Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Shocking Kitchen Makeover

Hold onto your hats: This was our old 1960s kitchen--and the ovens were likely from the same era. 

I know...you probably want to shield your eyes. It was pretty awful.

Can you say old and scary... I'm not a fan of tile countertops. And certainly not yellow ones.

Demolition was a good day for my old kitchen. Great therapy.

I didn't mind it when we lived with our kitchen and house like this. When the ceilings came out I felt like I could finally breathe. This is what open and airy looks like.

And then, the new walls. The stone goes up. The circle window is actually from the front of our old house. I didn't have the heart to throw it away.
The pantry gets built.

The new kitchen with our new open floor plan. I took this shot just before we left on vacation. I like to come home to a neat house. So while it was clean, I snapped this pic. I'll show more close up shots of the kitchen soon. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Vacation Notes: Not in Provence, But Still Pretty Dreamy

Just got back from a fabulous vacation to upstate New York. We spent time at our family summer house on Lake Ontario, and also visiting family in Syracuse and Ithaca. Check out these black caps. They were growing wild just about everywhere.

We drove our bikes to this secret location and picked enough berries for an upside-down cake. And that's after we ate about a quart on site.

We also took my dad's small fishing boat out to a nearby island. The sun was just setting. And it was so quiet. I could live on this island.

I took this shot from an old abandoned structure on the island. The view was 180 degrees and pretty amazing.

I had to walk up this rickety old ladder to get to a crow's nest lookout at the top--about 25 feet up. Birds have pretty much overtaken this old abandoned house, which is now owned by the state of New York.

Here's a view from the bow of our small fishing boat. The lake was as smooth as glass.

Ah, the abandoned lighthouse. Don't tell anyone, but I was doing research for a new screenplay and getting a little inspiration on our tour. In my story, this lighthouse is a dark, sinister place. But in real life, it's pretty cool.

Another angle. Yup, this is wild and overgrown. This truly is like a deserted island.

We also got to spend time at the home of my sister Christa in Lansing, NY. She and her husband Todd built an awesome timber-frame/straw bale house on 20 acres. Here, Zjena was helping to pick some super-sweet cherry tomatoes out of the raised beds you can see in the background. Later, we took a stroll to a multi-acre garden at Christa's in-laws' farm—which conveniently is located just a stroll away through the woods. There, we picked some incredible produce for lunch. With land like this, who needs grocery stores!

These raised beds with herbs were just so pretty. Pesto, anyone? Chris freezes so much pesto that it lasts through the entire winter. 

Rainbow chard.


Zjena with her cousins, Juneau and Acadia--both named after some incredibly beautiful places in the world. They are holding some baby toads in their hands. We found them on this walk from my sister's house to the garden. Of course, we later let our amphibious friends go.

Check out this garden. Cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, pumpkins, squash, eggplant, Christmas trees...should I go on? You can see a greenhouse just peeking out at the upper right corner.

Eggplant from the greenhouse. So pretty.

Here's one of our amazing lunches by the lake: a Thai-inspired coconut corn soup with lime, cilantro and lots of basil. Most of the veggies and herbs supplied by Chris' family farm. Yum.

These plump uber-sweet raspberries were growing along the driveway. Wish I could grow these in Los Angeles, but I've never had much luck with raspberries. 

We took our boat to a place on the Lake known as the "High Rocks." The kids had a ball jumping off them.

Another shot from the crow's nest on the island. Looks like a framed piece of art.

Here's our ship's captain.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Our New Master Bath (Quick Pics)

I realize that we've not shown a lot of after photos. Unfortunately, we don't have a before photo of the master bathroom shown here. The major changes to this space were really the floor: We added a concrete floor to replace the stone that we just couldn't seem to keep clean. And we also re-sloped it to drain properly. There is actually a drain in the center of the floor for mopping. I should add that the new ceiling, which is cedar plank, was added when we put in the loft above. The ceiling is now lower than the old bathroom, but it adds an architectural detail that gives this room more interest.

We replaced the original wood windows with these new casements. And, we also installed a new shower/tub fixture. We decided to mix our metals here: Brass, antique brass, brushed nickel and chrome.  I thought you had to keep one metal throughout design-wise, but this blending experiment proved not so terrible. You'll notice the door knob to the bathroom (shown in top photo) is brass and yet, on the monochromatic palette of white, cream and golden tones, the different metals somehow work together. What do you think?

I wanted to point out that this toilet is European style. It's water efficient, but its best feature is that the base of it is smooth unlike all those models at Home Depot with the porcelain "piping" on the side. This is so much easier to clean.

Backyard Living for Summer and Birthday Party Prep

It was Zjena's 8th birthday two weeks ago and we decided to have the party at home. We opted to go with a Puppy and Pool party, which meant there was some cleanup to be done. 

We tried to edit down some toys to tidy up things. And we tried to re-gravel just a bit. With big fruit trees in the back that shade a lot of the yard plus our dog, gravel seems to be the only way to go. Notice how low those big, juicy oranges are hanging. Tall people: Watch your head!

Another view of our rustic backyard. In the summer, we really do live and cook back here. We don't need to drive a couple hours to stay at a hotel, because just walking through this gate makes us feel like we are getting away from it all. 

Here's my chair when I'm watching the kids in the pool. Yup, we picked this up from the side of the road. Thanks, neighbor!  And that's not a prop book. I'm actually reading It: This one is The Mists of Avalon. Milo and I have been avidly watching the BBC Merlin TV series on Netflix so I've been newly intrigued with Arthurian legends. Marion Zimmer Bradley does an amazing recreation of those tales with Mists of Avalon.

Having a party at your house is a great way to force yourself to get things cleaned up. We lived in this guest house during our home reno and we had neglected it once we moved back into the main house. It took one week and some hired hands to get it in shape again. No more spider webs, though! And even the books have been dusted. Just cleaning the barbecue took two days!

Here's what I think looks like a fairy tale gate. This is the view from the guest house up toward the main house. It's our portal between the two worlds.

This is no fairy tale  here. Just a reminder of how far we've come--and how much we're living happily ever after now. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Energy of Plants

It happened that our daughter Zjena had been taking photos in the yard with her iPad this past weekend. She uses an app called Photo Booth, and it allows a setting whereby you can create mirror images of whatever you're shooting. When she showed me this series of images, I was a little blown away by the captivating energy of the plants. Is that our Bird of Paradise or an alien goddess? Apparently, the plants in our yard are quite mystical beings in their own rights—perhaps we just haven't been seeing them with the right eyes. And it would just figure that it was iPad app that could reveal their magical selves to us. 

We almost removed our giant Bird of Paradise tree, it was so overgrown. But we decided to just clean it up and trim it back. But now, after seeing these pics, I'm glad we didn't get rid of it. I think it's very happy now. 

That's a lavender plant below. It almost looks like an ancient fountain made from a living thing. 

Even the iceberg roses revealed its "hidden" self to us--and dare I say hammed it up for the camera: Are you seeing the eyes and the mouth?

Interesting aren't they? I recommend you take your iPad to the garden and start snapping some photos of your plants with the mirror setting on PhotoBooth. You may be surprised at the otherworldly creatures you'll discover to be the real inhabitants of your space.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Building Our Front Fence

Ever since I first saw the adorable cottages of Carmel, Calif., I've dreamed of having a grape stake fence. 

Rustic and cottage-y. And so pretty.

We started our fence a few weeks back. It all starts with a trench.

We opted to go with a stucco base for our fence because it would give it strength, but also using the same color stucco would help to link the fence visually to our house and overall materials theme. 

This block is the base of our side driveway gate pillars. We had to rip out all of the roses along the driveway. So sorry, roses. But it will be nice to get out of the car and not get stuck by those thorns!

More pillars, more blocks.

Another view. If you look closely, you can see our kids in the background. We created a sand pit just under our bedroom window. They love it and really do spend hours playing in this shady nook.

This is the view of the front entry gate in the making. Imagine a lantern here. A metal mailbox will go on the gate itself. Our postal carriers haven't known where to put our mail for a year now. They will happy when a real mailbox goes in! And so will we.

Topping the stone pillars with bricks helped to tie the design into the brick used on the main house. These are antique bricks. Yes, they are more expensive than regular HD bricks. But, we didn't need a lot.

Here the bricks are filled with cement, getting prepped for the same Vasari smooth stucco we used on the face of our house. We still had some leftover in the garage.

It took a couple tries to match the color of the stucco to the stucco on the front courtyard wall. Still not exactly right. But if truth be told, the front courtyard stucco doesn't actually match the inside stucco wall either. But we do plan to put a lime wash that will tone down everything anyway. 

The pillars have been grouted.

The beautiful grape stakes. They are crooked. Yes, that's just how we like them. And P.S. Home Depot seems to have the best price on these stakes. Their price was far better than any other local suppliers. Here, we're applying a coat of sealer that brings out this shiny wood grain that will also help to tie the fence into the color palette of the wood doors and windows of our house.

Here, the cross bars are added.

And the walkway gate is installed. More pics of the final to come.