Guest Bath Facelift

We have an extra room with a bath.  Modesty prevents me from photographing the entire room.  Currently it houses washer and dryer, daybeds, television with gaming equipment, Bowflex, treadmill, collection of homeless furniture, Stovesand family portrait from the 70′s, boxes of books and decorative dishes.  You get the picture, a catch-all for any manner of things we can’t decide where to house permanently.

It also has a bathroom which is currently used by Kirk and I as our 1960′s number is presently non-functional.  When we took possesion of the house it looked like this:

Guest Bath 1

At the time, this was the best of the three and a half baths, although not necessarily to my taste.  I am thinking it was done in the 80′s maybe?  The tile wasn’t in bad shape, the toilet worked and the oak cabinet was sturdy.  I almost never am initially drawn to blue, so I chose to focus on the accent colors of gold and rust.  First up was having the entire room sprayed a crisp white.  Then a 1 x 6 pine baseboard and trim was added to a room void of any embellishment.

Guest bath 2Since we live close to the beach, eight hooks were added to hang all of the beach towels that pile up when friends are over.  I found a rack at the Restoration Hardware Outlet to stack white towels on for the post beach showers.  It was a bit wider than the trim so little pieces were added to attach the rack.

guest bath 3A simple white mirror was ordered from Home Depot and fitted between the trim board for a built in look.  The room began to look very sterile in all white so I mixed a bit of the livingroom color into the paint for a subtle shade between the trim boards.  It looks so much warmer and it no longer feels like a virtual straight jacket.

guest bath 4New, inexpensive plumbing fixtures,  curtain rod hung at ceiling height, long waffle shower curtain, throw rug and painting all  helped to make the room more of this decade.

guest bath 5And to think it all started with this tile I was sure I couldn’t work with…

guest bath 6

A lot of lip stick and rouge to spruce it up.  Not sooo bad now!  On to the other two and a half.



Winter Pruning

When we were still living in Ojai,

January was spent pruning back much of our one acre garden.

pruning 10Beginning at the entrance gates,

pruning 11right up to the front door,

pruning 12around the back,

pruning 13and amongst the patios.

pruning 1

The wisteria on the pergola needed to be pruned hard to yield these beautiful blooms.

pruning 2

Grapes on either side of the pergola needed to be reigned in each winter.

pruning 3Roses to prune in order to keep the pathways clear.

pruning 4English roses to keep in check lest they become climbers.

pruning 5So many roses to tend to.

pruning 6All manner of lavender to harvest for arranging.

pruning 7An orchard to shape each year.

pruning 8Pepper trees threatening to overtake the yard at every corner.

pruning 9Even my pots required shearing to keep them looking tidy.

I had salvia and butterfly bushes which needed to be severely cut back each year.

For the first time in many years there isn’t much pruning to be done as the planting at the Shack are very different.  The odd assortment of fruit trees could be trimmed now that I know what they are.  The boxwood, lavender and roses planted this year are too young to require  much tending.  We have a hedge bordering our property which does require regular attention, but is far too big for me to tackle.  Most of the tropical plants that I have added don’t require much more than water.  It seems odd to not have the hours of pruning weighing on me, but do I miss the chore?  Not sure, yet.  What I will undoubtedly miss is my Ojai garden when it was in full bloom each spring.


Tea, Tea, Tea from Portland

The carpenter sent his helper to look at the book shelves and it was quickly determined that two men would be needed to tame those unruly beasts.  So we wait…in the mean time I shall console myself with tea.  The family is still very displeased with my latest purchase.

I love drinking tea.  More specifically, strong black tea.  I drink two, often three cups every morning and sometimes one in the afternoon or evening on cold days.  I brew a fresh pot for each cup in a Beehouse tea pot using loose tea leaves.  Last summer my sister-in-law and I took a trip to visit my dearest childhood friend, Taya.  She and her husband live in Portland and are also tea drinkers.  In fact Taya and I began enjoying tea while in grade school although we weren’t then opposed to using tea bags.

Portland, it turns out, is a tea drinkers paradise.  We traveled from one end of the city to the other searching for tea.  Not only do they have a lot of tea, they have fine purveyors of tea producing all manner of tea leaves prepackaged and sold by the ounce.  I came home with bags laden with ounces and ounces of tea.

One stop was at Steven Smith Teamaker.  Located in a nondescript store front, they package tea in the back, visible through glass panels.  Only small quantities in four ounce bags were available on a walk in basis.  If I had called ahead they would have sold larger quantities, probably not a worry for most visitors.   I bought No. 49 Assam FTGFOP1, a full leaf tea while there.  I have seen boxes of bags sold in stores, but never loose.  Their tea is amazing and so much better when brewed from loose leaves.

We also went to Townshend’s Tea Company.  I picked up a pound of #3  Assam (Irish Breakfast).  I love a strong, malty black tea and this one fills the bill.  I had to hurry and write this post because although I purchased a pound of this tea I am nearly out.  This is one I will have to replace pronto.

At The Tao of Tea I picked up two kinds; Rainforest Strong Black and Malty Assam.  The Rainforest Strong Black seems to be bitter no matter how I steep it.  Not a winner in my book but a portion of the proceeds benefitted someone or something.  The Malty Assam is indeed malty and a bit weak, but overall not so bad for the afternoon, but not strong enough to start the day.   I can’t say I love either of these.

I picked up eight ounces of Grandpa’s Anytime Tea at The Tea Zone.  I haven’t even opened it yet.  Looks and smells nice and strong.

I picked up English Breakfast tea at Teavana.  I can’t say it is my favorite, but I can find it in Santa Barbara.  It beats tea bags at any rate.

That is a lot of tea and it will be gone before I know it.  Portland is known for food trucks and being weird.  They also should tout their corner on the tea market.  I just wish Taya were here to enjoy it with me!




Have Library Card?

I haven’t written a post about my love of the reStore yet, but I LOVE to shop there.  I have picked up lots of cool things for our house.  That could be a post in and of itself, but this is about my latest find.  Recently, I stopped by to look for windows for a friend and found these instead….

library 1They had just come in, were in the parking lot and being haled on.

We have a very long hallway that is begging for shelves so I had one of the guys measure them to see if they would even fit.  They were measured at ten feet long by eight feet high.  It is hard to tell, but there are two sets of lower, doored cabinets and two of shelves made of cherry.  The price was right, if I took them that day,  so I headed home to measure the hall.

This was the hallway before we bought the house, complete with painted paneling and carpet.  The windows look out over a deck and the front yard and flood the room with natural light.  The hallway leads to the boys rooms off of the kitchen.

library 2Here it is from the other direction with the boys sceptically looking around.  This is also about the time that they named our new home The Shack.   The original plans have  it labeled as the “Play Hall.”  Since the boys are a bit too old to play in the house much, the 25 x 8 foot space is currently used to store boxes housing items for the yet to be finished kitchen.

library 3Shortly after moving in we drywalled the space, removed a door frame turned shelving unit, added wider door trim, evened out the ceiling lights, painted it up and added hardwood flooring.  Unfortunately, I never took a picture of it empty but it is much improved.

But back to the shelves, they would definitely fit on the wall behind Marlin.   So like the Beverly Hillbillies, we loaded up the truck (trailer) and off we went to pick them up.  I will spare you the details of getting them up over the deck stairs, under the mini-arbor and through the sliders, in the dark and drizzle, all without ruining shelves or home.  Nor re-live the dead arm, breaking back, panting parents, or silent girlfriend.  At long last they were in and tahdah….

library 4They WERE ten feet long and fit on that wall perfectly, BUT can you see that the shelves are very close to the ceiling height BEFORE being put on top of the lower cabinets?  Kirk got out the measuring tape and sure enough (though I fought him on it mightily) we have at least an extra foot.  In layman’s terms, they are way too tall.  I am not popular around here because they had to remain in the hall to prevent being ruined by the first winter to ever transcend upon Santa Barbara.

library 5It doesn’t look so bad from this angle, until you take into account Marlin’s bedroom and the boys bathroom lie at the opposite end of the hall.  Did I mention I am VERY UNPOPULAR around here?!!?  All is not lost however, the carpenter is coming Saturday to take off a foot or so, fit them together, add back the base and crown molding and hopefully restore my reputation.  If not I may be banned from the reStore for life.  Stay tuned…and wish me luck.




Headboard for Spencer

My kids like to produce wish lists for birthdays and Christmas.  Spencer’s contained a surprising amount of room decor, including curtains, headboard, dresser and more.  His birthday was last October and I found an inspiration photo to fashion a headboard from.

headboard 1I probably found it on pinterest or Houzz.  Another one had less bulky sides and lacked the lighting.  I settled on a hybrid of the two.  He currently has a full-sized bed and wants a queen so it was to be 64 inches wide by about 60 inches high and to hang on the wall above the six-inch base board.  I picked up 2 x 3 lumber to make the frame.  Six inch tongue and groove pine for the face.  Clear 1 x 4 birch was chosen for the bottom and side framing for a more stream lined look and 1 x 6 for the top.  Scraps of 2 x 4 were used to make french cleats on the back.

Then the lumber was stacked in the game room with no progress until my father came for the holidays.  He thought it would be a piece of cake.  So with Spencer’s help we started construction on New Year’s Day.

headboard 2

First up was to cut all of the tongue and groove boards to determine the finished height.  Then the framing was cut to length.  We built it on the guest cottage floor for a clean, dry and flat surface to work upon.

headboard 3Spencer used his skills from junior high wood shop to help,

headboard 4dad measured everything expertly and I held the ends of the wood.

headboard 5After deciding to make the top a bit bigger, we finished, brought it inside and measured to add the french cleats.

headboard 6The other half was attached to the carefully located studs.  The blue tape was added to mark the outline of the headboard.  Notice Spencer’s signature orange wall.

headboard 7At last it was hung on the wall and could not look better.

headboard 8All that is left to decide is paint or stain, grey or black…

headboard 9Not bad for $100 worth of wood and a few hours of work.  Well,  having a very talented father helps tremendously and really couldn’t have been done otherwise.  Thanks Dad!










Happy New Year. Welcome 2013!

I haven’t checked in to the blog for too long.  142 comments were waiting to be moderated.  Most were peddling shoes, handbags and coats.  Some came from Asia and even the Ukraine.  A few mentioned S@X.   I sent them all to Spam, save three which might be legitimate.  Thanks to those of you who do comment or at least check in on the progress at the Shack.  As for the other 142, well I have to figure out how to really send them to Spam for good.

The holidays passed by in a blur.  We celebrated Christmas Eve as usual with Kirk’s family.  Then we hosted Christmas for the first time at our house.  It became the Best, Weirdest Christmas Ever when my parents came down with the flu and stayed home.  We had brunch with far too much food.  I highly suggest The Contessa’s baked french toast.

New Year 1Then over the next few days the in-laws passed through to extend the celebrations.  When New Year’s Eve rolled around we continued to make merry with a family sleep-over and dinner.

new year 2We spent a lot of time on the road for basketball games.  Next we celebrated Marlin’s birthday for a few days running.  I was even lucky enough to be called in to work at Monica Ros after Spencer returned to school.  Finally the decorations came down and are awaiting their return to the barn.  I always feel like the house is open and airy after the holiday trappings are gone, as much as I love them while they are up.

Which brings me to the new year and the expected resolutions…I have never been very good at them.  Well, maybe I could tackle the shop in the coming months.

new year 3This is about a third of the shop.  We did attempt to organize it after it was freshly painted.  Lots of shelving was added from Home Depot.  Alas, there still remained too much to put away and when I walked in there it was so overwhelming that it never was finished.   After a year, I suppose it is time to tackle the mess.  We haven’t had many parties at the Shack, but the makings of one lie within those walls.

new year 4

I would like to add some kitchen cabinets to the windowed corner at the front and maybe even start painting again.  The old kitchen table needs to be donated and much needs going through to be thrown out.  Windows need to be washed.  A shade needs to be hung to cover the storage facing the yard.  Drawer pulls need to be installed on the cabinets in the tool area. One last big push could make this a useable area instead of a dumping ground.

Wish me luck, I may not come out for days once I get going.  Maybe this public humiliation was the push I needed.  What are your resolutions this year?  Do you still make them?  I could make many more, but I know my limits.








For the Educators

The few followers of this little blog know that I taught kindergarten and first grade for the past twelve years.

I find news of Newtown unbearably sad and even more so at this time of year with too many holiday celebrations as we carry on, miles away from the horrific tragedy.

So I baked…

teachers 1

and baked…

 teacher 2

and washed lots of dishes.

teacher 3Until I had a coffee cake, cranberry muffins, brownies, macaroons and granola to deliver to Spencer’s school for the staff that has eased his transition to high school in a new town.

teacher 4Because when I was teaching, a little snack at recess was always welcome.

And because life can be so unpredictable.

 And we are so very grateful for the education our son is receiving and his success thus far.

Was that just an earthquake?  That just might prove my point!

You never know…





Driveway Entrance Revamp

Instead of starting the orchard, we decided to freshen up the approach to our house.  It was arguably the ugliest entrance in our neighborhood.  The crumbling asphalt was developing a pot hole so large it threatened to swallow small cars whole.  The planter was engulfed in ivy which was beginning to overtake the brick pillars.  Note the railroad ties set at varying lengths, some of which had deteriorated and were long gone.  One side had the best part of the hedge bordering the street.  The only problem being that it blocked that side of the road, requiring nosing the car out into oncoming traffic to determine, often too late, if the coast was clear.  The gate itself appears to be either unfinished or poorly made.

Now this doesn’t look so bad.  I managed to crop out the pot hole.   The white orbs on the gate are polo balls so that the previous owner could tell if the gate was open or closed at night.  While not all of the houses in our neighborhood are perfection, some do look like this…

This is fancier than most and leads to a house which probably has a garage bigger than our home, but you see why we wanted to at least fill the pot hole.

First up was clearing the beds of ivy, railroad ties and the hedge to equal distances on each side.  This left exposed chain link and a clear view of the front yard.  Bender board was added until we can have rock-work done to match the rose garden.

The gate was painted the same green as the house.  Maybe some trim would make it look more finished.  Road base filled the holes in the drive and pea gravel serves as a stop-gap measure to make things look a bit better.  Confederate jasmine was the first addition to, hopefully, quickly cover the chain link.

Wreaths  were hung to further obscure the fencing.  Maybe garland across the top would eliminate the floating in thin air look.

Next up, choosing two biggish trees to anchor the flower beds and plants to fill them back up.  Can’t decide whether or not to plant boxwood borders.  Maybe flax and/or iceberg roses across the back.  Something unusual would be fun…but what?  Here is the new and improved approach.

If nothing else, it is neater, not as daring to exit and we haven’t lost any small cars lately.  Unfortunately, I have to go to the nursery.  Darn.












Birthday Wreath

I was reading the latest issue of Sunset Magazine and was intrigued by the Wild Wreaths article in the Home & Garden section.

A dear friend’s birthday was coming up and she is very insistent about NOT wanting gifts.  She, however, likes giving gifts for everything.  I found that presenting her with disposable or edible gifts was an acceptable way of circumventing the guilty feeling of showing up empty handed.  I may or may not have mentioned that I am addicted to succulents…this seemed the perfect solution to my gift giving dilemma.

It seemed like an easy enough wreath to create, succulents plus moss, perfect.  I set out to Micheal’s, then Joanne’s, then to the same stores in two more towns before I settled on a metal wreath frame, sheet moss and floral picks with wire to attach the succulents.  The selection of wreath frames was bleak, most were way too small for my liking and bags of moss seemed a bit messy.

I gathered my supplies and set to work.  I cut the sheet moss into a square, then removed a circle from the center, and rounded the corners to just fit the wire frame.  Quickly I realized that the wire frame needed heft, so out came the bags of moss I had attempted to avoid.  The article, I now note, does offer a tip to use a “firm wreath base, such as one made of straw or foam.”

The rounded edges were clipped to be pulled over the frame and secured with lots of hot glue.

Remember the mess I was trying to avoid…this proves that went out the window.  You can see some of the supplies used:  scissors, wire cutters, clippers, floral wire, floral picks, glue gun and moss.

It became clear that another sheet of moss was going to be necessary to hold the wreath together, so the entire process was repeated.  For extra security the entire wreath was wrapped with very thin floral wire.  Succulents scavenged from my ever-growing collection were attached to floral picks and hot glued into the wreath.  Sadly, the succulents were more green than red and I added a few more than the inspiration photo.  A bow to hang it and voila…

Not quite as soft and loose as the article depicts, but nice none-the-less.  A gift tag created using more moss and a tiny succulent was the finishing touch.

Lovingly delivered with a caution to keep it out of direct sun lest all that glue melt.  That could be a disaster.














The word is in…GREEN is the color for 2013.  I am SOOO in on this color trend!  They are calling it the color of rejuvenation and renewal.  I call it the color used most in my house.

Well,  color me renewed, beginning this morning with my third (yes third) cup of tea.  Olive, Kelly, Mint, Apple, I really don’t mind the shade.  I will take it!

My old kitchen had lots of green.  The new is meant to have darker green lower cabinets and white uppers…coming soon and on trend.  Not that it would have mattered.  Now I can justify my obsession!