Monday, January 26, 2015

5 Very Important Lessons in Country Living

I scraped my knee climbing a tree in my backyard this weekend. I think it's been about 30 years since the last time I made a statement like that. What was I doing hoisting my booty up a tree? Trying to prune it. "How to properly prune a fruit tree" was just one of several lessons I learned over the weekend...

Lesson 1: Pruning fruit trees is surprisingly relaxing.
Before I decided to scale the trunk of one of the apple trees, Mr. W gave me a quick tutorial on how to properly trim up the bare branches. He borrowed a book from our neighbor—and of course then had to invest in his own book so that we could become expert pruners.

Much like weeding, I found the pruning process totally meditative and wonderful. Being outside in the warm January sun, inspecting every little branch for overlap and dead wood was a really nice way to start a Saturday. And when I climbed the apple tree to reach the really tall branches, it kind of woke up a sleeping little kid inside me. It was so fun, I decided to climb one of our pink peppercorn trees too.

Lesson 2: Trying to remove deer/bird netting from fruit trees is the worst thing ever. 
Sometime over the spring or summer, Mr. W decided to drape netting over some of the trees to prevent deer and birds from nibbling on our fruit. Fantastic idea.

Until we had to take it off to prune the trees.

If the Tazmanian Devil spun fishing line around a teenage girl with five wads of gum in her hair, it would have been easier to untangle than that stupid deer netting... NEVER AGAIN.

Lesson 3: Homegrown fruit and veggies should be inspected very carefully before consumption.
We've been trying to grow purple cauliflower in our sideyard garden and although it's been looking a little spindly, we decided to cut it and roast it to eat with a little mushroom risotto Friday night. It was so pretty in the bowl after I washed it, I decided to post a picture of it on Instagram.

It tasted so good. And then Mr. W picked up the pan we had used to roast it.

And he discovered a caterpillar wormy thing baked onto the pan.


More horrifying: Wondering whether there were other worms actually baked directly onto the cauliflower that we ate.

I just threw up in my mouth.

Lesson 4: Chickens should not be left alone for prolonged periods.
I didn't learn this lesson over the weekend, but I thought I'd share it anyway. Typically when we let the chickens free range in the yard, we either stay there with them or check on them continually.

I discovered why this is a good practice when I turned my back the other day and then turned around to see Samantha (my favorite girl) dangling upside-down from one of our planter boxes with her toenail stuck in a crack along the edge of it.

She had been walking around on the planter and when she went to hop off of it, apparently her toenail had other plans.

I panicked and raced to her rescue, ready to forge a chicken cast out of Elmer's glue and paper towels and rig up some tiny crutches for her. But fortunately she was okay.

So that's reason #1 for babysitting the chickens. Reason #2 is that those little buggars mow down all our veggies when we're not watching...

Lesson 5: Meyer lemon sauce might be the yummiest pasta topper ever.
When Mr. W and I were on our honeymoon, we fell in love with a lemon pasta dish we had in Capri. Mr. W, being the industrious kitchen mad scientist he is, figured out how to sort of recreate it with the Meyer lemons from our backyard.

And it is so delicious. Especially with homemade pasta. And a little white wine (I think we had Consilience Roussanne with it on Saturday).

Here's a very unscientific recap of the recipe:
4-5 handfuls of pasta
about 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
about 2 Tbs Meyer lemon zest (or, the zest of 2 Meyer lemons)
the juice of half a Meyer lemon
about 5-7 chopped basil leaves
about 2 Tbs olive oil
Boil pasta and reserve some of the pasta water (a few Tbsps). Mix together lemon sauce ingredients. Mix cooked pasta with sauce and heat slightly in a pan, adding pasta water to thin it slightly. Serve with even more Parmesan on top. Buon appetito!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What We're Making: Sconces from Leftover Pendant Lights

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about our half bath half remodel—which features a new pair of DIYed sconces. When we first started making plans for this bathroom, we thought we'd go with a more conventional over-mirror light.

And then we remembered the two leftover pendants we had from the kitchen remodel.

Which would cost us $0 to use in the bathroom.

We were sold.

But we didn't want to be matchy-matchy with the lights in the kitchen. That may be fine for couples who go to Disneyland together dressed in twin Hawaiian shirts, but not for us.

So I got the brainy idea to try to turn them into sconces kind of like these:



Mr. W loves a good challenge, so he assessed the situation and decided we could run some sort of metal tubing from the base plate thingee (technical term) to the dome part. So off to Home Depot we went in search of the perfect metal tube. We found some copper pipes we thought would work and then, while wandering past one of the plumbing aisles, I found these perfect hollow rods with cute little finished capped ends.

Here's the thing no DIYer ever wants to admit: I have NO idea what the rods are for.

I looked through (literally) 30 pages of plumbing products on the Home Depot website and I can't find them. Could they be fancy float rods or toilet risers? No clue. (And I have no idea what either of those items are, either. Good thing we weren't actually searching for plumbing parts.)

Anyway, it doesn't matter. What matters is that they worked perfectly for our pendants-to-sconces project.

Mr. W rigged them all up and figured out the wiring. Then I tried to spray paint them glossy black...and failed. But Mr. W swooped in and gave them a sanding and tried again and now they're great. Why he has to be better than me at everything other than organizing closets, I'll never know.

I'm pretty darn happy with how the lights turned out.

Mr. W doesn't love them because he thinks they look DIYed, but I think they add just the right element of character to our "new" bathroom—like shiny black earrings dangling over the mirror. And anyway, perfection is overrated...

Friday, January 16, 2015

Channeling Our Inner Mad Men

Our house in 1959

I think there's a distinct possibility that Mr. W and I were a married couple in a past life in the 1960s. We probably had one too many gin and tonics at a key party and crashed our Stingray into a tree, not making it back to earth until the mid 70s. But I digress...

Last weekend, we took a little road trip to Palm Springs to embark on a tour of midcentury architecture throughout the city. Being current owners of a midcentury ranch house and previously living in a midcentury "drive under" in Hollywood, we have great affection for the aesthetics of that era. Our tour with Palm Springs Modern (which offers seriously amazing excursions if you're in the market for one) was my Christmas gift to Mr. W. To top off the experience, my girlfriend hooked us up with a killer room at The Parker—which I had no idea is also an incredible spot for vintage lovers (and by that I mean lovers of vintage, not people who get it on old timey style).

As we both expected, driving around for 3 hours inspecting cool houses from the 1950s-70s got our design wheels spinning full speed. We weren't able to go inside any of the properties, but the yards alone were enough to inspire ideas. Here's a little taste of what we saw (it doesn't at all do the tour justice)...

All those clean lines and almost sculptural landscaping got our little hearts twittering so! I just love how the midcentury style mixes sleek modern finishes with natural elements like wood and stone. We learned that a lot of the angles are designed to catch the light and cast shadows in different ways throughout the day. So cool. Of course we were like "How can we built some sort of awesome wall somewhere in the yard that casts shadows?!" We don't actually think we'll build a wall, but Mr. W has started playing around on Sketchup, redesigning the backyard and patio and making upgrades to the front. Here are just a few things we've talked about:

Yes, I know I spelled "stones" wrong but I'm too lazy to re-Photoshop the picture...

We're hoping to break ground on our master bathroom add-on in the next few weeks, so that'll obviously be taking precedence over yard updates. Maybe if we throw a fondue soiree with cigarettes and martinis, we can get people to come over and help work on the yard when the time comes. After all, who could resist helping out this husband and wife team?  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Half-Remodeling the Half Bathroom


There's nothing like impending houseguest visits to expedite a remodel, and thanks to a scheduled stopover from Mr. W's best buddy from Portland, our half bath revamp got put on the fast track. We spent the last days of 2014 plastering, sanding (I'm beginning to loathe that word), painting, and prettifying the little bathroom we'd turned upside-down.

Last time I showed it on the blog, it looked like this:

The toilet looked lovely in the shower, but it was even better sitting in the hallway for about 3 weeks. Thankfully neither of us is a sleepwalker—we might have ended up with a tragic accidental peeing-into-the-hallway-toilet episode.

Prior to moving the door from the laundry area/kitchen to the hallway, the bathroom looked like this:

Not terrible but not our ideal with the 80s oak cabinetry and grimey (no matter how much I scrubbed) linoleum flooring. Even worse, when we opened things up in the new kitchen layout, you could see right into the bathroom, and I don't know about you but I just don't want to look at a toilet when I'm making stir fry or taking a fritatta out of the oven...

So we moved the door into the hallway and reconfigured the half bath layout.

All was going well until our plumber accidentally cracked a tile during the toilet installation and we didn't have any extras. (Yes, everyone has lectured us on how you should never buy tiles at Costco because you won't be able to replace them if you break 'em.) Through some miracle, even though our tile was no longer available at Costco, Mr. W tracked down a tile display at one of the stores and was able to unglue a piece from it for us to use in our bathroom. Crisis averted.

Though we wanted to make this bathroom nicer, we also wanted to save some money so we made quite a few thrifty choices. We opted to recycle the sink cabinet and upgrade it with a new front panel and doors (courtesy of Mr. W's mad woodworking skillz) and extra hardware we had left from the kitchen. Eventually, Mr. W will build a concrete countertop for it and install the more modern sink and faucet we bought.


We also saved money by using the extra pendant lights we had left from the kitchen and turning them into shiny, black sconces. Stay tuned for a follow-up post on how we did it.

We were planning to reuse the old mirror that was in there but both Mr. W and I accidentally cracked the corners of it on two different occasions, so we had to buy a new one. He plans to make a sleeker new frame for this one in the coming weeks.

The one big thing we have left is to re-tile the shower. After the pain of doing our other bathroom's shower, Mr. W has vowed never to do bathroom re-tiling jobs again. We'll likely hire someone to do the tile (after we demo it) when we're working on the new bathroom add-on. The plan is to go for a look like this with white tiles and dark grey grout:


We'll also be replacing the old crank-out window in there when we have new windows installed for the addition. So although it feels like a whole new room, we're really only about halfway done. Which is just fine by me. I look forward to having the hallway plaster dust-free for a few months!!