Mom's Garden: Caravaggio

 I put this arrangement together and immediately thought of Caravaggio. His paintings full of light and dark, mysterious shadows and amazingly velvety textures. This arrangement was from mid/late summer, but somehow it seems more like a wintery mood. Don't you think?

 Flowers used:
Rose "Prospero"
Rose "French Lace"
Wild grape
Buddleja "Harlequin"
Gomphrena globosa "Fireworks"


Monthly Obsession: Moravian Star

This edition of

Monthly Obsession

is brought to you by the fabulously versatile

moravian star

pendant light. After ripping apart my little Spanish Revival house, I wanted to keep the interior looking relatively close to what you may have found in it when it was built in 1924... with a few classic updates, of course. When I looked up at my living room ceiling after all the

whipped cream

had been removed, I pictured awesome

moravian star

pendant lights. Those things have been around for so long, they're a classic. They can be found is so many variations, the star lights can be applied to pretty much any european-style house {spanish, moorish, german, english cottage, etc}. In true obsessive style, I scoured lighting stores and the interwebs for the perfect ones. Originally, I found really great ones from Rejuvenation that were the right size and in my budget. Unfortunately, by the time I went to buy them, they were discontinued. Sadness.

{something about the shade randomly falling off the light. Not good}

Just as I was getting disheartened, I somehow found lights from Ballard Designs. That catalog store isn't at all on my radar, like


... but they had some nice ones that were also on super sale! Yessss! Done!

{see my bro & sis-in-law helping with the install below. I have amazingly 

awesome family


I pulled together a small collection of Moravian Stars for you to peruse below. {links below image} Enjoy!

Views of a Renovation: Jasco

Oh, Jascoยฎ. A renovation/restorer/rehabber's best and worst friend. A necessity that is totally disgusting and toxic, but also totally amazingly awesome. I was adamant in keeping all my original door and window hardware. It just so happened that all of said hardware was covered in 2-6 layers of paint... often with big dried up drips hanging off. I invested in a big can of Jasco. Grabbed an old toothbrush, tweezers, pliers, rags and heavy duty gloves and got to work. Man, was it messy. The stuff ate right through my gloves and left my skin burning and tingling. So, {don't tell anyone} I tossed the gloves and continued barehanded {hence the tweezers & pliers}. I kept a bucket of water and a clean rag nearby in case I bumped into it with bare skin. It was much easier, but WARNING, do not do what I did. Use gloves. Use those huge, nuclear-tested, Homer Simpson gloves. Much safer.

 Finished product below! Viola! Amazingness.

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.