giving me strict instructions to keep out. No plants allowed, is the translation.

The area is at the front of the property and really quite large. They have grand plans for a putting green made from artificial turf. I have not crossed the brick barrier, but maybe after the work is done I can sneak a few plants along the fence line?

We have a California Live Oak that is now filling in nicely. I asked that the base be covered in river rock set in sand. Sounds very Ojai, but I just can’t help myself.

The boulders have been delivered, now they just need to be set, always mindful of the brick barrier I mustn’t cross!

Even though much has yet to be completed, I have begun planting the perimeter bed with Phormium, Echium, Rosemary, Bird of Paradise, Kangaroo Paw and Agave.

Despite the terrible morning light, the plants are predominately yellow, lime green or variegated to stand out against the surrounding hedge.

Also planed is an enclosure to hide the garbage cans from the street and drive.

Could that be anymore unsightly? Even without the refrigerator waiting for Edison to pick up. I am surprised we haven’t been reported!

The view of everything from the opposite direction:

Maybe since we are moving along, ever so slowly, our neighbors haven’t lost patience, yet.