Views of a Renovation: Sweat Equity

Sweat equity is something that you usually hear about in a joking-but-I'm-mostly-well, almost-entirely-serious context. If, like me, you run out of money three-quarters of the way through your renovation... you invest in some serious Sweat Equity. This usually involves you, your partner/spouse, family, friends... hell, even your children if they're old enough to hold a paint roller. You suddenly become Mr. Electrician, Pro Painter 5000, or Ms. Stucco Patcher!, or Carpenter Extraordinaire! if it'll mean saving you several thousand dollars along the way. {provided you have lots of time and serious energy to dedicate to it all}
I'd just like to go on record by saying that there is no way, and I mean NO WAY I'd have been able to finish my house without the help of my family. Especially my brother. I'm going to be owing him baked goods & beers for the rest of his life. I mean, srsly. My brother is Epic... yes, with a capital E.

 This is my family. Being awesome. And, I didn't even get pictures of half of it.

 And, of course, some hiccups along the way that had to be remedied.
PS. On occasion, you may have to admit defeat and bring in professionals who are more equipped to fix certain things. Thanks Ryan!!!!!!

Project Renovation: Tile... and some advice

Oh, tile. What can I say? It's a pretty way to set tone and style to your whole house. When it's done well, it can be pretty amazing.
There's not many people yelling over the rooftops about the detail-oriented, painstaking way of doing tile well {except, maybe those who have gotten bad tile jobs}. Now, don't get me wrong, it's totally awesome to be able to do a DIY tile weekend adventure. But, if you've got an old house, complicated patterns or difficult obstacles (window frames, built-ins, curvy tubs, etc.) it's probably a good idea to go professional. I had two different guys do my tile (long story), but both were incredibly detail oriented. It's obvious when you've seen a job well done. Pay attention to the corners and where tile meets other surfaces. Good guys will skimp the effort and just stick with 90 & 45 degree angles. The good guys cut curves into the tile.
Look at the lines and the symmetry. Does the pattern pick up after an interruption, like a window? Are the grout lines evenly spaced and connect from shower floor up and over the curb? Did he lay the floor first, before the walls so water doesn't find it's way to the subfloor? How does the tile meet the flooring of the rest of the house - is it a level & smooth transition? A good tile guy, who is proud of his work, will pay attention to these little things. And, especially, how clean does he leave his area at the end of the day? This also applies to ALL subs - tile, electrician, plumber, roofer, etc. If they leave the job at the end of the day, your house should be spick-and-span. If they leave trash/food lying around, tools in the middle of the floor, concrete/wood debris without vacuuming... it's obvious they don't care too much about your house OR their own workmanship. {I repeatedly found open, half-full taco sauce packets in the middle of my newly refinished wood floors... just waiting to be stepped on. I about had a fit. Don't get me started about the apple core thrown in the void in the wall. But, those were other guys which I hope to never deal with again}
Ok, lets get back to the good stuff before I really start going off. 
Good tile choices and installation = beautiful! Yay!

PS. Don't worry, I'll post pictures of the finished rooms when it's all said and done.

Mom's Garden: Cabbage

I know what you're thinking. Cabbage in the summer?! Well, apparently, yes. This year, we got cabbage all the way into late summer. I love the velvety, iridescent dusty quality to this purple cabbage. At first it's silver. When you touch it, it turns purple. So cool.


Project Renovation: Kitchen Inspiration

I've been meaning to put together inspiration-slash-mood boards for you all to see where I'm going with all of this renovation.
Starting off with the kitchen... I fully realize that the finished product of the kitchen is going to look a bit different from the rest of the house. But, who cares! It's my party, dammit. Hee hee. 
I knew I wanted a simple kitchen. A lot of white to brighten it up {not much light comes in on that side of the house}, a not too girly kind of Scandinavian with a dash of 1930's Spanish. Sounds weird, right? 
What I wanted: white cabinets, open shelves, butcher block somewhere, grey Caesarstone countertops {for it's near indestructibility} and Carrara marble subway tile backsplash {'cus it's pretty}. Coordinating it all was a little daunting & I second-guessed myself a lot, but kept listening to my gut and I think it turned out pretty nice in the end. Don't worry, I'll show you pictures once it's all finished & cleaned up.
Here are a few of my inspiration photos. I've got lots more inspiration on my Pinterest boards
I love everything about this home in Portland, OR - featured in a Houzz Tour. I especially love the kitchen. So amazing. I only wish I could afford that Ann Sacks tile floor {Natch, I chose to spend my money on my appliances. Priorities, here people}.
When I found this photo from Smitten Studio, I was like, "Gah!! This is exactly what I am thinking about!" I loved the open, airy feeling of Sarah Samuel's cabin kitchen, especially all the white and the warm color of the butcher block counters. I love butcher block. I've grown up with butcher block islands, but my kitchen isn't big enough for one. So, I'll have to do some on the countertop.
I was having a dilemma about what I was going to do with my floors. I really, really wanted to paint them white but am a big wimp in trying to keep them clean. Then I saw this photo from House Beautiful, and thought EUREKA! A bright, happy blue/turquoise would be totally amazingly awesome. Done.

Mom's Garden: Bees!

This post has been about a year in the making. We've gotten to a point where, I think I can share it with all of you... Mom's Garden has bees! (although, I think maybe this should be filed under Project Adventure... ) 
Mom has been obsessing over bees for a long, long time. It's like her totem animal or something. I remember when I was about 6, watching Mom pet honey bees while they were busy working on the roses. Yes, I just said petting. "They're totally harmless, hon. They're too focused on collecting pollen to worry about what I'm doing." She'd even pet the big black carpenter bees and the super fuzzy striped bumblebees. With her finger outstretched and a serene zen-like expression on her face, petting the back of a bee while it had it's face buried in flower... this was my experience with bees. My friends were usually hysterical at the sight of one. They always thought I was nuts whenever a bee landed on someone's shoulder or blanket, I'd pick it up barehanded and toss it toward the flowers. What else would I do? That's what I knew. My grandfather had several bee hives when Mom was growing up. I even remember the white boxes stacked up in my grandparents backyard... so, maybe it's a family thing.

Mom has been dreaming of having her very own hive for who knows how long. She's been reading about them and befriending Backwards Beekeepers to learn all she can about keeping them and how to "acquire" a hive. About a year ago, low and behold, a hive swarmed into an empty wooden box in her back yard! It was late in the summer, so we decided to leave it there so it could establish itself (you don't really want to move a hive in the wintertime because added stress is hard on them when there's not a lot of food around). Meanwhile, Mom voraciously read up on beekeeping for real. The hive was there for over a year. The time came when we were ready to transfer the hive into a proper bee box. Then, literally 2 days before we were going to transfer the hive, it left (or, as beekeepers call it, absconded)! We were pretty bummed. As luck would have it, that very same weekend, someone dumped a swarm into a cardboard box at the end of our street. Victory!

Good thing we had prepared a bee box, so it was all ready and waiting for the new hive. {more on the DIY project later} Normally, what you do with a new hive is cut the comb into big pieces and tie or rubber band them into frames that slide into the bee box. We couldn't do that. These bees had twisted themselves up in a tight ball in a bamboo bush, so there wasn't much to work with. So with a little help from Backwards Beekeeper David, we decided to just give them room to make their own comb, then rearrange it later, once they were more settled.
So, we've had a hive chillin' in the backyard for about 6 months now. It's pretty cool. 
Here's me and Mom looking pretty happy with ourselves after adding a second box on top of the original (that came later). More on harvesting our first bits of honey later on!

Project Bake: Tangerine Jam

A great break in the doll-drums of winter is the appearance of tangerines! Mom's tangerines start to pop up around mid-January. She has 3 small trees so, naturally there are tangerines everywhere for about a month. We try to harvest them regularly because the squirrels {and dogs} are quite fond of gobbling them up. This year, I was brainstorming on what I can make with them and jam came to mind! Now, if anyone has made jam, jelly or marmalade before, you'll know what I mean when I say that jam is not for the faint-hearted or detail-phobic. Jam is serious business. One little mistake or a few extra seconds of boiling, and that can spell disaster for your concoction. This is something I didn't really pay attention to when I decided to embark upon my jam making adventure. I figured that, as with the majority of my baking, as long as I have a recipe, it'll come out perfect. This is not the case. Jam takes love. Lots of L.O.V.E. 

Jam making with Tangerines turned out to be quite the balancing act. 
Sugar: tangerines are naturally sweeter than other citrus, so I won't need as much sugar.
Pith: with some warning from Mom, I had to be careful of the amount of pith I was going to include. The pith (white stuff) makes jam bitter. But a little bit of bitter makes jam taste more interesting. Anyone who knows tangerines, knows that they have a LOT of pith. There was some serious amounts of scraping and peeling going on to get rid of it. I'm not a fan of bitter jam or marmalade.
Peel: part of what makes citrus jam (or marmalade) so great, is the texture of the peel. You need the peel because it contains pectin. Pectin, if you don't know, is the stuff that makes jelly gel together. Some fruit have more or less - that's why you add extra pectin (powdered or liquid) into jams. It is mostly present in the skin of fruits, especially citrus. It can be complicated because the skin (and the white) can also make the jelly bitter. To counteract bitterness from the peel & pith, I decided to scrape off much of the pith from the peel, and cut it up in small slivers. No small feat with tangerine skin being soft and delicate. {thanks, Mom, for the help on this one. Did I ever mention that she's a great sous-chef?}

I was hoping for a mostly clear jam with chunks of whole slices and slivers of peel. So, I strained about a quarter of my tangerine pulp out because I didn't want it to be super pulpy. 
The extra pectin I used was a liquid Certo. In hindsight, next time I'll probably use a powdered pectin to see if the jam comes out a bit more solid. 

After canning it up and leaving it in the fridge for a couple of weeks {apparently, marmalade takes a little longer to firm up than other fruit jams}, I have a beautiful, sweet & delicious tangerine jam. Yay! Although exciting, the process is so labor intensive that I'll have to be seriously motivated to do it again. Or, maybe I'll just find a different recipe...


Petit Post: Terns in Africa

Petit pics from our trip to Africa. These cute little ones are terns (I don't know what kind, but I'll find out and let you know) that were using our ship as a rest stop. Such little cuties, I love the little white bit on the beak.


Project Renovation: Kitchen Progress

So, here's a little update on the kitchen. The guys were pulling things down faster than I could take pictures, so unfortunately I missed some of the demo. That's the breaks when you have to work and deal with life instead of hover over the contractor's shoulder. But, here's where we stand. A lot of progress since I last posted about this. Luckily {knock on wood}, we haven't had any setbacks... aside from me leaving the country for a month. As a result, I left Los Angeles with lath & plaster and came home to full-on drywall.
The picture above is looking through the entire length of the house. From the back bedroom through the bathroom, kitchen and into the dining room. It's kinda fun to walk through walls. hee hee.

Remember the before?

 Hooray! We have the startings of cabinetry! Wee! I was so excited to get the cabinets in, I'm sure the guys thought I was seriously strange with all my picture-taking. "What's so special about my tools?" he asks. "They're your tools. That's why they're special" I replied. He just shrugged and rolled his eyes. Probably chalked it up to another crazy client.

Looking Up

Traveling through Africa's north west coast at the moment {oh, la la}. Thought I'd drop in and say hiya and give you all a peek at a view of Marrakech. Such a crazy, chaotic and beautifully exotic place. If you ever save up your pennies and get the chance, you have to go.
Until later!

Project Rennovation | Demo Part 1

So, as I mentioned before, my cute little kitchen is a gonner. Dunzo. Finished. Stuck in 1952 no more, it is getting a serious makeover to bring it into the 21st century {of course, classically and tastefully}. It's going to take some time, so here's where we stand. Studs! Lath and plaster! My house's innards are actually, really very lovely. The guys tell me that it's probably redwood. I'm getting a lot of "they don't make things like that anymore". They're going to keep a lot of the good stuff, but it's still sad to see some of it go, but oh well! I can't get hung up on that stuff now or it'll never get done and I'll go bonkers. Besides! It's only just begun.


Project Renovate | Whipped Cream

My house has the coolest barrel ceilings. Living and dining rooms! These ceilings make the place seem soooo huge, and really put the focus on my {even more awesome} windows. 
What's not awesome is the texture someone decided to plaster all over them. The walls, the ceiling, the fireplace, down the hallway. *groan* 
This is much worse than popcorn/cottage cheese ceiling. For lack of a better description and without a trace of affection, I have come to call this texture pattern, "whipped cream". {apparently texture nicknames go with food items}

I called in a couple of painters to see how they would get rid of the stuff. With eyes the size of saucers, they surveyed the rooms in silence. Solutions were suggested: 
Sanding. Skim coating. 
Sanding some more. Skim coating some more. 
Build it up slowly, away from the window frames. Sand some more. 
Paint. Sand some more. Paint again.
In essence, a heckuva lot of work.

After the painters had gone, my contractor took one look at it, and said: "No problem. We'll figure it out." Next time I went over to the house, there he was with a giant spatula on a broomstick carving away the whipped cream. shuck, shuck, shuck. The stuff was, thankfully, coming off in chunks.
It took one guy, two hand a half days to clean it all off. I was seriously impressed.


Lorem Ipsum | Bombshell Pro, Jacques & Gilles

Recently acquired & totally crushing on: Jacques & Gilles {top} and Bombshell Pro {bottom}. A great handwritten quality to them. They look fairly similar, one is a bit more formal than the other, but I think they are super cute. Jacque & Gilles even comes with cute ornaments too. Can't wait to use them for print projects. Yay!

This episode is brought to you by: Jacques & Gilles and Bombshell Pro!
Designer: Emily Conners, founder Emily Lime foundry

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Project Renovation | The Before

Getting started with a renovation is a little daunting. Exciting, but daunting. Provided you are prepared for the emotional and financial stress, it takes a little simmering time to get a good idea of what you'd like to do. I guess you could say I'm lucky because the minute I set foot inside the house {a spontaneous Open House visit with Mom}, before I even decided to put an offer on it, I knew what I'd do to fix it up. It's like there was a thin film of tracing paper over my vision with the project completed. I had the Big Idea down already, it's the details that still need discovering. 

Now, before you look at these photos and think; "Awww. What a cute kitchen!" Don't get too attached. This kitchen was cute, but pretty tired. Yes, I just used past tense. This kitchen was cute. Because, it's gone. Have no mercy, ripped out, gone. All in a day's work. Renovation is not for the faint of heart.


New Home

So, I've been a total slacker in posting intervals. Things have been super crazy for me and my family recently. As I'm sure you all experienced at least a few times in your life, life has a way of getting in the way. I'm hoping that I'll be able to post with wanton abandon given recent developments: I am now a Homeowner. yes, with a capital "H". Home. Mine. All mine.
It is this great little Spanish-style place built in 1924 with amazingly awesome windows and a great little fireplace. Most especially, it has great bones. The previous owners have loved it gently, thank goodness, so it still has a lot of old charm but not so much that I would be afraid to add my own touches. And there is quite a bit to do with this old beauty as the kitchen is living in 1954 and one of the bathrooms, 1984. In fact, it's already started. I'm seeing lath & plaster as I type. So, I will hopefully be sharing it all with you: the progress, the setbacks {knock on wood} and the triumphs. 

Monthly Obsession: Arrows

I'm calling it out {and since I'm obv already obsessed with them}. Arrows are taking over. Just as whales & owls took over mustaches & birds, arrows are all over the place. Bloggers  have been predicting it for years now, I guess I'm just slow on the uptake.
It may be a strange thing to want, but I've been lusting after an arrow from Fredericks & Mae for a while. Those things are like folk art.
I've put together some images and items with arrows to get your blood pumping. Enjoy!
1. DIY feather arrow necklace; 2. Madewell archer necklace; 3. Coral & Tusk pillows; 4. Erica Weiner Archery Earring; 5. Nasty Gal Cuff; 6. Satelluxe's The Bristow; 7. Fredericks & Mae arrows.

{After seeing all the awesome pillows from Coral & Tusk, my future project is to learn embroidery}
1. via Apartment Therapy; 2. Vinyl arrow decals; 3. via Pinterest; 4. via Etsy; 5. via Making It Lovely.
Illustration at top: Julia Kostreva

Looking Up

Talk about your silver lining! I took this outside my office the other day. 
I love Fall weather... le sigh
I think I need to paint this... or commission someone... like my friend James Willis. Maybe he'd do it for me. *hint hint*

Project Adventure: Google's Field Trip

Today marks, officially, the first time I've been jealous of Android phones. I just learned of something called Field Trip. Developed by the folks at Google, it's exactly what I was trying to express in my first ever post in Project Adventure; go out and explore all the cool things around you. Field Trip is an app that runs in the background of your phone and pops up nifty insights about where you are at that moment.

All you Android people out there, install this and let me know how it is! They say they are working on an iOS version - lets hope it comes out sooner rather than later!
Check out the promo video below - makes me not want to go back to work, like, ever.